Pouliot and Zuccarello are not mutually exclusive. (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images).
When the Rangers signed Benoit Pouliot to his one-year contract, there were some that suggested that Mats Zuccarello would be sent packing (Larry Brooks started this one). It was a thought process I understood, but was a bit puzzled by. The Rangers currently have Richards, Nash, Callahan, Stepan, Hagelin, and Brassard as the shoo-ins for top-nine work. Pouliot slides in nicely into the third line, so that makes seven players rounding out the top-nine. I’d venture a guess that people are handing a spot to Kreider, and it would shock me if he doesn’t make the team, so that makes eight. Zuccarello makes nine on a fully healthy squad.
For the purpose of this post, let us assume that Moore, Dorsett, Boyle, Asham, and Powe don’t magically find a scoring touch this season and find their way to a top-nine role. This leaves those five competing for fourth line (shutdown, on an AV coached team) roles.