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Projecting the New Penguins Lines With Zucker and Beyond

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Pittsburgh Penguins lines with Evgeni Malkin Bryan Rust

The Pittsburgh Penguins finally acquired Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker late Monday night. After one official attempt, which was nixed when former Penguins winger Phil Kessel nixed a trade to Minnesota, the Penguins reportedly carried a torch for Zucker until things finally came together. The move will immediately bolster the Penguins lines.

It doesn’t take a mentalist or a carnival fortune-teller to predict Zucker will begin his Penguins tenure on Sidney Crosby’s left-wing. The bigger question surrounding head coach Mike Sullivan’s line construction will be if he seeks to spread the talent over four lines or concentrate the talent on three units.

This season, Zucker has 29 points (14g, 15a) in 45 games. He’s bounced around the Minnesota lineup from the top line to the bottom line, where he was in the last couple of Minnesota games. You’d be correct in asserting the Penguins got their man who should fit perfectly into the Penguins system. You’d also be correct to state the Penguins gave up a first-round pick and a top blueline prospect for a player who wasn’t consistently a top-six winger.

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

Eventually, the Penguins will be a deep team, again. Nick Bjugstad and Dominik Kahun are yet to return to the lineup, and they will give the Penguins four solid lines for the first time in weeks.

First, we’ll take a stab at the Penguins lines for Tuesday night against Tampa Bay. Will Sullivan load up the top line with Hornqvist or keep Simon on the top line? We’re going to guess at Simon. Jared McCann also becomes a wild-card. Will he move back to center to give the Penguins a fourth line or will he remain a top-six winger, despite his recent struggles?

Jason Zucker — Sidney Crosby — Dominik Simon

Bryan Rust — Evgeni Malkin — Patric Hornqvist

Zach Aston-Reese — Teddy Blueger — Brandon Tanev

Andrew Agozzino — Jared McCann — Sam Lafferty

If or when the Pittsburgh Penguins get healthy, the Penguins lines will again have balance and versatility, as the Penguins lines did in the first half of the season.

A healthy Penguins lineup, however, has been as difficult to spot as Bigfoot or aliens. The Penguins had a healthy lineup for approximately 40 minutes this season. So, we tepidly project the Penguins full lineup when Nick Bjugstad returns from core muscle surgery, and Dominik Kahun returns from a concussion.

Zucker — Crosby — Kahun

Rust — Malkin — Hornqvist

McCann – Bjugstad – Simon

Aston-Reese — Blueger — Tanev

The fully healthy lines will juggle and change based on who has “juice.” There is no guarantee that Zucker will mesh with Crosby, but the Penguins will have options if that occurs. A simple swap with Zucker and Rust would work.

Of course, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford may not be done, either. The Penguins also included Alex Galchenyuk in the deal, which made the Zucker trade virtually salary neutral. The Penguins added only $177k to their salary cap and still have the equivalent of more than $4.2 million to spend.

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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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Dan N
Dan N
1 year ago

Really nothing left to trade…maybe next years picks of Schultz but now with the Marino injury he’s staying put…They May be able to re coup that Number 1 over the summer if they can move a goalie as they won’t be able to sign both…Also my opinion this team is still not as good as Tampa..

BoldRuler
BoldRuler
1 year ago

Zucker — Crosby — Hornqvist

Kahun — Malkin — Rust

Aston-Reese — Blueger — Tanev

Simon – McCann – Bjugstad

I quite like this formation. Minutes can be spread out more thoroughly through the lines. It took me quite a while to format this with my iPhone. I hope you appreciate my work.

Paul
Paul
1 year ago

This team fully healthy with Zucker is not a deep playoff team.

Sorry I do not like typing that but this recipe is far too sweet and watery.

It’s built for regular season and 3 on 3 Overtime.

Hope I’m wrong but fear I’m not. Early exit coming and then what?

Who will be blamed ? If they draw the Isles in the 1st I’m predicting a 1st round exit.

Trotz is salivating.

SL
SL
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

Paul, I’d love to know where you’re drawing the ire from for a healthy lineup. Would you prefer only rolling 3 lines and sitting a bunch of AHL call-ups?

Make no mistake, as long as the players remain bought in, this will be a formidable team. Or at least, they have the chance to be moreso with a full roster of NHL-caliber players.

