Sportsnet analyst Elliotte Friedman recorded an episode of the 31 Thoughts Podcast with reporter Chris Johnston from the NHL Draft over the weekend.
Friedman spoke about a variety of players that could be moving including Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker. According to Friedman and Johnston, there are several teams interested in landing the left wing, who scored 21 goals and tallied 42 points in 81 games last season. The Washington Capitals are one of those clubs.
Here’s what was said.
Elliotte Friedman: The one I’m really watching is Zucker. Zucker and Spurgeon from Minnesota. You know, Zucker’s wife Carly took a big run at the Wild on Twitter on Friday night. It’s a tough situation. And I think there’s a lot of interest in Zucker. I’ve heard the Leafs had been interested. I’ve heard Edmonton. I’ve heard Washington. I think there’s a lot of interest in that guy.
Chris Johnston: He’s a great skater. Pittsburgh had interest in him too.
When the Wild hired Paul Fenton as general manager in May 2018, one of his first moves was to sign Zucker to a five-year, $27.5 million extension that July.
Zucker, 27, is an elite, underrated forward, who was recently awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for his humanitarian work. He’s scored over 20 goals in four of his five full seasons, including a career-high 33 in 2017-18. He takes the toughest minutes in Minnesota and turns them into high-volume and high-quality offense. He’s a great skater and very strong on the puck, drawing penalties at a higher rate than 99 percent of NHL forwards.
Before the trade deadline this past February, a deal that saw Zucker going to the Calgary Flames fell through. This summer, a reported trade that saw him go to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Phil Kessel didn’t pan out after Phil nixed the deal with his no-trade clause.
“I could be somewhere else before the award show,” Zucker said to The Athletic’s Michael Russo in Las Vegas. “I mean, honestly, I can be traded at any moment.
“[A]s far as I know, they don’t want me to leave and I don’t want to, but again, that’s kind of part of the business. But I will say, I do want to be somewhere I’m wanted.”
Zucker added, “I’m going to stay out of it because realistically, I mean Paul’s never treated me poorly. I have respected Paul in his position and what he does. Can I say fully that I agree with everything? No, but I can say that about any position, any person in the world I wouldn’t totally agree with everything. And most people would say that about me, and that’s just the way it works.”
After the first day of NHL Draft in Vancouver on Friday, Fenton addressed Zucker’s availability and didn’t deny he had explored trading the forward.
“I’ve said this before. I’ve explored trades with several of our players. It’s unfortunate that Jason’s name got mentioned,” Fenton said. “There could have been other players that could have been mentioned, but it hasn’t gone that way. That’s the nature of our business and for Jason, he’s a part of our team. I don’t plan on getting a rid of Jason unless the right thing came to me. That’s how it should be stated. I listen to offers, and I make offers just like everyone else does and it doesn’t mean he’s pigeonholed into something. I love Jason as a player and he’ll be a great fit for us when he comes back with us.”
The next day, Jason’s wife Carly responded on Twitter to Fenton’s quotes with sarcasm.
I totally get it. I’m not planning to get rid of him as a husband, but I’m always open to offers if the right thing comes along… https://t.co/kdCSDvvyB3
— Carly Zucker (@CarlyAplin) June 22, 2019
Any move bringing Zucker to Washington would be difficult to make after the NHL’s recent announcement that the salary cap would be $81.5 million, nearly $1.5 million less than the $83 million projected. A player such as Andre Burakovsky would likely have to be involved to make any potential trade work.
Headline photo: @CarlyAplin
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