Get to know Wild forward Mats Zuccarello
The Minnesota Wild are bringing in reinforcements after missing the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
General manager Paul Fenton made a splash in his second summer at the helm, signing playmaking winger Mats Zuccarello to a five-year, $30 million contract with a $6 million AAV.
The cause of Minnesota’s miss was easy to identify: The Wild averaged just 2.56 goals per game last year, 27th in the NHL, and averaged just 31.3 shots on goal per game, good for 18th.
Zuccarello should be able to help there.
A left-handed shot, Zuccarello should slot in on the right side for the Wild, where he should anchor one of the Wild’s top two lines as a setup man.
A native of Oslo, Norway, Zuccarello began his playing career in his home country before signing Swedish club Modo in 2008.
He was the SHL’s scoring leader by his second season in the league, registering 23 points and 41 assists for a league-leading 64 points during the 2009-10 campaign.
That was enough to attract the attention of the New York Rangers, who signed the then-22-year-old as an undrafted free agent the following summer.
Zuccarello made his NHL debut in December, splitting his rookie season between New York and the AHL.
He broke out as a full-time NHLer a few years later during the 2013-14 season, registering 19 goals and 40 assists in 77 games to lead the Rangers in scoring with 59 points.
He would go on to reach the 50-point plateau in four of the next five seasons, leading the Rangers in scoring in three straight seasons from 2015-18.
The Rangers ultimately decided that a 31-year-old playmaker didn’t gel with their rebuilding strategy, shipping Zuccarello to the Dallas Stars at the 2018-19 trade deadline for a pair of conditional draft picks.
Despite the modest price tag, the rental looked like a bust for the Stars.
Zuccarello led the Stars to a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on February 24 in his first game with Dallas, but broke his arm while blocking a shot in the third period.
He returned in time for just one more regular-season game, picking up an assist during the Stars’ 6-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on April 2.
Zuccarello produced in the playoffs despite his extended absence, registering seven assists and four goals in 13 games to tie Tyler Seguin for the team scoring lead.