When the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild, expectations were high. Zucker was just coming off of a 42-point season. At the time of being traded, he had 29 points in 45 games. With the Penguins, however, Zucker had struggled immensely. Now, Zucker needs to prove to the organization that he was worth his enormous price tag.
The Trade and Zucker’s Performance
To say the Penguins paid a high price is certainly an understatement. The Penguins acquired Zucker for Alex Galchenyuk, Calen Addison and Pittsburgh’s 2021 first round pick. That pick turned into a highly touted defenseman, Carson Lambos. However, Zucker had been one of Minnesota’s top performers for years, so naturally the price was going to be high.
Zucker struggled a bit during the first few seasons of his career, but that is expected. Rookies have to find their footing, and it just takes time. The 2016-2017 season is where Zucker started to show his potential. In 79 games, he put up 22 goals and 47 points. Then, in the 2017-2018 season, he exploded with 33 goals and 64 points. During the next 126 games with the Wild, Zucker had 71 points. He was a clear top-six winger.
The Penguins acquired Zucker Feb. 10, 2020. Since then, it’s been a rocky ride. He played 15 games for the Penguins in the shortened 2019-2020 season, and he put up 12 points. The next season, he appeared in only 38 games with 18 points. So far this season, he’s played in 30 games due to injury and only has 11 points. Something’s not quite right, and it may have some consequences.
There are two clear options for what the Pittsburgh Penguins should do with Jason Zucker. First, and the more likely of the two, involves the Penguins keeping him and hoping he improves. Zucker has the potential to be a 60-point winger as he’s done it before. In order to do this, Zucker has to regain his confidence and not be shaken by the doubters.
The other, more drastic option is trading him away at this season’s trade deadline. It’s the option that nobody wants to see, but it may be Pittsburgh’s only option. With plenty of games between now and the deadline, Zucker has enough time to prove himself. However, if he doesn’t, then the Penguins may not have any other option than to trade him for assets that will perform.
Hopes were high when Zucker joined the team. The asking price for him was high, but management thought that he could’ve been the final piece to a run for the Stanley Cup. Despite things not going the way that anybody intended, there’s still time for Zucker to prove himself. However, if he doesn’t, then he may be shipped off to another team. Only time will tell in the case of Jason Zucker.
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