Mac and Zucc: To Trade or Not To Trade, That is the Question?

Nash beats Price (NYDN)

We’ve all heard the rumors of selling everything that isn’t nailed down (aka everyone but Hank) for this upcoming rebuild. We know that Nash, Grabner and possibly Holden have drawn eyes because they’re on expiring contracts and they can add a boost (I don’t know why teams want Holden but I’ll be happy to get anything for him at this point) to a contending team.

Mac and Zucc

Among these rumors are two fan favorites: The Captain, Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello (Zuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuc). Even though they have another year on their contract, Jeff Gorton stated he’ll move either one if “The Price is Right”, so come on down and guess the actual retail price of these Rangers stars.

They will fetch a huge package in return especially if the Rangers eat up some of either or both of their contracts (Mac 4.7M, Zucc 4.5M). Now I like first round picks, top prospects and NHL ready stars as much as the next guy but hear me out, maybe we shouldn’t trade them. I know, I know I’m already hearing the “what’s wrong with you? It’s a rebuild! And they’ll be on the wrong side of 30 when they need new contracts. You’re an idiot and you don’t know what you’re talking about!”

All valid points my good imaginary troll, and I agree with you. It is a rebuild after all and why not trade these two veterans in the prime of their careers to get a huge haul in return? Why not start fresh? Well to start Gorton said this is a retool not a rebuild and they intend to try to compete next year so maybe not trade everyone just yet.

Boys don’t lead men, men lead men

As of January 12th, 2018, The Rangers have the 18th youngest team in the league (I’m sure their average went up a little with the waiver acquisition of Cody McLeod). With a rebuild, the tone Gorton was trying to convey was younger, faster and more talented players on the upcoming roster (AV obviously on his way out with his infamous way he deploys and handles the young guys). Most of you are probably thinking “Well yeah! Build the team around young talent! They’ll be competing in no time!”

Hate to burst your bubble (I love it actually) but have you heard of this team called the Edmonton Oilers? Since 2007 where they had THREE first round picks (6th, 15th and 21st overall) they picked in the top 10 almost every year since, minus 2008 and 2017, and had 4 first overall draft picks in that span as well. They did make the finals a year before (2005/06) that huge overall and influx of picks but that didn’t seem the correct path because they missed the playoffs every year since except for this past year (2016/17 season).

Now why am I mentioning all of this? The Edmonton Oilers are a relatively young team being the 5th youngest this year and they currently are 16 points out of a playoff spot. Yikes!

They lack a key component, which is veterans. Everyone thought that trading former first round pick Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for veteran defenseman Adam Larson was a terrible, god awful, and unbelievable one for one trade. Surprisingly the Oilers made the playoffs after that trade (Also it helped that the Oilers had no defense for years and now had a skilled one).

What I’m trying to get at is the Rangers need to keep SOME veterans. If Nash, Zucc, Grabner, Holden and MacTruck are all traded and none of the UFA’s are resigned we see a huge drop in age for the Rangers, the oldest being Marc Staal (excluding Hank). If veterans aren’t around to show the new guys the ropes we see a huge drop in confidence and team play, which we saw with the Oilers and other teams like Arizona, Columbus and Florida for a while, and Dallas for a time.

Veterans need to be kept in order to guide the young players to achieve their highest potential by teaching them and protecting them from other teams. Keeping Zucc and Mac would be huge miss in potential talent in a return for a trade but it would mean the Rangers have a better chance making the playoffs next year than starting from fresh with all young guys.

Don’t lie to me, I know you’ll miss chanting Zuuuuuuuuc


It’s no secret that Zucc and Mac are All-Star caliber players. Even though the Rangers don’t score much, Zuccarello has lead the team in points 3 out of the last 4 seasons and leads the team this season with 40 points in 55 games. McDonagh adds his fair share of scoring (his best being 43 points in 2013/14 and 42 last season) but also adds solid defense around his teammates.

We’ve all watched the games where he denies high scoring opportunities or breakaways and acts as a body double for Hank if he ever leaves the net (160 blocks last season, career high 182 in 2011/12) but the impressive stat here is that he has never had a season with a bad plus/minus. The lowest total (excluding this season) has been a plus 11. He plays an average of 23 minutes, not including the playoffs where he goes well over that. Stats only paint part of the picture. He’s the captain for a reason and under his watch the Rangers always were ready to battle in every game. He’s the longest tenured Captain since Messier (even if it is only 1 year longer than Drury and Callahan). Why get rid of the leader now?

