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Penguins Trade Analysis: Pens All-In, Who Won Jason Zucker Trade?

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Penguins trade for Jason Zucker

Jason Zucker is finally a Pittsburgh Penguin.

Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist said it well on the Penguins first day back from their extended mid-season vacation on Jan. 30. The injury battered and beaten Penguins managed to surge to the fourth-best record in the NHL and third-best in the Eastern Conference.

“What an opportunity we have,” Hornqvist said. “We have a good team. You don’t have many chances to make something special, and this group is good.”

However, the Penguins have not been their dominant selves since they lost top-line winger Jake Guentzel to season-ending shoulder surgery on Dec. 30. The Penguins managed to win games, but opponents like Philadelphia and Florida forced them forced to hang on for dear life. Rather than confidence-inspiring wins, the Penguins were blitzed in several third periods. 

They were also not able to keep pace with the Tampa Bay Lightning last Thursday when Tampa Bay outclassed the Penguins, 4-2.

And Penguins GM Jim Rutherford finally executed the trade which has been sitting on his and Minnesota Wild Bill Guerin’s desk for weeks. The Penguins sent their 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected), top-defenseman prospect Calen Addison, and struggling winger Alex Galchenyuk to Minnesota for aggressive winger Jason Zucker.

Rutherford appears to have accepted Guerin’s steep terms. It’s been rumored and reported for a few weeks (or months) the Penguins were after Zucker. A source recently told PHN the number one pick was necessarily going to be included if a deal was to be made. However, the prospect which the Rutherford gave up was an enormous coup for Minnesota, and well above the level of prospect we were told would be included.

We believe the escalation was necessary for Minnesota to accept Galchenyuk.

The first-rounder had to go to Minnesota. But Addison? Guerin heisted perhaps the Penguins top prospect, offensive defenseman, 19-year-old Calen Addison. Addison asserted himself at the 2020 World Junior Championships, and it’s a big loss for the Penguins whose prospect cupboard is relatively bare.

The Penguins top blueline prospect is now PO Joseph. That’s a significant loss for the Penguins. Huge. Addison was ready to turn pro next season. While he probably wasn’t going to be a John Marino story, within 18-24 months, he could have assumed a substantial role on the Penguins blue line.

The winner of the deal? Minnesota. Clearly. The Penguins gave a ransom for a player who was recently demoted to the Minnesota fourth line, but Guerin held firm and drove the price to its peak.

However, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford finally got his man. Zucker is a fast, solid winger with hands. For Penguins fans who haven’t seen much of him, he can be a more offensive version of Brandon Tanev.

Zucker, 28, makes $5.5 million per season, and his contract has three more years, so it wasn’t a rental. Minnesota won the deal, but if Zucker fits as well with the Penguins gritty forecheck game as he should, then the Penguins didn’t lose the deal, either.

Zucker should fit well on the left-wing beside Sidney Crosby this season. If he does not mesh with Crosby, the Penguins have additional options, including flipping Bryan Rust to the top line and Zucker to Evgeni Malkin’s line.

The Penguins were forced into this move by injuries and their potential to do something special. Teams don’t get many chances at greatness, and credit Rutherford for going for it. He is the GM every fan should want. There is no “wait until next year.”

Zucker has 29 points this season, including 14 goals. He has at least 20 goals in each of the past three seasons and had 33 markers in 2017-18.

The Penguins added only $177k to their salary cap hit, so they technically have space to add more. Though, the Penguins lack are additional assets to add those players.

Without a No. 1 pick, without a top defensive prospect, the Penguins are all-in. They can’t afford to acquire much more. The Penguins still have a third-round pick, and additional acquisitions could require its inclusion, too.

The Penguins have additional needs, such as defensive depth and forward depth. By moving Galchenyuk, the Penguins cleared space to add more players, though they don’t have many assets left to deal.

The last significant deadline acquisition had to be undone last February when Rutherford flipped Derrick Brassard to Florida for Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad. Ironically, that deal paid far more dividends than acquiring Brassard.

If Zucker delivers, Addison will be only a footnote in Penguins history, but Zucker must deliver.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Cal
Cal
1 year ago

Steep price yeah but he is not a rental and has the tools to fit in with the pens.

King Penguin
King Penguin
1 year ago
Reply to  Cal

Zucker is barely 5-foot-11, 180 pounds and will get pushed around with the rest of his teammates in the postseason. He has four goals in 31 playoff games. So, um, yeah, he’ll fit in with this team perfectly.

Del Scott
Del Scott
1 year ago
Reply to  King Penguin

Let’s wait until he plays a game for the Penguins before assessing he won’t fit.

The Binker
The Binker
1 year ago

Last night I had a nightmare that GMJR re-acquired Antti Niemi. Woke up in a cold sweat. Zucker can’t be much worse, I guess.

E.J.
E.J.
1 year ago

Great. Now #87 has another excuse not to shoot da puck.

