Back on July 1, the first day of NHL free agency, the Minnesota Wild signed veteran winger Mats Zuccarello to a five-year deal worth $6 million annually. Zuccarello’s deal includes a full no-move clause and a modified no-trade clause in the final two years of his contract — a bit strange considering the long-time New York Rangers star will turn 32 in just a couple weeks.
But, you know, Paul Fenton and all.
Less than ideal contract notwithstanding, it’s hard not to be at least a little excited about the addition of Zuccarello. In his nine-year NHL career, he has collected 114 goals and 355 points in 511 regular-season games between the Rangers and Dallas Stars (though he only played in two regular-season contests as a member of the Stars this past season). He has reached the 50-point mark four times in his career and, back in 2014-15, fell just one point shy of that milestone.
Zuccarello may be on the wrong side of 30, but he still figures to be a versatile addition to Minnesota’s top six. Not just because he’s a proven scorer, but because he remains an excellent skater, plays with some admirable physicality despite being rather small in stature and regularly sacrifices his body to block shots — in 2017-18, he ranked fifth on the Rangers (and led all New York forwards) with 67. But don’t just take my word for it. Paul Fenton himself was about as giddy as anyone could possibly be at the time of Zuccarello’s signing.
“I told him when I was talking to him that he’s like a lizard, the way a lizard takes his tongue and sticks it as far as it does and retrieves what it was trying to do,” Fenton said. “When you look at Mats, he’s not the tallest in stature, but he uses an incredibly long stick and he reaches into piles, comes out with things, and most of the time, guys would be awkward with a stick that is as long as he uses, but he’s so natural, fluid, smooth, he comes out with things and he’s able to make plays.”
Man. What a quote.
Though Fenton didn’t exactly do a great job of properly verbalizing what Zuccarello can bring to the Wild, it’s no secret that the Norwegian forward is an incredibly useful player — particularly when it comes to creating offense.