Former Minnesota Wild GM Paul Fenton managed to trade away Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, and Mikael Granlund in 14 months on the job and was shopping Zach Parise prior to his dismissal. Yet, the name that has come up most often in trade rumors of the last year has been another core forward, Jason Zucker. Shortly after signing a new five-year, $27.5MM extension with the team last summer, Zucker’s name seemingly took a permanent spot on the trade block and was seemingly close to being dealt on several occasions, including a nixed deal to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Phil Kessel earlier this off-season.
With Fenton’s departure now comes piece of mind for Zucker, writes NHL.com’s Jessi Pierce. Zucker received a personal call from Minnesota owner Craig Leipold when the decision to move on from Fenton was officially made, with Leipold clearly feeling that Zucker was one of the players most ill-affected by Fenton’s reign and was a long-term key player who deserved better. Zucker tells Pierce that he is glad none of the rumored trades ever came to fruition, as he is happy to be in Minnesota and is ready for a fresh start but relieved it didn’t require a move to a different team. Zucker says that he and his teammates are not worried about the new GM, but are eager to see what comes next for the club:
You earn the respect by the moves you make, the teams you build, and the championships you win, and that’s what it comes down to. For us, we’re excited to see who comes in and the direction he’s going to take this organization.
As for Zucker’s job security moving forward, a new GM is unlikely to trade away any more core players from Minnesota, at least not any time soon. He will likely take some time this upcoming season to evaluate the team before restructuring. Even then, Zucker’s $5.5MM cap hit over the next four years is a bargain deal if he can get back to the 64-point form he showed in 2017-18. However, after a drop-off to just 42 points last season, he’ll need to bounce back to remain safe moving forward. Additionally, Zucker’s limited No-Trade Clause – a ten-team no-trade list – will help him stay in Minnesota if it comes to that, but the 27-year-old would rather prove his worth through his player rather than have to use his contract. As the team looks to move on from Fenton and repair their culture, a well-respected player like Zucker feeling comfortable, playing up to par, and buying into the team’s long-term plan could be invaluable for Minnesota.