Hellllooooooooo everyyyboddddyyyy, the Jason Zucker era begins tonight when the Penguins (34-15-5) return home to kick off a four game home stand beginning with the Tampa Bay Lightning (36-15-5). Puck is set to drop from PPG Paints Arena just after 7:00PM.
Well folks, Jim Rutherford got his guy. As always, GMJR got the deal done before the deadline. Jason Zucker, 28, is a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the remainder of this season and through the 2022-2023 season. Let's break down the full trade:
Graphic via the Pittsburgh Penguins
This move has been brewing for some time. Okay, maybe not this specific move, but a deal to acquire a relevant goal-scoring forward. Throughout the last few months and especially after the Guentzel injury, the Penguins were linked to the likes of Chris Kreider, Tyler Toffoli, Mike Hoffman, Jason Zucker, and some even floated Brandon Saad's name out there (lmao). Out of all those names listed, Kreider and Zucker were the two that seemed to fit the Penguins system best.
Zucker, as mentioned above, comes with term as he is signed through the 2022-2023 campaign with an average annual value of $5,500,000, whereas Kreider was set to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end and carries a $4,625,000 cap hit. In terms of the pieces given up in the deal:
Alex Galchenyuk - See yaaaaaaaa. Galchenyuk came over in the Phil Kessel deal and it's no secret, he's pretty much sucked all season. Through 45 games, he posted 17 points (5G, 12A) and over the course of his last two games has pretty much been glued to the bench, recording just 3:02 TOI against the Panthers. Galchenyuk is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Calen Addison - Clearly the number one defensive prospect in the Penguins system. Addison is a puck-moving defenseman who currently plays for the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the WHL. Through 241 games in the WHL (3 seasons), Addison has tallied 206 points. Addison was most recently a member of the World Junior Canadian team that won gold.
Conditional 2020 1st round pick - The condition is that the Penguins have the option to give Minnesota their 2021 draft pick instead of 2020 if they fail to make the playoffs this year (something tells me that won't happen).
My thoughts (and I am the voice of reason): I really like this trade. In a sense, you have to look at it as if it was Zucker for Addison and the conditional first round pick. Galchenyuk does not factor into this because he wasn't re-signing here, mostly because the Penguins don't want him back and have been trying to deal him for awhile now. As for Calen Addison, see yaaaaaaa. The Penguins are in win now mode. This is when you mortgage your future. Realistically, how many more 'elite' years of Crosby, Malkin, and hell even Letang do you think you have left? Two, maybe three? Sidney Crosby is 32 years old and Evgeni Malkin is 33. I'm sorry, I do not give a shit about what Calen Addison can do in three years if dealing him now gives the Penguins one more two more good runs at a Stanley Cup. In addition, acquiring John Marino this past offseason made Addison even more expendable. The same thought applies to the first round pick as well. That pick, barring some unforeseen circumstances, will likely end up being a mid to late round pick say between 26-30. Almost a borderline second round pick...a player that will not have an impact until well after Crosby and Malkin have passed their prime or hell, even moved on. This was the right move.
Some more Zucker stats for you:
Zucker currently has 14 goals and 15 assists on the season for 29 total points through 45 games. He somehow only missed ten games this season after suffering a broken fibula back in December. He's just two years removed from his best statical season in which he put up 33 goals and 31 assists (64 points #MathGuy) in 82 games. That's right, a foreign concept to most Penguins players and fans. He played a full season. I expect Zucker to move up and down the lineup during his first few games to gain some familiarity, however, I fully expect him to end up on Sidney Crosby's wing when it's all said and done.
Moving on to something that doesn't make me happy. The Penguins will be without defenseman John Marino for three to six weeks after he underwent successful surgery to repair facial bone fractures. He was injured last Thursday against the Lightning when a puck deflected up and hit him square in the face.
Speaking of the Lightning, oh yeah, the Penguins have a game tonight. The Jason Zucker-less Pens just faced this Lightning squad in Tampa back on Thursday and fell by a score of 4-2. Since then, the Bolts have played two games. They won both including their most recent matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets last night, beating them by a score of 2-1. The Lightning have now won seven in a row and are 8-1-1 over their last ten games.
I would expect Tristan Jarry in net for the Penguins. He was sharp on Saturday, making 33 saves in the Penguins 3-2 win over the Panthers. In addition, the Lightning faced Murray on Thursday so if anything, I'd assume Jarry would be in goal just to present a different look. Being that this is the second game of a back-to-back for the Lightning... you can expect *drum roll please* Andrei Vasilevskiy. That's right, sadly Curtis McElhinney got the start last night and made 31 saves in the win.
Obviously, Galchenyuk is no longer here. So barring Zucker's availability for tonight, he should play with Sid and Simon, sadly.
Being that Scouting the Refs sucks, here's all 21 goals from Jason Zucker's 2018-2019 season. Video via hatrickane
Jim Rutherford said he expects to have Jason Zucker in the lineup tonight. Stay tuned.
Per Cap Friendly...following the Zucker trade, the Penguins still have $922,398 in cap space to play with.
Rutherford also said he wouldn't rule out making another move... so that could be fun.
They absolutely need a depth defenseman. Not sure how much more Chad Ruhwedel I can watch, to be honest.
Zucker, through 456 career games, has tallied 132 goals and 111 assists for 243 points.
Can you imagine this lineup with Guentzel in it too?? My God...
I was actually on our weekly podcast @IceyTakes discussing the Penguins when the trade broke. Here have a listen.
The Penguins are 0-2 against the Lightning so far this season and will conclude their season series tonight.
The Bolts are 17-8-3 away from Amalie Arena.
Nikita Kucherov (27G, 42A) has 69 points on the season. #Nice
The Pens are 19-5-3 at home this season.
Kris Letang has 10 multi-point games this season, so that's good.
Tonight, they're going to honor 'The Miracle on Ice' 40th Anniversary so that should be cool.