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.