There it is. The first big shoe to drop of the NHL Trade Deadline season hit thundered on Monday night as the Pittsburgh Penguins finally got their hands on Jason Zucker. Though Penguins GM Jim Rutherford had to give up a boatload to his former protege, Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin.
For Zucker, the Penguins gave Minnesota the Penguins 2020 first-round pick, top defenseman prospect Calen Addison and Alex Galchenyuk. The draft pick is lottery-protected. Should the Penguins miss the playoffs this season the pick will default to 2021.
The Penguins have been scrambling for a few weeks to generate offense on the top line with Sidney Crosby. Jared McCann and Dominik Simon have not kept pace. Simon has five points (3g, 2a) in the nine games since Crosby’s return from injury, but is a minus-five. McCann also has five points (1g, 4a) in those nine-game and is also a minus-five.
This season, Zucker has 29 points in 45 games, including 14 goals. The Penguins have been trying to acquire Zucker since last June when Rutherford reached a deal with Minnesota for Zucker in exchange for Phil Kessel and other pieces, presumed to be defenseman Jack Johnson. Kessel vetoed the trade.
Zucker, 28, was recently a featured member of Minnesota’s top line with Eric Staal and Mats Zuccarello but had been shuffled through the lineup over the past few games. Zucker has three years remaining on his contract with a $5.5 AAV.
The Penguins parted with Galchenyuk, who never fit with the Penguins. In 45 games, Galchenyuk has just five goals and 17 points. He played only three minutes in the Penguins win over Florida on Sunday.
The real prizes for Minnesota are the Penguins first-round draft choice and defenseman prospect Calen Addison, who lit up the 2020 World Junior Championships. Addison assisted on three third period goals as Team Canada mounted a furious comeback to win the gold over Russia. Addison was the Penguins second-round choice (53rd overall) in 2018.
He had two assists in three games at the end of last season for the Penguins AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. This season with Lethbridge, Addison had 43 points (10g, 33a) in 39 games.
The deal adds $177,000 to the Penguins salary cap.
Editors note: The condition of the first-round pick has been added to the original draft of the story.