If they can acquire a little extra D depth, they should be in a pretty good position to do well in the postseason.

Tony G.
Tony G.
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

Who will be blamed? Matt Murray, of course.

Mike K
Mike K
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony G.

Matt Murray won’t be playing, so it won’t matter

Tony G.
Tony G.
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike K

So we’ll blame him, anyway. I even blame Murray for the fact the Fleury sucks this season.

Matty Ice
Matty Ice
1 year ago

Any chance of trading one of the goalies to help bolster the blueline? Essentially we have 2 starting goalies and 1 solid patchwork goalie in Desmith. We are bound to lose at least 1 in the off season, would hate to not get a return of any kind.

David Heyl
David Heyl (@belfairroxi)
1 year ago

I love the trade not only for the short term however long term. Zucker fits the Oct-Jan Pens style which they have not played since the return of Crosby. GMJR now has cap room. Possible playoff lines Zucker Crosby Guentzel Rust Malkin Kahun Tanev Blueger ZAR Hornqvist McCann Simon Not including Bjugstad as I see him traded, although difficult because of injury, along with cap space to secure a d man. Letang Dumo Marino Johnson Pettersson New D man with some mean streak. Schultz Bjugstad traded. May sound crazy however I believe GMJR will get a d man, dump Schultz… Read more »

HarkeyPuck
HarkeyPuck
1 year ago

No way they dump Shultz now. Marino May be out until April.

Zucker/Crosby/Simon
Kahun/Malkin/Rust
Bjugstad/McCann/Hornqvist
Reese/Blueger/Tanev

josh
josh
1 year ago
Reply to  HarkeyPuck

This is exactly what I have. Maybe only flip Bjugstad and McCann. Good luck stopping these four lines rolling!

HarkeyPuck
HarkeyPuck
1 year ago

Although I’d like Hornqvist on Crosby’s line come playoffs. He would draw the ire (and cross checks) of opposing defenseman in stead of number 87

The Binker
The Binker
1 year ago

Allow me to be the first to blame Much Maligned Matt Murray for our failures in the postseason.

E.J.
E.J.
1 year ago
Reply to  The Binker

Tom Wilson has another rag doll to throw around this postseason.

Cal
Cal
1 year ago

Its easy to dismiss the impact of Bjugstad returning from injury because he has been a no show all year via injury or nagging injury. Our memories are short, he has been lights out as a third line center. He is big, fast (yes fast..he is faster than he looks ), is great at physical/checking/defensive play, and can score 20 a year. That kind of player is very hard to find and I think if he comes back healthy he will have a positive impact for the team. I do not want to see him traded, especially for depth. What… Read more »

King Penguin
King Penguin
1 year ago
Reply to  Cal

Bjugstad is 6-foot-6 and plays like 5-foot-11. Time to trade his pansy ass.

Shawn Sherrill
Shawn Sherrill
1 year ago

I can see Bjuggs being sent out on a deal for a top 4 def and maybe even a pick. He hasnt worked out well for the pens, but he may be needed as a def center in the playoffs.

Zucker Crosby Kahun
Rust Malkin McCann
Tanev Bjuggs Horny
Zar blue Simon

That’s a pretty solid lineup and still have laugh and other guys to fill as needed. They can move McCann to 3rd center if they trade Bjuggs for a def.

Shawn Sherrill
Shawn Sherrill
1 year ago

I can see Bjuggs being sent out on a deal for a top 4 def and maybe even a pick. He hasnt worked out well for the pens, but he may be needed as a def center in the playoffs. Zucker Crosby Kahun Rust Malkin McCann Tanev Bjuggs Horny Zar blue Simon Letang dumbo Petterson Marino Guy thru trade and jj(Riko) who I would play over jj. Chad gets ousted and can fill as needed. That’s a pretty solid lineup and still have laugh and other guys to fill as needed. They can move McCann to 3rd center if they… Read more »

King Penguin
King Penguin
1 year ago

No matter how you move the pieces, they don’t fit. Not enough talent, not enough physicality. #OneAndDone

Tony G.
Tony G.
1 year ago

Next GMJR can acquire d-man Matt Dumba, who reportedly is available.

Then we can have Dumba and Dumbo on the first pair.

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