Though nothing is official, all signals point towards the Rangers extending forward Mats Zuccarello, his agent, Erik Ryman, told Norwegian news source VG Nett.
The two sides have not gone into the very specifics of a contract, but the Rangers have told Zuccarello's camp that they want to extend him. Ryman states that other NHL teams or the KHL are still options for Zuccarello, but that his clear and foremost priority is to stay with the Rangers. By reading between the lines, we can infer that only a dramatic lowball offer from Sather and Gorton will prevent Zuccarello from returning.
If an extension is in fact agreed upon then it's well deserved for Zuccarello. The Rangers brought him back for a third chance and he has thrived in the opportunity. He had three goals and five assists in 15 regular season games, which are solid numbers but don't even do him justice. He added some sorely needed offense to the left wing and bottom lines and has since worked his way up to second line minutes. In six playoff games against the Capitals he has perhaps played his best hockey, tallying four assists.
His play away from the puck has dramatically improved and is probably what has earned him John Tortorella's trust. Last season he tallied eight hits in 10 regular season games. This season he has showed a willingness to forecheck and throw his body around, with 27 hits in 15 regular season games. He has also blocked 15 shots, compared to just three last season.
Zuccarello's signing midway through the season was met with all sorts of skepticism and cynicism, but he has quieted most of that with his play. He's doing things away from the puck for the first time in his career, and he is confident on the puck, making the plays we all knew he was capable of on a more consistent basis.
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