Larry Brooks wonders, in the NY Post, about the idea of the Rangers trading both Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello prior to the trade deadline but then re-sign them as UFAs on July 1.
Brooks notes that this is a rarely seen move in the NHL but that Antoine Vermette, in 2015, and Keith Tkachuk, in 2007, both returned to the teams that traded them. (NY Post)
He cited how the Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs in 2016 and then re-signed him as a free agent that winter. (NY Post)
Both Hayes and Zuccarello have been open about wanting to stay with the Rangers.
Brooks notes that Zuccarello could possibly return on a multi-year contract and with the “C” on his jersey. (NY Post)
Adam Rotter: This concept was brought up last year around the possibility of Michael Grabner and Rick Nash returning as UFAs but there is a much greater likelihood of this scenario playing out with Hayes and Zuccarello. Both are career Rangers, chose to sign with the Rangers when they could have signed with anyone and don’t want to leave. Of the two, I think there is a better chance of Zuccarello returning because he will come cheaper and cost less than Hayes will. There is also the fact that Zuccarello started playing a lot better after having conversations with Jeff Gorton, Glen Sather and David Quinn. I don’t think they have a contract extension ready to go, but something during those conversations has allowed Zuccarello to return to near All-Star form.
Both Zuccarello and Hayes are going to want no-trade/no-move protection and that could lead to issues as the Rangers try to keep maximum flexibility but both are showing they can be big parts of the rebuild. I do think that Zuccarello is in the running, if he returns, to be the next captain and that his biggest threat to the “C” is likely his linemate Chris Kreider. In general, the idea of the Rangers being able to acquire assets for those two and then have them return would be enormous.