ST. PAUL -- After having his name attached to rumors for the past couple of seasons, winger Jason Zucker is finally headed out of town.
In what will go down as new general manager Bill Guerin’s first big move with the Wild, he agreed to trade Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for winger Alex Galchenyuk, a 2020 first-round pick, and prospect Calen Addison.
While Guerin has been extremely patient about making moves in his first season at the helm, promising his players that he was going to give them every chance to compete for a playoff spot, this was clearly too good of a deal to refuse.
There’s still a couple of weeks before the trade deadline so there’s a chance this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Zucker, 28, endeared himself to the Twin Cities with his skill on the ice — he finished his Wild career with 132 goals and 111 assists in 456 games — and even more so with his unmatched philanthropy off the ice.
Galchenyuk, 25, was originally drafted No. 3 overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2012 NHL Draft. He has also played for the Arizona Coyotes, and of course, the Penguins, tallying has 108 goals and 147 assists 418 games.
Arguably the biggest thing about Galchenyuk is that his contract expires this summer. That will presumably give the Wild some much added salary cap relief as they didn’t have to retain any of Zucker’s contract.
Addison, 19, was taken in the second round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He’s an skilled defenseman that was regarded by many as a top prospect in the Penguins farm system. He was a standout on the blue line for Team Canada as it went on to win the gold medal at the 2020 World Junior Championship.
The ripple effects of this move will be interesting for the Wild with an eye toward the future.
While it probably makes them worse for the remainder of this season — Zucker is more dynamic than Galchenyuk in every sense of the word — it creates an opening for top prospect Kirill Kaprizov if the Wild are indeed able to sign him this season.
That was something the Wild were going to have to figure out in the coming months. If they didn’t trade Zucker — or another player on the current roster at some point — there wasn’t going to be a spot for Kaprizov in the top half of the lineup next season.
That, of course, is no longer a problem with Zucker on his way out of town.
No doubt Zucker’s presence will be missed inside the Wild locker room and across the Twin Cities as a whole. He was selected in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft and has given back so much over the last decade.
He and his wife Carly have put most of their focus into the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, most notably building the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio, which is a state-of-the-art space located in the lobby of the hospital designed to provide young patients with an escape.
For his efforts, Zucker won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy last offseason, which is given annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.