The Pittsburgh Penguins lost Teddy Blueger to surgery yesterday and now they’ve announced another forward will be out long-term. Jason Zucker underwent successful core muscle surgery today at the Vincera Institute in Philadelphia.
Zucker, who had played just one game since December 19, is listed out week-to-week at this time, but the Penguins say that they will have a more accurate timeframe for his recovery in the coming days.
It’s another blow that the red-hot Penguins will need to sidestep as they continue their march up the Metropolitan Division standings, but one that isn’t exactly as devastating as it would have been in Zucker’s early career. In Pittsburgh, he hasn’t really ever been healthy or productive, save for the short stretch after being acquired in 2020, before the original COVID shutdown. In the two seasons since, Zucker has recorded just 31 points in 69 games. Just 13 of those have coming in 2021-22, meaning this isn’t really a key offensive player being pulled from the lineup.
Still, with Zucker earning $5.5MM against the cap, there was hope he would still find the level that made him a 33-goal scorer in 2017-18 with the Minnesota Wild and help the Penguins over the hump. He’s now on long-term injured reserve which opens up some cap space until he returns, but Pittsburgh certainly isn’t getting the kind of production they hoped for when they traded Calen Addison and a first-round pick (and Alex Galchenyuk) to the Wild.
It will be interesting to see what the timeline for Zucker is in the coming days, and when exactly he is expected back in the lineup. Core muscle surgeries are notorious for having negative effects on performance well after a player has been medically cleared to return, meaning the Penguins could probably use that $5.5MM more effectively as the trade deadline approaches should Zucker face a months-long recovery.