Sunday, May 27, 2012

Will I stay or will I go?

(New York Rangers)
It is not exactly the way that the New York Rangers would like to see their off-season start but reports are indicating that Mats Zuccarello has either signed or will sign with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL.

Mats Zuccarello NYR has signed 2 year deal with KHL club Metallurg Magnitogorsk #KHL

Szymon Szemberg happens to be the Communications Director for the IIHF and I have known him for several years. Szemberg doesn't go around spreading rumors and I will give his report serious credibility. Both Zuccarello and his agent have denied the report and if I was in their shoes I would deny the report too since if true it means Zuccarello's agent was talking to Metallurg Magnitogorsk while Zuccarello was still under contract to the Rangers.

Yet at the same time it is really nothing more than posturing for the Rangers or Zuccarello to claim that the Rangers want to resign Zuccarello or that Zuccarello wants to remain with the Rangers. As a restricted free agent, the Rangers would have to qualify Zuccarello at 850,000 not what was his salary cap hit which was 1.75 million.

It would also be a 2 way contract which it is hard to see Zuccarello accepting because his AHL salary would be less than 100,000. Zuccarello has no leverage with the Rangers because of the CBA which makes it more and more unlikely that Zuccarello would stay or want to.

At the same time it would be foolish of Zuccarello to acknowledge that he has signed with the KHL just in case the Rangers don't qualify Zuccarello allowing him to become an Unrestricted Free Agent. And if you are the Rangers the last thing you want to see happen is Zuccarello signing with another NHL team and have a even a good season given how Zuccarello was used by John Tortorella during the last 2 seasons.

To this day I wonder why the Rangers signed Zuccarello in the first place as it seemed like a strange signing for a team that was stressing shot blocking and defense over an attacking brand of hockey that is Zuccarello best suited to play. It was rather clear that from day one that Tortorella did not have confidence in Zuccarello's ability to handle playing in traffic.

A shame too because a good coach finds ways to use a player like Zuccarello and as starved for offense as the Rangers have been then the blame here falls on the Rangers not the player. It would sure be very interesting to sit in on Zuccarello's exit interview on Monday with John Tortorella.

Highly doubtful that either the coach or player will comment on what is said between the 2 (other than the expected "want to be part of this team" from both) but the person who has to be angry right now is Glen Sather. Once again a KHL team has gone after one of his players while the season was still going which is an act of disloyalty in Sather's eyes.

In any case it is hard to see Zuccarello remaining with the Rangers now that this has come out. All that remains is the face saving gestures from both sides.


Zuccarello would be the third contracted player to leave the Ranger organization in the last month as Pavel Valentenko (KHL) and Andreas Thuresson (Swedish Elite) have already signed new contracts elsewhere. If you look at this list then it really looks like there is going to be pretty large turnover of the Whale roster.

Think it is safe to say that Bickel and Hagelin will be playing for the Rangers, JT Miller and Shane McColgan in the juniors but while I don't spend a whole lot of time watching the Whale (Bruce Berlet is the person you should following for that info) the key spot to be watched has to be in goal.

I will start breaking down the Ranger organization next week which ought to be fun because changes still need to be made and I don't mean players.

Going to be an interesting off-season both with players and perhaps some front office folks too.

Kabanov (Terry Wilson CHL Images)
One last game remaining in the prospect year and not rubbing it in to the New York Ranger fans but the honor belongs this year to New York Islander prospect Kirill Kabanov.

Kabanov and his Shawinigan Cataractes will be attempting attempt to write history when they take on the London Knights of the OHL in Sunday's Memorial Cup final. Win and it is the first time the Shawinigan franchise will bring home the Memorial Cup after 43 years as a franchise.

For Kabanov it is expected to be his final game as a junior player as next season he will most likely start his season in Bridgeport but I for one would not at all be shocked if he winds up with the Islanders before the end of next season.

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