Jason Zucker is gone and the Minnesota Wild could be featured in more trades over the next 13 days before the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline strikes. As General Manager Bill Guerin made clear Tuesday, "if there is quit, there will be more trades."
The pressure is on despite trading away Zucker, who just two years ago scored 33 goals and was rewarded with a long-term contract that paid him $5.5 million annually. Zucker is gone and so is his contract, which Gopher great and Minnesota hockey analyst Pat Micheletti thinks is a big win for the Wild.
"With the number of no-move contracts that this organization has, the ability to free up money is really, really important for them," Micheletti said in an interview on Bring Me The News' High 'Opes podcast.
In addition to saving $5.5 million that can now be used in free agency, the Wild acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk, 21-year-old forward prospect Calen Addison and the Penguins' 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected).
Galchenyuk, 25, was drafted third overall by Montreal in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He had 30 goals and 26 assists as a 21-year-old in 2015-16, but hasn't topped 19 goals in any season since, including only five goals in 45 games this season.
"He's a highly talented kid. A big question: Is he a center or is he a left wing? He has scored 30 goals in this league, which is promising. He's still very young. He's basically here on a trial until the end of the season when his contract runs out."
Walk away or resign a good player. Those are Minnesota's options, says Micheletti.
At the very least, he could prove to be a cheaper version of Zucker, who simply didn't live up to the expectations that came with signing a $27.5 million contract.
"When you're paying someone $5.5 million and you're known as a goal-scorer, you better be able to get 30-35 goals," said Micheletti. "Jason had 14 (this season). He did score 33 one year, but the inconsistency out of your top-six forwards, you're not going to win a lot of games when that's taking place."
Dealing away Zucker and landing a first-round pick, in addition to getting Russian phenom Kirill Kaprizov, could be the ammo Minnesota needs to become a more potent offensive team and back into contender mode next season, although Guerin seems focused on pushing for the playoffs now.
"I say this because you've got Kaprizov coming over next year and then if you get a high draft pick and then you go to free agency and pluck a guy that you think is going to make a difference on your team. All of a sudden your top-six forwards are dramatically changed. That is something I'm really excited about," Micheletti said.
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