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It's no secret that the combination of the league's lowering of the salary cap and the Rangers' acquisition of several large contracts (Nash, Richards, Gaborik) will put the team in somewhat of an economic bind for the next few seasons.
And I'm here to say that Zuccarello may be an answer to their problems. Here's why.
It's widely believed that the Rangers may be forced to use one of their compliance buyouts on either Brad Richards or Marian Gaborik if they continue their poor play for the remainder of the season and playoffs. If that is the case, and Sather is forced to indeed use that buyout or possibly trade one of the two, then Zuccarello could be a cheap option to try and fill the void.
It's true Gaborik had 42 goals last season, and no, I don't think Zuccarello has the ability to reach that number, but things are going to get tricky for the Rangers with the cap, and if they choose to move or buyout Gaborik because he is over 30 and has only one year remaining on his contract, Zuccarello could be a candidate to step up.
Becuase, if we're honest, the Rangers aren't really playing with Gaborik right now. Sure, he's out there, be he isn't doing much. He's got three goals in 17 games, with only eight total points over that period of time.
For over $7 million a year, he's got to be better. And no, tonight's game-winner doesn't change much of anything. The Islanders seem to be the only team he can score against consistently.
Which is why I think that if he continues to play like this for the rest of the 2013 season, the team should look to remove that contract from their books. With that money they could afford Zuccarello, who's more than six years younger and way cheaper, and an additional offensive player.
The Rangers' youth and depth is what should be most important, and if Sather has to choose between keeping one of his over 30-year-old regressing forwards or a couple of rising stars under the age of 25, I think he's going to go with the latter.
Rick Nash's ability to be the game-breaker that the Rangers have needed since Jagr left leaves a guy like Gaborik vulnerable, because he's not a game-breaker. He'll score a ton of goals in a season if he feels like it, but he doesn't have the ability to take over the game.
He doesn't justify his contract and his production can be filled by a couple of cheaper, younger players, and Zuccarello is the perfect candidate.