Free agent forward Mats Zuccarello has signed a five-year deal worth $30 million with the Minnesota Wild on Monday. The veteran winger’s contract will carry a $6 million cap hit.
Despite the fact that he broke his arm shortly after the Dallas Stars acquired him from the New York Rangers, Zuccarello’s vision and creativity made a big impact for Dallas in the playoffs. He clicked well with Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson on the second line and provided some much-needed scoring depth. Zuccarello finished the postseason with 11 points in 13 games, sharing the scoring lead on the Stars with Tyler Seguin.
Clearly, Wild general manager Paul Fenton took notice.
Zuccarello, 32, should be able to upgrade the Wild’s power play, which finished 14th in the league last season. Prior to the 2018-19 season, Zuccarello led the Rangers in scoring for three consecutive seasons. The diminutive winger is best known for his fearlessness on the ice, his vision and his knack for setting up his linemates. Over the last three seasons, Zuccarello’s 0.82 primary assists per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 ranks 42nd in the league among forwards who have played at least 1,000 minutes.
Generally speaking, the winger’s play away from the puck has been underrated during his career. Zuccarello proved himself to be a proficient penalty killer in New York but was seldom on the ice when the Stars were down a man in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. Before being traded, Zuccarello was clearly one of the Rangers’ most influential forwards when he was on the ice. He had a 3.28 Corsi For percentage (Rel CF%) and a 4.27 Expected Goals For percentage (Rel xGF%) relative to other Rangers’ forwards last season.
With all of that being said, it’s surprising to see Wild GM Paul Fenton give Zuccarello this amount of term. With the Norwegian winger on the books, the Wild now have over $22 million tied up in four forwards who are 32 or older. Make no mistake, Zuccarello can move the needle for Minnesota both at even strength and on special teams, but he will be 37 when his contract comes off the books on July 1, 2024.
Minnesota needs to get younger; they did add a young right winger in Ryan Hartman, 24, on Monday at two years, $3.8 million.
All contract information from CapFriendly.com, all data from NaturalStatTrick.com.
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