Dallas Stars: Mats Zuccarello Preparing To Survey Free Agent Market

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Ryan O'Reilly #90 of the St. Louis Blues pressures Mats Zuccarello #36 of the Dallas Stars as he makes a pass in Game One of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Enterprise Center on April 25, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Ryan O'Reilly #90 of the St. Louis Blues pressures Mats Zuccarello #36 of the Dallas Stars as he makes a pass in Game One of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Enterprise Center on April 25, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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Shortly after making their first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill provided an update on the ongoing negotiations with Mats Zuccarello. And, barring any unexpected changes, the forward will begin meeting with other teams starting on Sunday before making a final decision.

After a month of speculating, debating, and questioning, it seems as though the Dallas Stars and Mats Zuccarello have found a potential stopping point in negotiations.

Amidst a relatively quiet Friday night on the 2019 NHL Entry Draft floor, Stars general manager Jim Nill was busy breaking news. Shortly after drafting defenseman Thomas Harley with the 18th overall pick in the first round, Nill met with the media to provide his thoughts on the pick and updates on other happenings within the organization. It wasn’t long before Zuccarello’s name came up.

“We’ve talked a little bit with his agents, but he wants to test the free agent market and he’s got that right because he’s gone this far,” Nill said about the forward’s plans. “So, they’re going to test the free agent market and we’re going to also look into the market and see what’s out there and we’ll kind of swing back and see where he’s at.”

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Zuccarello was acquired by Dallas just two days before the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 23. With the Stars greatly struggling on offense and sitting on the playoff bubble, Nill made the move to acquire the speedy, playmaking winger in exchange for two conditional draft picks.

And though he broke his arm while blocking a shot in his debut with Dallas against the Chicago Blackhawks, Zuccarello made an immediate impact on the team and their hopes of contending.

In two regular season games, Zuccarello scored a goal and tallied three total points. The Dallas offense averaged five goals per game in his two starts and looked visibly faster and more dominant with no. 36 in the lineup.

In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he was arguably the Stars’ best player. Zuccarello led the team in points with 11 (4G-7A) and drove the Dallas attack on the second line. He helped bring out the best in players like Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson, played with possession and energy, and helped round out the Stars’ top six.

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  • In other words, he provided the Dallas Stars with just about everything that they had been lacking in the first 61 games of the 2018-19 season.

    As the Stars entered the 2019 offseason, it seemed as though Zuccarello was the team’s no. 1 priority. With the winger being a pending unrestricted free agent and likely looking for the last contract of his professional career, the stage was set for negotiations to begin. After all, Zuccarello had proven to be an immediate and guaranteed fix to the Stars’ offensive woes.

    But now, it seems as though those negotiations have come to a halt. As a result, Zuccarello will begin meeting with other interested teams and the Stars will host meetings with other free agents on Sunday when the meeting period opens.

    “We have an interview period coming up here starting Sunday,” Nill added. “So, we’ll start talking to other people, he’ll do the same thing, and then we’ll keep in contact and see where things go.”

    This is the first time in Zuccarello’s career that he has been a pending UFA, so it’s new territory for him. With that being said, however, it only makes sense for him to see what other offers might be out there unless the Stars’ offers was overwhelmingly generous.

    But from the Dallas corner, has anything gone wrong within the Zuccarello extension talks?

    Term has been a central point of debate over the past few month. While Zuccarello could want five or more years on his next contract in order to give him long-term security, the Stars may be looking for a max of four years considering their current cap situation and their recent struggles with not receiving proper value and production from older forwards with long contracts.

    It’s a debate that must be had, and it looks as though Nill is holding the line in this situation.

    Now, this doesn’t mean that Zuccarello’s time in Dallas is done. The 31-year-old might meet with other teams and not receive a better offer than the one the Stars put on the table. Remember that he cannot sign with a new team until July 1, so the Stars still have another week to gauge the market and see what kind of counteroffers Zuccarello can secure while also interviewing potential free agents to replace him.

    This is simply another important step in the negotiation process. The two sides had a month to talk but couldn’t find common ground (at least, not at the moment). Now, both sides will take a look around the league while staying in contact with each other.

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    Will Zuccarello find a better offer? Will the Stars find a better player? Will the two circle back and eventually link together? We’ll find out more in the week ahead.