Ricardo58
Ricardo58
1 year ago

The win now mode continually referenced is this a reasonable win now mode or is it a hope and prayer win now mode? My point is when does the win now mode end? 3 – 4 years from now the Pens roster still has 87, 71 and 58. So, is it still win now then? I gather 2021 first round and Poulin will be dealt next? I’m all in for another Cup run/win if it is reasonable. I just don’t see this roster, even at full health, is a Cup contender. A lot of holes on D. Sorry for the… Read more »

Del Scott
Del Scott
1 year ago
Reply to  Ricardo58

What holes in the first 50 games, injuries and all, showed you this team isn’t a contender, let alone when they’re healthy?

Ricardo58
Ricardo58
1 year ago
Reply to  Del Scott

From my perspective, last years roster that lost to the NYI in the first round of the playoffs was better than this years current roster. Currently, the team will be without 59 heading into the playoffs. A significant loss. I don’t believe the current teams D is any better and especially not more physical than last years D that competed in the playoffs. The real nice run by the team in December/January during the regular season isn’t necessarily the same once the playoffs begin. Regular season performance and playoff performance don’t go hand in hand always. TB demonstrated that against… Read more »

Del Scott
Del Scott
1 year ago
Reply to  Ricardo58

Last year’s roster was significantly worse than this year’s team. Rutherford transformed the team’s identity in the off season by adding speed. Plus they are much more difficult to play against. Also, moving players out and others in, they have been playing Sullivan’s system quite well, as opposed to last April.

Shawn Sherrill
Shawn Sherrill
1 year ago

It’s a good fit . Zucker Crosby McCann Tanev Malkin Rust Zar Blue kahun Horny Bjuggs Simon Letang Dumbo Petterson Marino Shultz JJ (riko) Ruhwedgel, jj scratched Laf, angelo scratched If Jake makes it back he goes in McCann’s spot McCann to blues c spot blue takes Simon’s spot or alternates with blue depending on opponent. Theres lots of flexibility and depth in there. Got some good players coming back from injury…so. maybe even trade Bjuggs for a 3ed pair def or better like martinez maybe ot gudbranson back for the Capitol’s matchup. I think it’s all good, they can… Read more »

Tony G.
Tony G.
1 year ago

What does the hell does JR care about the Penguins future? Dude is 70 years old and has one foot in the grave. Besides, he can always get a job with Guerin when this franchise goes belly up, which will be real soon.

John
John
1 year ago

I don’t like the trade. Zucker already 29 and similar to their other 5-10 and 5-11 guys. Capitals should be able to outphysical Pens in the playoffs. Trading all those #1 picks catches up. Addison was a top prospect. Maybe, GALCHENYUK will help the Wild.

Jackmccrory
Jackmccrory
1 year ago

If they don’t get some defensive help that can clear the puck out of their own end this trade will have little impact. Remember Bassard. Same player different number.

Terrance P O'Toole
Terrance P O'Toole
1 year ago

What’s not to like we got an established player of need and we gave up a cap dump and futures who are not gonna help in a couples yrs the other good thing we’ll have zucker for 3 yrs ,i remember everyone blasting jr for signing tanev and he’s been great, and also with marino being so good that made addison a little more available

trackback

[…] The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Zucker can skate well and finish. You can read the full analysis of the trade here. […]

logan
logan
1 year ago

I may be in the minority here, but I like the trade. The penguins owe it to Malkin and Crosby to at least give them as much talent as they can have in the next few years to win as many cups as possible. Then we can go into full rebuild mode. Everyone hated the signing of Tanev and who would complain about that signing now. If Zucker is indeed a Tanev with better hands we are in for a treat and it makes us even harder to play against with that aggressive for-check. So everyone needs to stop panicking… Read more »

B
B
1 year ago
Reply to  logan

Excellent insight, Logan. Once again, I agree with your assessment. Of all the potentials involved, Zucker is the only proven commodity.

trackback

[…] The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Zucker can skate well and finish. You can read the full analysis of the trade here. […]

trackback

[…] The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Zucker can skate well and finish. You can read the full analysis of the trade here. […]

B
B
1 year ago

Thoughtful analysis, Logan. Once again, I agree with your assessment. Of all the assets, the only one that is proven right now is Zucker.

I’m very excited to see Zucker play and am hopeful he can play tonight against a tough challenge in Tampa.

trackback

[…] The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Zucker can skate well and finish. You can read the full analysis of the trade here. […]

David
David
1 year ago

Why is there a big concern over the Pens future? The Crosby/Malkin era is likely going to close over the next 5 years anyways — and the Pens will have to reshape their team. So win NOW. There will never be a better opportunity to do so.

trackback

[…] The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Zucker can skate well and finish. You can read the full analysis of the trade here. […]

trackback

[…] The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Zucker can skate well and finish. You can read the full analysis of the trade here. […]

Hatrick Pornqvist
Hatrick Pornqvist
1 year ago

I’m a bit surprised by the number of negative reactions to this trade. We needed a top six wing who could score in a pretty bad way and we got one who’s a vet with three more years at a good cap hit who should score 50 points in our top six and fits the identity of this team perfectly. Generally speaking it’s veteran teams that win cups. The more of them you have in their primes the better. Washington, STL, Pittsburgh, LA, CHI, all had a bunch of veteran guys throughout the lineup. The addition of Zucker is fantastic.… Read more »

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