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What's going on with Paul Fenton and Jason Zucker?

Will the Wild end up dealing Zucker?

In the past four months, Wild winger Jason Zucker has been part of two proposed trades that have been shot down.

At the trade deadline last February, he was nearly sent to Calgary for veteran Michael Frolik and a draft pick but the trade fell through at the last minute, according to Michael Russo of The Athletic.

And last week, he was reportedly part of a deal (with Victor Rask) that would've sent him to Pittsburgh in return for Phil Kessel and Jack Johnson, but Kessel has a no-trade clause and vetoed the trade, says Elliot Friedman of Sportsnet.

It's probably safe to assume that Zucker is ticked off. He's one-year removed from signing a five-year contract extension but clearly Wild general manager Paul Fenton is trying to part ways.

Zucker is coming off a down season where he scored just 21 goals, after netting a career-high 33 in 2017-18.

In Fenton's defense, Zucker's probably the most marketable piece the Wild has to offer and when you consider Fenton has already traded core players like Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund, he's clearly shaking things up.

The thing is though, when Fenton made those trades he was trying to get the Wild younger. And those deals brought back 23-year-old Ryan Donato and 22-year-old Kevin Fiala (22), in addition to a fourth-round pick.

Even though Kessel's been a point per game player the last three seasons, he'll also be 32 in October and has a $6.8 million cap hit for three more years.

With the Wild having one of the oldest rosters in the league and having problems with the salary cap in the past, trading a 27-year-old Zucker for Kessel doesn't make a ton of sense unless Fenton thinks Kessel is the missing piece to a return to the postseason. 

Now, Zucker also has a modified no-trade list that kicks in on July 1, so Fenton probably recognizes that trading Zucker after then becomes more difficult. Russo notes that Vancouver, Arizona, Anaheim and Calgary are still interested in Zucker.

If Zucker were to be traded, the most likely time it would happen is at the NHL Draft on June 21. 

But let's say Zucker doesn't get moved: Is it just business or is Zucker going to be in an awkward position wearing a Wild sweater next season knowing that he could again be on the trade block? 

Fenton isn't the head coach, but he'll have to see the guy that he's reportedly tried to trade twice in a four-month span, perhaps more depending on what happens between now and then. 

Also, if Kessel didn't think Minnesota was a good landing spot for him, what will that say about other potential free agents? It's not a very encouraging signal. 

The Wild has roughly $19 million in cap space this summer, but if a player like Kessel doesn't want to play here – where he'd be close to home in Wisconsin and get to play with his buddy Ryan Suter – will other free agents feel the same?

Edina native Anders Lee is one of the top free agents on the market, but he could still re-sign with the Islanders before free agency opens on July 1. Is he going to share the same feelings as Kessel if Minnesota comes calling?

Maybe trading Zucker gets the Wild a return with both short- and long-term value, but because of two failed trade proposals, this is not a good look for the GM or the organization. 

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