This rebuild will be one of the toughest tests for the Rangers in a long time and to avoid a huge playoff drought in the years to come it will be good to have a Captain that has lead the team and fans before. Speaking of the fans, we all love these guys. We know how important they are to the team, but we also know that trading guys away or not resigning guys are part of the business. Like Rick Nash said recently, “it’s a business and I have to remember not to take It personally.” Well the fans take it personally, because we take everything personally.

You’re messing with the status quo! You’re messing with our captain and ZUUUUUUUUUC. Who doesn’t love a little hobbit who’s 5-8, 179, try to go toe to toe with 6-9, 250, Zdeno Chara?? There’s a reason why we love this guy so much, and why we chant his name and why he has that ‘A’ on his chest, and it’s because he’s earned it. He’s paid his dues and he’s fought and battled and scored. The same goes with Mac. They both lead the team, they take hits, shots, score and protect their own.

This is where we say goodbye

(Photo: Getty Images)

I love them both. I think they’re a staple in the team but if this rebuild really is a rebuild and not a retool, then I see them getting traded. As much as I don’t want them to be traded, sometimes change is good, and they’ll be a huge upgrade for whatever contender they go to.

Remember, Gorton said we wouldn’t trade them unless it’s a life changing trade, so the return will be worth saying goodbye to these guys. The bright side is they could always come back, that is if they’re not signed by a different team and probably need to take a pay cut to come back. But in a perfect world the Rangers get everything they need from trade via Nash, Grabner and Holden and with all of the new acquisitions and the young guys coming up they make the playoffs next year with Mac and Zucc leading the charge. But hey, trade deadline isn’t here just yet, so anything’s possible.


Thanks to Hockey Reference,, CapFriendly, and James Mirtle from for doing all the math (by taking it from Natural Stat Trick) for the average team size, age and other random stats and creating nice charts as well.


  • Good write up and good reasons. I am with you on keeping Zucc cause I think he should be the captain. I also think they need to know if he will resign or chase the cup, if he will resign then keep him, if he wants to chase the cup then trade him now and get the biggest return. If someone were to completely overpay for him, then you have to think about it.

    Mcdonagh on the hand, I would trade. Yes its tough to see him go, but if traded before the deadline this year he can bring a haul that would help a team built around Skjei, Butch, Lias, and Chytil. If they can bring back one of the suggested names for Mac and a 1rst, I think those dmen with high ceilings under the age of 21 is much better for future of the team. If the trade is for 2 b level players instead of 1 a level player then no I would not trade Mcdonagh.

  • Im all in on #save Zucc,#save McD. Its not a “rebuild” if u only move 5 guys, 4 really. I include Holden. Imagine the insanity of thinking you can trade away everybody…who wants the deadwood??? The ‘great’ Chytil will still be in the lineup opening day as will Lias, if you just move 40 & 61. Love or hate em,these are proven NHLers, u kmow what you have and what to supplement. Draft picks and prospects are A good gamble, but a gamble nonetheless

  • Shatty, what, chopped liver? Mika ?

    • Shattenkirk is overrated. Not a top pairing dmen & horrific defensively. Offensively a big majority of his points come on the power play, his 5×5 numbers are pedestrian. His signing made no sense especially now if you are truly rebuilding. He should be moved at the deadline next year. He’s on his 4th team in just over 9 years, the other 3 teams never missed him.

  • Good article but I disagree a little with you. (which is fun) I believe in this cap era you have no choice but to trade guys when the have a few good years left, It’s the only way to fit in contracts coming out of their bridge deals, Example: Miller, Hayes, Vesey, etc all need new deals. How do we keep them and stay under the cap without getting rid of older and bigger contracts? Look what Chicago did twice!
    I believe we don’t trade Zuuuc and Mac unless we get an offer we can’t refuse! If some team is willing to give up a king’s ransom then take it.

    • Sorry for the type O should be Trade guys when THEY have

    • Johnny,

      Are Miller Hayes Vesey players you want to build around? Personally I dont want them to build around them, move them while they are still young. As Bob Mckenzie said do the NYR want to marry those players, cause that is the point they are at. The Mac and Zucc contracts arent the problem, its the Staal, Smith, Girardi buyouts that are the problem. Those cap hits are the difference of a stud center added in with the likes of Pionk/Gilmore. Even the Shatty deal is alot of money for a guy that isnt on the first pair.

      • You can’t build a franchise around 2 guys who have a combined 3 playoff goals in 74 playoff games. Nothing more to see out of them, get what you can. The question is what have those two shown to have you say we have to have them? Quiet frankly NOTHING!

