Rangers fans post-lockout will probably remember P.A. Parenteau, a very skilled winger with a deadly shot in the shootout. But he never quite found his place in a consistent Rangers lineup and was eventually buried to the Rangers AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack (now called the Hartford Whale). The Islanders acquired Parenteau for the 2010-2011 season, and the former Ranger with only 8 career NHL points in 2009-2010 became a 20 goal, 33 assist, and 53 point Islander in ’10-11.
Bottom line: the Rangers inability to utilize Parenteau cost them a skillful young player.
Now the Rangers are in a very similar position with Mats Zuccarello, who was an extremely effective shoot out player but is presently buried in Connecticut with the Whale. This season Zuccarello was firmly placed in the fourth line by Rangers head coach John Tortorella with no real opportunity to advance. For a coach who (comparatively) rarely utilizes his fourth line, that more or less equates Zuccarello with an awful lot of bench warming time.
It’s no secret that Zuccarello wants out of the Whale for a consistent chance at playing in the NHL or to return to Europe. But reportedly, Glen Sather will not free Zuccarello from their grasp, flatly denying any “out clause” for Zuccarello’s contract. “Why would we agree to anything like that?” is how Sather phrased it in an email response to the Post’s inquiry whether the club would set Zuccarello free.
Tortorella cites Zuccarello’s small stature, weak puck possession, and failure to adapt to NHL rink size physicality as leading reasons he demoted the winger down to the Whale. Zuccarello carries a $1.75 million NHL cap hit, and with Marc Staal still in long-term injured reserve the cap space is tight, but available. Despite numerous injuries to other Rangers such as Mike Rupp and Wojtek Wolski, instead of witnessing the rise of Zuccarello we’ve instead watched the efforts of Brendan Bell, Andre Deveaux, and (most notably) Carl Hagelin. So time and again Zuccarello had a chance to return to the Rangers, but Sather and Tortorella seem all but done with him.
The risk now is the Rangers trading away this talented winger that deserves a continued chance in the NHL, but may need some polishing before he stays in the NHL for good. We’ve seen plenty of skill from Zuccarello, and plenty of times when he looks just as lost. But if we trade him away, he’s very likely to become a high scoring, productive offensive force that we let go just like we did with Parenteau.