SAN JOSE -- Henrik Lundqvist knows there will be more roster turnover around him during the ongoing rebuild of the New York Rangers. But when it comes to right wing Mats Zuccarello, a potential unrestricted free agent, Lundqvist hopes his longtime teammate will remain with the Rangers past the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25.
"You don't really want to go there mentally to think about [Zuccarello] being gone," Lundqvist said. "I think, first of all, he's a close friend now. He's been such a big part of this team for so many years. I appreciate him as a player, as a person and as a teammate."
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Zuccarello, a native of Norway, has played his entire NHL career with the Rangers and Lundqvist, who's from nearby Sweden. New York has made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in seven of Zuccarello's eight seasons and reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. Zuccarello has led the Rangers in scoring four times, including each of the past three seasons, and has 339 points (110 goals, 229 assists) in 498 NHL regular season games. He can become a UFA on July 1.
However the Rangers announced last season they would look to trade veteran players as part of a rebuild. That strategy could carry over to this season with New York (21-20-7; 49 points) being nine points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (26-16-6; 58 points) for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
"But at the same time, we all understand how this world works," Lundqvist said. "It's a business, and [there's] a lot of planning going into trading with teams. We're in a unique position right now, so we'll see what happens, but obviously I hope he'll stick around for many reasons."
Even though Zuccarello's future with the Rangers is unclear, Lundqvist is glad to see him playing at high level. The 31-year-old missed 13 games earlier in the season because of a groin injury but has a five-game point streak totaling nine points (four goals, five assists) entering the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend. He is tied for fourth on the team with 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists) in 35 games.
"You could see [Zuccarello] scored that one goal three or four games ago, and it was almost like it clicked," Lundqvist said. "The skating, the vision; it's right there. When he's at the top of his game, it makes a difference. When he's at that level, he's an extremely good player. It's been fun to watch."