The New York Rangers have traded veteran winger Mats Zuccarello to the Dallas Stars for a pair of draft picks on Saturday night.
The Rangers will receive a 2019 second-round pick and a third-round 2020 choice. The second-round pick this summer becomes a first-rounder if the Stars reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Should Zuccarello re-sign with the Stars, then the third-rounder in 2020 becomes a first-rounder, as well.
Zuccarello’s departure, which has been expected for months, continues the Rangers’ rebuild, which is stressing youth. The 31-year-old Norwegian winger was one of the longest-tenured Rangers having spent the past eight-plus seasons with the organization. In 509 career games, he accrued 113 goals and 239 assists, leading the Rangers in points in four of the past five years.
With 37 points in 46 games this season, Zuccarello is on pace to hit his normal 50-plus-point mark that has become commonplace over the past five years. His play on New York’s first line alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider was one of the few bright spots during the initial stage of a difficult rebuild. A franchise that had made the postseason 11 of 12 years from 2005-2017, the Rangers currently sit in seventh in the Metropolitan Division.
It’s made the trading of players like Zuccarello, who are on expiring contracts, a necessity for the Rangers in order to continue piecing together the assets needed to get back on the competitive track.
As the NHL’s trade deadline on Monday approached, the market for Zuccarello continued to surge over the past few weeks as contending teams looked to bring on additional playmakers for a late boost prior to a postseason push. Zuccarello was linked to the likes of the Calgary Flames before the Stars became serious suitors.
Dallas has fallen on tough times while hanging on to one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference. Losses in five of their last seven games have seen their offense average less than three goals per night, stressing a need for an offensive boost. Adding Zuccarello gives Dallas the opportunity to put another skilled playmaker on either of the top two lines, providing another option besides Blake Comeau or Jason Spezza. Regardless of the line, Zuccarello is poised to play with some gifted scorers whether that’s with Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin.
Should the Stars hold onto their postseason standing, they’ll be able to take full advantage of Zuccarello’s resume. He’s appeared in 60 playoff games in his career, including a Stanley Cup Final in 2014.