It didn’t take long for lots of information to get out there about the Penguins addition of Jason Zucker. Here’s some takes floating around the internet that seem relevant to pile together to get a bit of context on what the initial reaction was on the night of the trade.
The Penguins have acquired Jason Zucker, a strong player at both sides of the ice who produces well and has a great shot. He also has rebounded after a disappointing 18-19 season. #LetsGoPens pic.twitter.com/EqaxJjptRE— JFresh (@JFresh1999) February 11, 2020
On the flip side, Rutherford keeps demonstrating the value of acquiring players that are currently useful and pouncing while you have stars to anchor you lineup.— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) February 11, 2020
There is, perhaps, nothing more overvalued in the NHL than a late first round pick.
#Pens GM Rutherford: "Jason Zucker is a top-six forward that we think will be a great fit for our group. He’s a proven goal scorer, and with three more years on his current contract, he has the potential to make an impact for us moving forward." -MC https://t.co/96JhAthyVW— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) February 11, 2020
feel like this won’t be a spicy take while WSH is getting curb-stomped for the second straight game, but: the best team in the metro just got even better https://t.co/dzyCozTMWF— dom luszczyszyn (@domluszczyszyn) February 11, 2020
Some team is gonna pay a similar price for Kreider, a lesser player on an expiring contract— (@j_a155) February 11, 2020
Worth EVERY BIT of that trade... Get ready Pens fans, Zucker can FLY!!! https://t.co/faxMy8TldA— Mike Rupp (@Rupper17) February 11, 2020
Zucker, 28, has three more years beyond this one with an AAV of $5.5M. PIT initially wasn’t keen on giving up prospect defenceman Calen Addison, or for that matter the first-round pick, but PIT is all about maximizing the Sid-Geno window to win Cup(s) now.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 11, 2020
Is there any GM more aggressive than Jim Rutherford? When you have Crosby, Malkin, Letang you are always a contender...adding Zucker and his speed...the manager is serving notice to his own players...and the League... that anything short of a Championship is a failure. https://t.co/6DNzDoOSHC— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) February 11, 2020
Penguins who won't be unrestricted free agents until at least the 2022 offseason— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) February 11, 2020
I've never seen Calen Addison play a second of hockey, and will not worry about whether or not he's going to be good in Minnesota. Rutherford wanted Zucker, Rutherford got Zucker. Seems to be what you're supposed to do as a GM.— Chris Mueller (@ChrisMuellerPGH) February 11, 2020
Jason Zucker (to Pittsburgh) is a strong all-around forward who helps offence and defence and shoots very well. Galchenyuk (to Minnesota with a first and a prospect) is a 5v5defensive liability with great PP impacts and an average shot. pic.twitter.com/mSsCBJVPXV— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) February 11, 2020
A few other notables:— Wes Crosby (@OtherNHLCrosby) February 11, 2020
-- Rutherford said they hope Zucker can play tomorrow
-- The fact Zucker isn't a rental made it easier (not easy) to part with Addison and a 1st rd pick
-- Rutherford doesn't know if he'll make more moves before the deadline (Didn't rule it out)#Pens
That’s a lot of takes, but the reaction has mostly been positive for the Penguins to add a young-ish player with a skill-set that should fit their system for four playoff runs.
Another interesting wrinkle to come out is that the Penguins were able to make the 2020 first round pick lottery draft protected. So in the unlikely event that Pittsburgh misses the playoffs this year, they keep the draft pick and the Wild get the Pens’ 2021 first rounder. Most websites have the Pens at 97-99% to make the playoffs, it’s all but a formality, but still fun to see that Jim Rutherford learned his lesson from the David Perron trade in 2015 where he did NOT protect the first round pick and the Pens didn’t clinch a playoff berth until the final day of the regular season.
Overall though, on day 1 the team that acquires the known commodity in exchange for futures always looks like the immediate winner. Pittsburgh had a very real need, and probably not a lot of available targets to choose from. They were forced to part with a defensive prospect they really liked, and one that may be a good NHL player one day. Ditto the first round pick, it might amount to something someday. But that day for a late first rounder will not be for the 2020 playoffs, the 2021 playoffs or even the 2022 playoffs.
The Pens’ window in the Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin tail-end prime is right now. The added benefit is they have core of forwards and defensemen all under team control for several years. On the surface, there should be a lot to like for the Pens who upgraded their team in a major way for the immediate future and should reap the benefits right away.