Jason Zucker did not get a giant payday. Despite 27 goals last season, the scrappy Pittsburgh Penguins winger took a one-year deal with the terminally undermanned Arizona Coyotes for $5.3 million.
It’s actually a pay cut for Zucker, whose five-year, $5.5 million AAV contract ran out on June 30.
The Penguins acquired Zucker just before the pandemic in 2020 for former second-round pick Calen Addison, a first-round pick, and Alex Galchenyuk. Zucker had a pair of injury-plagued seasons before finally emerging as the speedy forechecker and top-six scorer that former GM Jim Rutherford envisioned.
Wednesday, the Penguins traded a third-round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights for Reilly Smith, who makes $5 million. Even though coach Mike Sullivan and president of hockey operations Kyle Dubas said the Smith trade did not preclude them from re-signing Zucker, ultimately, it did.
The NHL salary cap increased by only $1 million for next season, though a spike is expected next summer. The cap could increase by several million or more as the NHLPA settles its debt to owners for the COVID-shortened season.
Update: former Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and defensive pairing with Kris Letang, signed a two-year deal with the Seattle Kraken. The deal carries a $3.15 million AAV.
Josh Archibald and Nick Bonino signed small deals elsewhere Saturday. Bonino took $800,000 on a one-year deal with the New York Rangers. Archibald signed a two-year deal for $800,000 annually with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Update #2: Tristan Jarry re-signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins for five years and $5.375 AAV.
The run on goalies occurred about two hours after the beginning of free agency. The Carolina Hurricanes re-signed both Antti Raanta ($1.5 million) and Frederick Andersen (two years, $3.4 million AAV). James Reimer signed with Detroit. The San Jose Sharks signed Mackenzie Blackwood to a two-year deal with a $2.35 million AAV, Ottawa signed Joonas Korpisalo for five years at $4 annually, LA signed Cam Talbot for one year at $1 million, and Colin Delia signed a league-minimum deal with the Winnipeg Jets.
Golden Knights goalie Laurent Brossoit returned to Winnipeg for $1.75 million later Saturday afternoon.