        • Mike,

          Agree they have done nothing when it matters, I posed the question because Johnny says cap world, you have to move those guys cause Hayes/Miller/Vesey need extenions this summer. I think Miller/Hayes should be moved and if they are moved for prospects and picks then you have the room for a zuc contract. But the Zuc/Mac problems wouldnt be a cap concern if not for Staal/Smith/Shatty.

          • Staal’s contract was never worth the paper it was printed on and will be a thorn to both the team’s and fan’s side for years to come. Smith definitely cashed in on his playoff performance and coming to camp nowhere near the shape he needed to be has made his cap hit unbearable. However maybe the sting of playing in the A might rejuvenate his desire to play which could make him asset one again. Paying what they paid for a power play specialist in Shattenkirk never made sense the second they traded Step/Raanta to Arizona and started the rebuild process. I don’t know why you would spend over 6 mil to an at best 2nd paring dman. Look how out whack their pay scale is among defensemen, you 5th dman is making just under 6 mil at 5.7, your 4th dman is making over 6 at 6.65 and your top dman is making 4.7.

            Handing out bad contracts has handicapped this team. Even if they weren’t in a position to rebuild Ryan McDonagh would have all the leverage in contract negotiations. A he has to do was bring up Staal and Shattenkirk and say are you kidding me. Under the Rangers pay scale McD would get over 7 million a year. Is he anywhere near the level of Drew Doughty who is making 7 mil? I like McD but he’s not anywhere near a 7 mil dollar player. But it all goes back to giving Staal, Shattenkirk and even Girardi contracts that are well beyond the performance levels.

  • What is the purpose of holding on to Zucc and McD other than they are fan favorites? A rebuild will take years before you’ll see any chance of making noise. At that point McD’s contract will be up as Zucc’s. What are the chances they will stay with a team in the middle of a rebuild? Wouldn’t they want one last chance to play for the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup? Sure fans want them to stay but what will be the odds of McD wanting to stay when he hits his 30’s. And haven’t we learned as fans the price of holding onto players to long? Haven’t we learned that the Rangers could have received a prospect and a 1 for Yandle?

    The same fans who moan about AV not playing kids, didn’t know Skjei, Vesey, Hayes were all veterans, are now wanting the Rangers to hold onto players entering the twilight of their careers instead of playing the prospects they need to see. McD is quietly breaking down just like Girardi did for all those years of playing top pairing minutes, blocking a ton of shots & long playoff runs. This is the PERFECT year to trade him either at the deadline of the draft. Zucc is nowhere near the same player he was a few seasons ago. He’s having a down year and he too has had a liteneny of injuries that are catching up to him. Both have played a physical game since they played for the Rangers and eventually it will catch up. This is not the time for nostalgia this is the time for ice in your veins coldness to give this franchise an opportunity to set them selves up for another decades or so of playoff runs.

    McD and Zucc will always receive a hero’s welcome every time the come back into the Garden either as an opponent or as a retired ex Ranger. Nothing will tarnish their legacy but it’s time to get as much as you can. And that should include Shattenkirk next year. Now the picks and prospects you may get in return may never pan out but you have to give your franchise as many assets as possible in a rebuilding mode. If the Rangers could trade Brian Leetch who was an integral part of the Rangers Cup team then there should be no hesitation in moving guys like Zucc and McD.

    • Mike,
      Everything you say is on target, and when it’s laid out in front of us it’s easy to see the logic. But, AS A FAN, it’s really. really tough to see the guys you lived and died with traded away! It’s a hard business, and it takes hard people to make it work!!
      In my head I know you’re right, but in my heart I don’t want either of them to go!, especially if we have no real reason to believe that some of the sacred cows (you know who I mean, the ones that play every day and don’t produce) will, IN FACT be traded. I worry that the big boys make the trades , we lose Mc D and Zucc, and that once those two are gone the suits start to panic about having to fill the seats without them and decide to keep the sacred cows so they have some “Star Presence” to lure the fans to the game.
      We have to understand that MONEY is the ONLY factor driving management! They will do anything necessary to maintain the money flow! I know I’m cynical, but I believe they would sell their mother to get more profit at the end of the year! Winning is simply another way to ensure their income. if they could figure out a way to get the fans into the arena and not even dress a team, you can bet the farm they would do it!!!

      • You are 100% right that MSG only cares about the profits. The one thing MSG has that a majority of the other arenas do not come close to is the coporate money that floods into the Garden. The Rangers have very few seats that need to be renewed compared to other arenas.

