The Minnesota Wild have gotten off to a dreadful start this season and will now be without their major offseason addition for at least a few games. The team has already ruled Mats Zuccarello out for this week’s three-game road trip with a lower-body injury, announcing that he did not travel with the team. The trip starts with a game this afternoon against the Ottawa Senators, which will serve as Gerry Mayhew’s NHL debut in place of Zuccarello.
Signed to a five-year, $30MM contract by former Minnesota GM Paul Fenton, Zuccarello has been a relative disappointment for the team so far this season. The 32-year old winger is seeing the fewest minutes of his career (an average of just 14:52) and has zero points through four games. Beyond the lack of offensive production he has also been weak in his own end and already has three minor penalties. That’s a tough start for a player that was supposed to change the look of the forward group.
Fenton, who was fired suddenly and replaced by GM Bill Guerin, handed Zuccarello the five-year term despite his team failing to make the playoffs last season. The Wild were involved in several trades down the stretch that broke up the core of the team, sending Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle packing, only to bring in another veteran in Zuccarello who is heading into his mid-thirties. Though he is coming off a strong season split between the New York Rangers and Dallas Stars, it’s hard to imagine him getting any better from this point on in his career.
For now though, the team desperately needs him back on the ice if they’re going to turn their early season struggles around. The Wild have lost their first four games by a combined score of 21-10 and find themselves already in a deep hole in the competitive Central Division.