Minnesota Wild: Where Does Zucker Go, and for What?

Per the latest edition of Elliotte Friedman’s “31 Thoughts”, Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker is almost 100% going to be moved. The question remains now, where does he go, and what is fair return?

Does Trading Zucker Make Sense?

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The very uncomplicated answer is no, but nothing in the NHL is ever simple and thus the Minnesota Wild want to move this core piece. The Wild had also previously tried to trade the former 2nd round pick last offseason. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman states:

“It would be a surprise if Jason Zucker [returned to the Wild] following last season’s aborted trade to Calgary. There’s always interest in scorers.”

Jason Zucker, 27, has recorded 118 goals and 214 points in 411 career NHL games. Over his 8 year career, Zucker has averaged a 50.4 CF% and 100.2 PDO rating while starting 50.9% of his shifts in the defensive zone. This essentially means that Zucker has been able to consistently, and effectively, produce while being tasked with significant defensive responsibility.

This past season, Zucker registered 21 goals and 42 points while averaging 17:05 TOI. With these statistics, Zucker can be compared to the likes of Anders Lee, prime Mikhail Grabovski, and Vincent Trocheck. Thus, Zucker is a valuable asset that provides a coveted two way presence.

Why Would the Wild Move him?

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The Wild, who entered last season as a consistent playoff team, seemed to exist in a cycle of internal conflict throughout the year. The team struggled at times despite the much needed renaissance of Zach Parise and good play of Devan Dubnyk, Ryan Suter, and Zucker. Head coach Bruce Boudreau reassured fans numerous times that the team will make the playoffs, but the moves made by new GM Paul Fenton suggested that the club will be moving in a different direction.

In January 2019, Fenton traded 26 year-old scoring winger Nino Niederreiter to Carolina for 26 year-old 3rd line centre Victor Rask and nothing else. The move was received poorly at the time, and remains one of the worst moves made this past season.

On trade deadline day 2019, Fenton traded #1 centre Mikael Granlund to Nashville for middle-six winger Kevin Fiala. Both players disappointed when they arrived, but the reputation of Granlund as a 50-60 point centre trumps that of the 40ish point winger Fiala.

In both moves, the Wild sacrificed the better player and allowed the team to move more quickly towards being eliminated. The trades leaves the impression of an inevitable rebuild, and thus opens the opportunity to trade Zucker.

Who Should Trade for Zucker?

Below I have compiled a 3 team list of clubs that have an unfilled top-six forward spot and have the necessary cap space and assets to acquire Zucker.

Carolina ($16.29 million in Space)

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The Carolina Hurricanes, at request of owner Tom Dundon, made moves to acquire scoring in Nino Niederreiter from the Wild earlier this season. the acquisition of ‘El Nino’ greatly improved the Canes’ interesting forward group. Now in the Eastern Conference Final, the Canes could easily sit on their success and more or less be fine. However, the acquisition of Jason Zucker could send the Canes into legitimate, and consistent, playoff contender. Below are some of Carolina’s most notable prospects and picks that could be used in a deal for Zucker.

Forwards

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Martin Necas (20 Y/O, 64GP-52P AHL, CAR 1st Round #12 in 2017)

Janne Kuokkanen (20 Y/O, 48GP-38P AHL, CAR 2nd Round #43 in 2016)

Aleksi Saarela (22 Y/O, 69GP-54P AHL, NYR 3rd Round #89 in 2015)

Nicolas Roy (22 Y/O, 69GP-36P AHL, CAR 4th Round #96 in 2015)

Morgan Geekie (20 Y/O, 73GP-46P AHL, CAR 3rd Round #67 in 2017)

Jack Drury (19 Y/O, 32GP-24P NCAA, CAR 2nd Round #42 in 2018)

Eetu Luostarinen (20 Y/O, 54GP-36P Liiga, CAR 2nd Round #42 in 2017)

David Cotton (21 Y/O, 39GP-36P NCAA, CAR 6th Round #169 in 2015)

Stelio Mattheos (19 Y/O, 65GP-96P WHL, CAR 3rd Round #73 in 2017)

Defense

Jake Bean (20 Y/O, 70GP-44P AHL, CAR 1st Round #13 in 2016)

Goaltending

Alex Nedeljkovic (23 Y/O, 51GP-.916SV% AHL, CAR 2nd Round #37 in 2014)

Jeremy Helvig (21 Y/O, 39GP-.918SV% ECHL, CAR 5th Round #134 in 2016)

Jack LaFontaine (21 Y/O, 45GP-.923SV% BCHL, CAR 3rd Round #75 in 2016)

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Draft Picks

2019 1st Round Pick *Available*

2020 1st Round Pick *Available*

2021 1st Round Pick *Available*

Mock Deal

CAR Receives

  • F Jason Zucker (27 Y/O, 81GP-21G-42P NHL, 5YL@$5.5million)

MIN Receives

  •  2019 1st Round Selection (CAR)
  • F David Cotton (21 Y/O, 39GP-36P NCAA, CAR 6th Round #169 in 2015)

The Canes receive, as I mentioned previously, an excellent two-way scoring forward with solid advanced analytics and good production.

The Wild receive a 1st round selection in the upcoming NHL draft, although a late one. The team will look to target top prospects Matthew Robertson (D), Connor McMichael (C), and Philip Tomasino (C). Minnesota also receives David Cotton, who is a strong forward with excellent skating ability. Consistency is a concern with the NCAA centre though.