        It’s cold to say get rid of everyone, I know that. I was crushed when Tomas Sandstrom was traded as a package for Bernie Nichols. Wasn’t thrilled when Doug Weight, Tony Amonte or Mike Gardner were moved either. I still say if they held onto Weight and Amonte they would have won at least one more Cup. But hey the slaying of a 54 curse was very important and the moves were instrumental in doing so. Was pissed they moved Kovalev for Nedved and took years to get over trading Brian Leetch. It’s not easy seeing your favorite players moves but sometimes it has to be done.

    • Mike,

      I agree with your thoughts but do have a question. Is part of Zucs production slide from going from playing with Brassard then Stepan, to this year being bounced around from Miller/Hayes/DD as his center. Hes only really played with Zib when Butch was hurt or sent to the fourth line. I think he still has plenty of juice in the tank just needs to play with better centers. If Zuc were to stay for the retool/build whatever they want to call it and give him the money to be the captain, then to resign guys like Miller or Hayes. I agree nows the time for Mcdonagh as he will command the best return. Im not sure how much of a return Zuc commands as I havent heard any guys say hell bring back this like weve heard about with Nash/Grabner/Mcdonagh.

      • I’ve seen enough of Hayes and Miller to last me a lifetime. Zucc is going to breakdown simply because he’s plays a big mans game in a small body. You cannot tie up money to players who are breaking down. They were 100% right in telling Ryan Callahan no way are you worth 6 million per year, they were wrong in Girardi’s contract and out of this world insane in giving Marc Staal the contract he signed. The Rangers have to yank the bandaid off quick because it’s going to hurt a lot of fans. But it’s imperative to get this rebuild, not retool, right. It’s they strike out it will take years to fix it. Zucc was an absolute warrior for this team, trading him doesn’t deminish that one bit.

        What worse, trading them and seeing them win while your team rebuilds but becomes much better through the assets that other teams paid for them or holding on to them while their play deteriorated even further and they are getting paid even more while the team goes nowhere and the players rumored to come to NY become stars? Rangers historically haven’t made to many decisions right but they MUST get this one right.

        • I get the sell before they break down theory, as well as, the more assets the better percentage at succeeding. One bad pick in 03 is still haunting us, followed by other bad ones. We cant say we want an A prospect and settle on 2 Bs for the big names. If McD is a top d prospect and a 1rst, thanks for the good times. I want to see Nash go play with a legit number 1 center and put up the numbers I believe he would with one.

          Im looking at some of the prospect names that TSN guys are tossing at for Nash/Mcd and assuming well be getting something of that level. So Im adding those guys to buch/lias/chytil/skjei and saying ok theres some players. If they get 2 high end players from the assumed (big assumption, but thats the plan) 5 first between this year and next. The other 3 have to be players. I also dont expect all the picks to play first year out of draft, with that the lowest pick wed get is 4, dont see nhl gifting one of the now 3 lottery picks. Although I have a feeling on of the original six that miss playoffs will some how “win” the lottery draft this year.

          Those guys we draft are going to go through growing pains and some veteran leadership will be important. Is Zucc at 31 going to be getting a 7 year deal (not from me) but 4 isnt crazy. The amount of money that is available after 3 full seasons is enough if one player like Zucc is considered a bad contact. Hiding a year of say a 5 million dollar now (most likely by then is like a 3 million then with raises in cap).

          Id rather make the roster room with moving Miller/Hayes/Vesey/Fast. Id rather Zuc be the leadership then those 4 or Kreider. I like next years top 9 Kreider/Mika/Butch followed by a mixture of Chytil/Anderson/Letteri/Zucc and 2 other spots. With not wanting long term deals for the other mentioned players who do you want them to be around, the random vet brought in for leadership that we dont know that we dont know who they are or a player like Zuc who you know what they are. I think hes be a good mentor for Ronning who now has 50 goals compaired to 25 last year, his draft year.

          First home game 2018, who does the PA say and your captain number ___ ______. Mines 36 Zucc. This doesnt mean hes untouchable, but to me they gotta over pay because of his attitude to rub off on the kids.

          While most have the sentimental attachment to Zuc that want him kept mine is the leadership. However he has to fit in my structure which is a 4 year deal and know were not going for it moves. This also changes if his return is an A prospect and 1rst but I dont think it is cause I havent heard any talks about names tied to him.

  • Agreed about keeping SOME vets around. All youth isn’t the answer either. U need a mix, a balance. Otherwise its just as foolish as keeping all the over 30s. Look at TOR. Smartly picked up Marleau to groom Matthews etc. That’s how u do it right.

