Jim Rutherford pulled the trigger on a pretty significant trade on Monday night, acquiring Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk, a first-round pick in 2020 and Calen Addison. While Alex Galchenyuk has been a suitcase ever since his departure from Montreal, the other two pieces going to Minnesota are certainly nothing to sneeze at. Calen Addison was a recent 2018 second round pick for the Penguins and has put up a pretty solid 2019-2020 season in the WHL, notching 10 goals and 33 assists in 39 games played for Lethbridge. While the Pens’ 2020 first-rounder will likely be somewhere in the lower third of the round, the 2020 draft looks to be a little deeper than recent years and a first-round pick will always carry a lot of trade value.
Zucker had a a bit of a down year in 2018-2019, but he’s a former 30-goal scorer with a ton of speed and a great scoring ability. He’s been a solid top-6 player for the Wild, all while playing next to centers like Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu. According to Mike Sullivan’s comments at practice on Tuesday, Zucker looks like he’s going to slot in next to Sidney Crosby on the left wing, which sounds like a damn good upgrade if you ask me.
With the acquisition of Zucker, check out the players the Pens have locked up for the foreseeable future:
Rutherford certainly has no reservations when it comes to moving future pieces in favour of loading up for the remaining portion of the season, and this deal amplifies that even more. By parting with arguably their top prospect in an already weak prospect pool, in addition to their first round pick next year, the Pens are once again all in on winning right now. It’s hard to blame Rutherford considering the age of their star talents in Crosby, Malkin and Letang but it’s refreshing to see a general manager acknowledge their window and push their chips into the middle. Even secondary pieces such as Hornqvist, Dumoulin and breakout-star Bryan Rust fit a similar timeframe and give even more of a reason to act now.
Last year, there was a ton of noise surrounding the Blue Jackets and their trade deadline intentions. They ended up keeping all of their UFA-to-be’s in Panarin and Bobrovsky and even made big moves for guys like Duchene and Dzingel. Although many hockey minds around the league were skeptical of their chances in the playoffs and criticized their asset management, it was equally refreshing to see Jarmo Kekäläinen and the rest of the front office put their trust in their active roster and equip them with tools to win at that moment. It takes a lot of guts to make risky deals that mortgage the future in favour of a greater chance to win-now, but it certainly makes for a more entertaining fan experience.
There’s often a debate among many clubs at this time of year whether they should be buying, selling or just staying pat. Many organizations fall into a very dangerous limbo area where they aren’t quite bad enough to come away with a high draft pick but their playoff bubble status doesn’t inspire much confidence. With acquisitions like Zucker, the Pens have put the hockey world on notice that they’re not going anywhere and are looking to be making another big-time cup push this season and beyond.