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Mats Zuccarello files for salary arbitration

Mats Zuccarello of the Rangers celebrates his shootout

Mats Zuccarello of the Rangers celebrates his shootout goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden on April 10, 2013. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Norwegian Hobbit's journey has taken another turn, but you could sense this coming.

Mats Zuccarello, 25, who has played 67 games as a Ranger, including 15 after coming over from Russia’s KHL last season, could not reach agreement on a contract extension and filed for salary arbitration before today's 5 p.m. deadline.

The Rangers had given the 5-foot-7 winger a $735,000 qualifying offer; the sides can still negotiate before a hearing, which will be scheduled either later this month or in early August.

Zuccarello, who left for Mettalurg Magnitogorsk because he was disappointed at playing just 10 NHL games in 2011-12, had signed a $700,000 pro-rated contract on March 28. He notched three goals and five assists in the short stay, plus a goal and six assists in the playoffs.

But the Rangers' space under the salary cap is disappearing. They have about $3.3 million remaining and need to sign No. 1 center Derek Stepan, who is also a restricted free agent.  A trade to clear space or a decision to stretch the cap until October is stil possible. 

After being named MVP of the Swedish Elite League, he signed a two-year contract for $3.5 million in 2010, and played 47 games in New York. In Hartford in 2011-12, he scored 12 goals and had 36 points in 37 games, but was injured upon his return to New York.

New York Sports