  • His point is that teams who did the rebuilding thing aka Edmonton ain’t built a damn thing while teams that retooled (Boston) are super hawt.

    • Boston has a core group of players that have elite talent AND win. The Rangers have neither. If you think a retool is what the Rangers should do all you are doing is fooling yourself.

  • Don’t forget Kreider has been here for a while now and is no rookie anymore. I also would ratheee them keep a guy like DD here if you want a vet around cause he’s cheap too. But to keep Mac would be Girardi all over again. He’s been hurt every year for the past 3 years I think n as much as I like Zucc he ain’t what he was other. We can’t wait till guys are useless to move or we won’t get nothing back. I think the key to being a good GM is knowing when it’s time to pull the plug on the big contracts. Mac is gonna ask for something similar to what Cally asked for and I think we need to give him what we gave Cally too. Don’t forget just cause we may get a bunch of picks if we move all these guys it doesn’t mean they’re all gonna be great players so the more we get the better our chances are to get a few real good ones. Just so you know I’m not saying keep DD. I’m just talking about having a vet around that isn’t costing anything really but helps out at times and could help the young kids. But ost of all this is their best chance at a real rebuild where they can actually acquire some real assets

  • Id trade McD in a heartbeat for many reasons. 1 hes been more injured than playing the past 2 seasons,2 yes he blocks shots but the point of being a defenseman is to move guys away from the net and he hasnt done that since Torts although not his fault entirely but its 60-70% his. Hes too quiet of a Captain just like Leetch when he was capt. They need a guy with balls to be capt and shake this team up and get em riled up!! This team has no will to win anymore. BTW I wouldve bought out Staal over Girardi especially when most of the team is left handed at least Girardi was a righty shot which is rare in hockey and he blocked a tremendous amount of shots!! Staal you breath on him wrong hes hurt lol. And now with this cervical injury hes practically done for his career and should just retire while he can and get a coaching job somewhere just not on the Rangers!! Id also trade Miller and Hayes due to their at most times laziness/streaky points..Rangers organization along with us fans thought JT was going to be a big star only to be turned into a dud!! And when it comes to Zucccccccccccc id definitely keep him and next game we played without McD should be given the C on his jersey because he hustles and deserves to wear that letter!! Zucc is the true definition of a capt!! Hes got heart,passion and he wants to win!!!

  • Unfortunately for this year, we finally have a rich and hearty top 10 draft, but unfortunately if he trade away all the after mentioned guys to the teams that are looking for the playoff push. We’d be lucky to get a mid twenty pick, except for our own pick, for those players. Honestly! With a few guys like Chytil, Andersson, Zab, Buch and Skjei. What do you see the roster look like? Who would you select in the late first round that would make us a competitor in years to come?

    • 2 of the players you listed were late 1st round picks Skjei/Chytil) and another was a 3rd round pick (Buch).

      There is value at every round of the draft, teams just have to do their research. PK Subban was a 2nd round pick, Brady Holtby was a 4th round pick and Hank was a 7th round pick. Having a possible 4 picks in the 1st 31 picks is a great start to a rebuild. It gives you options to move up in the draft to go after a guy you really want, trade for a prospect you really like it at worst picking 4 players to help you turn things around. Keeping what we have now does absolutely nothing in hopes of turning things around. Every GM would dream to have 4 1st round picks during the 1st year of their rebuilding phase.

      • Totally agree Mike. Besides there’s been so much good talent over the past few years and it just seems like these kids today are getting faster every year. So even if we can’t trade up if needed we could end up with a lot of 1st n 2nd rd picks or something along those lines. I wonder what Hayes or JT would bring back in a trade but I’m hearing Mac, Zucc, Nash and Grabner would all bring back a 1st Rd pick and then some. That would give us 5 picks in the 1st rd and probably 4 or 5 2nd rd picks too but I would rather see some top prospect of some kind in that mix too. But you get the idea. Come on Gorton we’re all counting on you here. Let’s see what ya got

        • Jpcar,

          I dont see miller and hayes bring back firsts, second and thirds is fine by me, thats where we got servicable nhlers. What they cant do is settle getting 2b prospects instead of one A for Nash/Mcdonagh. They have to get firsts and draft scoring/ceiling players. If guys need a year or teo to fill out like Mittlestadt then fine but not this is the safest pick so lets take him.

          In the next 2 years with possible of 4 extra firsts they need to hit big on 2 of them and the rest hit no strike outs. Thats 8 first round picks 2 last, our 2 and 4 acquired there cant be misses. Do that and 3 years from now its a solid team. No going off the board. Get the first round steal

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