If you had a dollar every time there was a credible mention of Jason Zucker and the Pittsburgh Penguins, you could be sitting on a nice little nest egg. There was another one today in today’s 31 Thoughts by Elliotte Friedman:
1. As the all-star break begins and teams go through their scouting meetings, a few teams with interesting possibilities are waiting on upcoming performance to decide their path. Included in that group are Chicago, Minnesota, Montreal and the Rangers (back-to-back with Detroit when they return). Those teams will test the value of their players, but hold off on final decisions until closer to the deadline — unless they become convinced they’re out. Pittsburgh continues its pursuit of Jason Zucker, but the Wild aren’t yet ready to concede anything.
As we’ve written before, Bill Guerin’s decisions on how to reshape the Wild will be interesting. They really haven’t started yet, as Guerin got the job late in the summer and has yet to make a single trade. Jason Zucker is probably his most desirable piece that’s actually moveable and will be a major decision.
Minnesota has a game tonight against lowly Detroit. A win there, and the Wild will be only five points out of the last wild card spot, with two games in hand on Vegas. There’s a host of teams they would have to leap, and in all likelihood probably won’t. The Athletic as of today projects just a 23% chance of Minnesota making the playoffs, which feels very fair. It’s an unlikely outcome to this season for them.
But if you’re in control of the team, it’s not a good call to bail at this point and trade a key player for mostly futures with the season not yet officially over. Especially in a ‘win now’ market like Minnesota with an antsy owner who doesn’t want them to not compete, regardless of the fact they’re not really positioned to do so.
Bottom line, Penguins’ fans should probably cheer against the Wild. The quicker they’re able to accept the season is over, the quicker they will get to the idea of trading Zucker. If they get there in the next four-ish weeks, that’s a name we’ve seen linked to the Pens many times in recent weeks and months.
Could Zucker be the Pens’ man? Fits the profile of team need and preference to not be a winger. But as Billy Madison taught us, it takes two to tango, and Guerin will have to get to the point he’s ready to deal Zucker. He’s probably not there yet, but ideally for the Pens’ own needs (and oh they have needs), he will arrive there shortly.