Wild Trade Zucker to the Penguins
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After a failed attempt to acquire Zucker last May, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford gets his man.The 28-year-old winger is signed through 2022-23 with an annual average value of $5.5 million. With 14 goals and 29 points in 45 games this season, he’s on pace to exceed 20 goals and 40 points for the fourth consecutive year. Depending on how well he meshes with his new linemates (Sidney Crosby? Evgeni Malkin?), he could finish with much more.
Rutherford recently indicated he was in the market for a scoring winger after left winger Jake Guentzel suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Zucker skates on the right side, but Rutherford suggested the versatility of his existing wingers meant he wasn’t fussy over which side his trade target played. Perhaps this means Patric Hornqvist or Bryan Rust move to the left side to make room for Zucker.
With over $68.9 million invested in 14 players for 2020-21, the addition of Zucker could leave the Penguins squeezed for salary-cap space. Goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are restricted free agents with arbitration rights this summer. Both will seek substantial raises, meaning one could be traded this summer. Defenseman Justin Schultz is an unrestricted free agent and could price himself out of Pittsburgh unless Rutherford frees up more cap space.
That’s a problem for the off-season. For now, the Penguins signaled they’re a serious contender for the Stanley Cup this season.
The Wild, meanwhile, have needed a roster rebuild for some time. Whether trading Zucker means this is the start of a full rebuild or merely another effort to retool on the fly remains to be seen.
It’s the first significant move by Bill Guerin since taking over as GM last summer. In Galchenyuk, he gets a winger with decent offensive skills who’s now on his fourth team since 2018. Slated to become a UFA this summer, the 26-year-old was sidelined by an injury to start this season and struggled upon his return to fit in with the talent-laden Penguins. Depending on his performance over the remainder of the schedule, he could be joining his fifth team this summer.
Reports indicate the first-round pick in 2020 could revert to 2021 if the Penguins miss the playoffs and decide to push it back a year. That’s unlikely, considering where the Penguins are in the standings. It’ll give the Wild two first-round picks in this year’s draft.
Addison could be the real prize for the Wild. Selected in the second round (53rd overall) by the Penguins in 2018, the 19-year-old is said to a top defensive prospect. He’s got 43 points in 39 games this season with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes and helped Canada win gold at the 2020 World Junior Championships.