Larry Brooks reports: "Herb Brooks had his Smurfs. Tortorella is going to have his Hobbit -- the Norwegian Hobbit, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, the diminutive 22-year-old winger with world-class skill, who will sign a free agent contract with the Blueshirts at the conclusion of the next month's World Championships. Regulations included in the NHL's newly adopted transfer agreement with the Swedish Elite League prohibit the signing of free agents until then, so no contract has been signed or registered. News of the pending agreement broke on Friday after Zuccarello-Aasen's representatives at Newport Sports sent a letter to his other suitors, including Detroit, Toronto, Colorado, Chicago and Boston, thanking them for their interest. The Blueshirts did not get a Dear John (dear John? uh, not quite) or Dear Slats letter. The 5-foot-7, 160-pound Oslo native, who attracted serious attention following his performance in the Olympics, comes highly recommended to the Rangers by Markus Naslund, his teammate with Modo Hockey this season. Zuccarello-Aasen, scouted at the Vancouver Games by GM Glen Sather, led the SEL in scoring while capturing the league's MVP award. Two years ago, the Blueshirts signed Swedish free agent Andreas Jamtin. Last year it was Finnish defenseman Ilkka Heikkinen. Neither was able to create enough of an impression to crack the Rangers' roster. Zuccarello-Aasen, a brilliant skater, will have to surmount the challenge of adapting his game to the smaller rinks of the far more physical NHL. If he's able to do that, the greater challenge would then fall to Blueshirts' equipment manager Acacio Marques, who would then have to figure out how to sew the player's name on the back of his uniform." Loved this kid in the Olympics. Next-gen St. Louis?