Zucker traded, WILD posted a nice week, but still out of a playoff spot

Marc Elliott

Jason Zucker traded to the  Pittsburgh Penguins
Jason Zucker traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins

LAKESIDE… The oft rumored trade of WILD winger Jason Zucker has finally occurred with Zucker going to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward Alex Galchenyuk, defensive prospect Calen Addison and the Pens 2020 first round pick in the Entry Draft. What to make of this deal? Here is a quick tale of the tape; Zucker/456 NHL GP, 132G/111/A/243 points, .532 PPG. +21, 22 GWG, with a 12.6 SP%, 6 seasons over 10%. Playoffs; 31GP/4G/4A/8 pts. -9, 6.3 SP%. For the current season; 45GP/14G/15A/29pts. -3, 2/GWG. He will be a UFA at the end of the 2022-23 season. 

Galchenyuk/535 NHL GP, 132G/181A/313 points, .585 PPG. -60, 21 GWG, 12.1 SP%, 6 seasons over 10%. Playoffs; 4G/9A/13pts, -3, 6.7 SP%. He will become a UFA at the end of this season. For the prospect Addison, he was a 2018 draft year 2nd round pick, 53rd overall and is 19 with a 2000 birthdate, and is an undersized defender at 5’10”, 179 lbs. He signed a 3 year entry level contract with the Pens last April that will begin when he officially turns professional. He appeared in 3 games with the Wilkes-Barre Baby Penguins at the end of last season and it was determined he would be returned to his Junior club, the WHL Lethbridge Hurricanes. He appeared in the 2020 World Junior tourney for the Gold Medalist Team Canada, and played in 7 games with a goal and 8 assists for 9 points. He is a native of Brandon. Manitoba. And in regard to the First Round pick the Wild will receive, it’s likely to be a late round pick as the Pens are 4th of 31 clubs in the NHL standings at the moment and are probably going to finish the season a top five team. 

My 5 cents worth? I have come to view Zucker as an enigmatic player. He teased the organization and the fan base with one 33 goal season that hasn’t been matched or exceeded, and it seems like he can almost generate a breakaway per game only to not finish on many of those attempts. He is a solid defensive player though, and is a hard worker. I was skeptical when he received the 5 year/$27.5 mil deal that he got because I didn’t think he was worth that kind of a contract and that he would soon enter his goal regression stage as an older NHLer. His playoff performances have been nondescript at best. True goal finishers usually define themselves at playoff time when the chips are on the table. He hasn’t. His community work is unequaled with what he has done for the U of M Children’s Masonic Hospital. Even with all things considered, it was probably time for a deal to be completed, Zuck’s wasn’t going to be a part of any future Wild team with Cup aspirations, his current deal will expire before the Wild get to that level.

For Galchenyuk, he was originally drafted by the Canadiens, who for 6 seasons could not figure out if he was a wing or a center, much to the players chagrin and the teams detriment. Then he was traded to ARI, spent a year there and was traded to the Pens in the off-season. For the Pens this year he has 45GP/5G/12A for 17 points and is a -7. His defensive deficiencies have dogged him throughout his pro career and my belief is that if a team can come up with a true definition of where they want him to play and how, he could prosper. He is still young and turns 26 on Wednesday. Then again there are times when I think he should have question marks on his sweater ala’ The Riddler from the old Batman TV show. I question where he might fit with the Wild and it probably won’t matter as he is rumored to be trade bait for Wild GM Bill Guerin, and if that doesn’t happen, he is a UFA at the end of the Wild season and probably won’t be re-signed. 

The short of the long is that this could work out well for Zucker from a playing standpoint. He is going to a high level contender, something the Wild might not have been before his current deal expired. It works for the Wild from a business perspective. Guerin has cleared the space necessary for the expected signing of Kirill Kaprizov at the conclusion of his KHL season. He has obtained a potential player in Addison, and I say “potential” because no one knows yet how the kid will develop and if he will make it in the best league in the world. And then he banked a draft pick besides. And if I’m really looking into my ice hockey crystal ball tonight, I think Guerin just tipped his hand with this deal without being forced to say so. I believe he has made his mind up that this team isn’t likely to get in the playoffs this year. Obviously, with the trade deadline arriving he was under time constraints, but I have to think that this wasn’t a deal that was made for “this” season… PEACE

AFTER THE EMBARRASSING loss returning from the team's bye week, the Wild put up a very respectable calendar week, going 3-1. They beat CHI in OT 3-2. Then had an impressive performance vs. VAN winning 4-2, and in Zach Parise’s 1000th game, on the road in Dallas, against his late father’s former team, who were classy in recognition of this feat, the Wild pulled out a 3-2 win on a very late goal by Joel Erikkson Ek, his 2nd of the game. On the downside they lost to COL Sunday eve in St. Paul in a 3-2 twister of a game. 6 of 8 points is a good week in this league. In spite of this they are still out of a playoff spot and are one of 12 teams chasing 8 spots in the West. They are currently 5 points out and based on my projection using data from a ranking format I study, CAL is now the 8th team expected to get a spot in the West with 90 points. The Wild would need to get 33 points to pass them meaning they would need 16 wins and a tie or combo thereof to pass them. The Wild have 27 tilts left…  

WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, 21st, trend for 89 pts, 35% chance at playoff, 1% chance for a Cup. The SAGARIN; 19th on a 26-29 record, 5-12 vs top ten, 11-19 vs top 16, 11th ranked difficulty of schedule. NHL STANDINGS; t6th in the Central, 26-23-6 record for 58 pts, 16-8-4 @ H, 10-15-2 @ A, 1-2/SO, 6-4 in L10, streak of 1L. 18th/GF/168, 23rd/GA/179, 10th/PP/21.5%, 30th/PK/73.7% & 15th in PIM’s @ 460. OVER & OUT!