New Jersey Devils ($14.4 million in space)

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The Devils, coming off a disappointing season, lost key pieces Nico Hischier, Taylor Hall, and Kyle Palmieri to significant injuries. Entering the 2019 draft with the 1st overall selection, the likely selection of Jack Hughes would solidify the 2C position left vacant by Adam Henrique. The team also moved top-six forward Marcus Johansson to the Bruins at the deadline which leaves another top-six position open. Listed below are notable prospects that could be used to acquire the coveted Zucker.

Forwards

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Michael McLeod (21 Y/O, 55GP-33P AHL, NJD 1st Round #12 in 2016)

Brandon Gignac (21 Y/O, 66GP-36P AHL, NJD 3rd Round #80 in 2016)

Jesper Boqvist (20 Y/O, 51GP-35P SHL, NJD 2nd Round #36 in 2017)

Aarne Talvitie (20 Y/O, 17GP-16P NCAA, NJD 6th Round #160 in 2017)

Mikhail Maltsev (21 Y/O, 31GP-17P VHL, NJD 4th Round #102 in 2016)

Eetu Pakkila (19 Y/O, 52GP-60P Jr. A SM-Liiga, NJD 7th Round #203 in 2018)

Joey Anderson (20 Y/O, 13GP-6P AHL, NJD 3rd Round #73 in 2016)

Defense

Colton White (22 Y/O, 71GP-30P AHL, NJD 4th Round #97 in 2015)

Ty Smith (19 Y/O, 57GP-69P WHL, NJD 1st Round #17 in 2018)

Reilly Walsh (19 Y/O, 20GP-18P NCAA, NJD 3rd Round #81 in 2017)

Jeremy Davies (22 Y/O, 37GP-36P NCAA, NJD 7th Round #192 in 2016)

Goaltending

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Mackenzie Blackwood (22 Y/O, 23GP-.918SV% AHL, NJD 2nd Round #42 in 2016)

Akira Schmid (19 Y/O, 37GP-.926SV% USHL, NJD 5th Round #136 in 2018)

Mock Trade

NJD Receive

  • F Jason Zucker (27 Y/O, 81GP-21G-42P NHL, 5YL@$5.5million)

MIN Receives

  • D Jeremy Davies (22 Y/O, 37GP-36P NCAA, NJD 7th Round #192 in 2016)
  • G Akira Schmid (19 Y/O, 37GP-.926SV% USHL, NJD 5th Round #136 in 2018)

The Devils receive the underrated scorer in Zucker. The Wild receive Davies, a 22 year-old offensive machine of a defender, and Schmid, a good goaltender that fits nicely behind the NHL window of Kaapo Kahkonen.

Colorado Avalanche ($10.9 million in space)

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The Avalanche, who are coming off a surprising 2nd round appearance, have longed lacked depth scoring. After being labeled a ‘1-line team’ for the past couple of seasons, the Avs added ‘name-brand’ 2nd-line C Derrick Brassard from the Panthers. Their recent playoff success may lead to a more ‘buy-friendly’ attitude that could include the addition of Zucker to fill a much needed 2nd line spot. Below are some prospects and picks that could be used to obtain the two-way forward.

Forwards

Josh Dickinson (21 Y/O, 31GP-29P ECHL, Free Agent)

Shane Bowers (19 Y/O, 37GP-21P NCAA, OTT 1st Round #28 in 2017)

Brandon Saigeon (20 Y/O, 68GP-92P OHL, COL 5th Round #140 in 2018)

Cam Morrison (20 Y/O, 32GP-21P NCAA, COL 2nd Round #40 in 2016)

Logan O’Connor (22 Y/O, 64GP-42P AHL, Free Agent)

Nick Henry (19 Y/O, 69GP-94P WHL, COL 4th Round #94 in 2017)

Defense

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Conor Timmins (20 Y/O,**Injured**, COL 2nd Round #32 in 2017)

Cale Makar (20 Y/O, 25GP-30P NCAA, COL 1st Round #4 in 2017)

Goaltending

Petr Kvaca (21 Y/O, 19GP-.924SV% Czech2, COL 4th Round #114 in 2017)

Adam Werner (22 Y/O, 26GP-.926SV% SHL, COL 5th Round #131 in 2016)

Shamil Shmakov (19 Y/O, 23GP-.915SV% MHL, COL 7th Round #202 2017)

Draft Picks

2019 1st Round Pick (COL) *Available*

2020 1st Round Pick *Available*

2021 1st Round Pick *Available*

Mock Trade

COL Receives

  • F Jason Zucker (27 Y/O, 81GP-21G-42P NHL, 5YL@$5.5million)

MIN Receives

  • F Nick Henry (19 Y/O, 69GP-94P WHL, COL 4th Round #94 in 2017)
  • 2019 1st Round Selection (16th OVR)

The Avalanche receive the much-needed Zucker for WHL stud Nick Henry and the 16th selection in the upcoming draft. A feisty winger, Henry has a noticeable knack for scoring that may translate into an exciting energy role in the Wild’s bottom six. Also getting the 16th overall pick allows the Wild to select a top prospect along the lines of Cam York, Arthur Kaliyev, or Philip Broberg.

Conclusion

Overall, Zucker is an exceptional player whom provides a highly coveted presence. Although I firmly believe that the Wild should not move the underrated winger, there are several teams who need a winger of Zucker’s stature that seem poised to move major assets to fulfill that need.

Statistics, Quotes, and other info retrieved from puck77.com, sportsnet.ca, hockey-reference.com, eliteprospects.com, capfriendly.com, sportsforecaster.com, and tankathon.com

Feature Image courtesy of Niko Michals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Spencer Teixeira