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Penguins Turned Down Chance to Trade Zucker … Here’s Why

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pittsburgh penguins, jason zucker

It’s no secret that the Pittsburgh Penguins have expected more offensive production than they’ve gotten from Jason Zucker since acquiring him from Minnesota.

It’s also generally accepted that they’d be open to clearing his contract, which carries a $5.5 million salary-cap hit, off their books.

Well, it turns out that, according to a league source, the Penguins had a chance to do just that this summer … and decided against it.

For what turned out to be a pretty good reason.

The trade proposal Ron Hextall received from an unspecified team, believed to be another Metropolitan Division club, called for Zucker to be packaged with a first-round draft choice in exchange for … well, basically nothing.

Oh, the Penguins’ return probably would have been characterized as “future considerations,” but in today’s NHL, when one team is trying to shed significant salary, it can’t expect to get anything more than the hockey equivalent of a bag of mist in the deal.

Hextall did not respond to a request, submitted via a team official, to confirm or dispute that information.

A first-rounder appears to be the going rate for a player with a salary similar to Zucker’s. Calgary, which was looking to clear cap space needed to sign free agent Nazim Kadri last month, had to attach a No. 1 to Sean Monahan to get Montreal to take him, and the source said a prospective trading partner informed Philadelphia it would have to do likewise if it wanted to part with James van Riemsdyk.

(Monahan has one year left on a contract with a $6.375 million cap hit, while van Riemsdyk has one at $7 million.)

Although the Pittsburgh Penguins are believed to be willing to include an asset, likely a draft choice, in a salary-shedding deal, there were a couple of reasons for them to walk away from the proposed Zucker trade.

Hextall has made it clear that he wants to restock the Penguins’ pool of prospects, and first-round draft choices obviously are an important part of that plan. While they might not be untouchable in trades, Hextall isn’t going to part with them easily.

Perhaps more importantly, the Penguins are not prepared to write Zucker off as a significant contributor.

Although his offensive output has not been commensurate with his pay — Zucker has 23 goals and 24 assists in 94 games since coming over from the Wild — he skates well, works hard and is an effective forechecker who is liked and respected by his teammates.

Zucker enters training camp in two weeks as the incumbent left winger on the No. 2 line and, at 30, still seems capable of scoring 20 or more for the sixth time in his NHL career.

Whether that would be enough to justify the amount the Penguins will be paying him is conjecture, but it surely would validate the decision to not relinquish a No. 1 choice simply to get him off the payroll.

The old school try(out)

Although the 57-man training camp roster the Pittsburgh Penguins released Tuesday did not include anyone on a professional tryout, Brian Boyle was at least a longshot candidate to receive one until the past few days.

He got one a year ago, and earned a one-year contract, and rewarded the Penguins with solid work on the fourth line and penalty-killing unit.

Boyle’s representatives approached the Penguins about having him return for this year’s camp and the idea appears to have gotten serious consideration before the front office decided against it, probably because the depth chart at center is crowded and the Penguins have 14 forwards on one-way contracts.

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Frank
Frank
22 days ago

Classic example of what happens when a GM makes a deal to which he is emotionally attached and Rutherford was guilty of that more than this one. To acquire Zucker the Penguins effectively game up two first round picks and now to rid themselves of his contract the cost could have been another first round pick. THREE first round picks attached to having Jason Zucker. I like his play style and he seems a great teammate . . but . .. how many 50 point forwards are valued that high? They are much better off just holding on to him… Read more »

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
22 days ago

I believe hanging on to him was the best move. As for Boyle, he at least earned a PTO and shame on them for passing on it. He served us well last year. His injury in Game 6 altered the game and series.

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
21 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

Got your point. I would like him to get a chance somewhere and thought this would at least showcase him. I liked how he stood up for teammates last year. No one else would.

Alan Smith
21 days ago
Reply to  Dave Molinari

Boyle filled a void! Never saw him defend any other Pen! Carter either for that matter! Rangers took a few really cheap shots and no was there afterwards! The Pens are so fast Boyle is not needed! I like him but can’t remember much!

Timm
Timm
21 days ago
Reply to  Alan Smith

You forgot about his ‘between the legs, top shelf’ goal already? That was a thing of beauty!!

Jake W
Jake W
21 days ago
Reply to  Vince Gori

It would have been more disrespectful if we wasted his time knowing he couldn’t earn a contract no matter what. Let the man get a tryout elsewhere rather than leading him on.

Cal
Cal
22 days ago

Good move by Hex not to take that sucker deal. Allow Zuck to play out his contract unless a deal in favor of the Penguins comes along. He is not a bad player, in fact he is an effective player a 20 goal winger with speed, tenacity, and leadership skills. He just cant seem to keep healthy.

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
22 days ago
Reply to  Cal

Now if JZ had 3 years remaining on the deal, I would have packaged a 1st. Not just for one more season. Smart move (not to make) by GMRH.

Pens' Igloo
Pens' Igloo
22 days ago

Turning that down is the right move. Let’s see what Zucker looks like in TC and during the season before making any hasty decisions. If Zucker isn’t getting it done, and the Pens look like they’re a top 6 winger upgrade away from making a real run, they can easily attach a pick to him (for salary matching reasons) and move him for an upgrade near the deadline. There will be plenty of guys available.

Bob
Bob
22 days ago

Still think Boyle would be good for our Depth chart Penalty kill with his reach and willing to hit. Also his locker room presents and his ability and willingness to get physical and stand up for his players on the ice which is missing again. Would come cheap enough for all these perks.

T.J. Bunner
T.J. Bunner
22 days ago

That’s a no-brainer on Hextall’s part to NOT part with Zucker and a 1st round Pick. The Penguins need salary relief, but not at that cost. If I had to guess which team in the Metro?…it would be the Devils – they have the cap space and just seems like something the Devils would offer (Although I could be way off). I for one, am very much looking forward to the upcoming season. Not only are the Pens a better team now than last season, they’re healthy. No other NHL team has more man-games lost to injury in the last… Read more »

JICS
21 days ago
Reply to  T.J. Bunner

…a rejuvenated Geno? He declares himself “rejuvenated” every time he comes back from an injury – new game, new player, better than ever – I’m still waiting for the renewal he “declares” every time! Just same old, same old!

Bob
Bob
21 days ago
Reply to  JICS

Exactly my thoughts.

Wasnt
22 days ago

Now I’m wondering if any team will give Boyle a shot or is he done. I would’ve loved to keep him but there might be more to that injury last season and the Pens know it.

Katherine Verbeke
Katherine Verbeke
22 days ago

Too bad about Boyle, seems like a great guy to have around….I hope someone gives him another chance….

Ryan
Ryan
21 days ago

I agree on not giving up a #1 to dump zucker…

The bad move was that STUPID deal to Kapanen. He already cost ya two #1 picks and isn’t a first round talent…now you eat cap with him for little yield.
Hextall should know better after his drafting obsession got him fired to the east.

Alan Smith
21 days ago

Zucker will be a $5 million dollar player this year! Rackel and Kappy will pay dividends as well! Pens are loaded as any team in the NHL! Defense and goalies are the only unknowns!

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
21 days ago

I dont think its going to be a big deal in the end- have a feeling this will catch momentum, cause he is a good hockey and why he hasnt caught on here is a mystery. Once he catches that, he will be back on the LITR-they will get the cap space.

Last edited 21 days ago by Rich Filardi
Wags
Wags
19 days ago

Sign Brian Boyle again. A great locker room leader and the players like him. This should be a no brainer!