Last week, we broke down the Maple Leafs’ acquisition of Jack Campbell and since then we’ve gotten another major trade. The Penguins acquired Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk, prospect Calen Addison, and a first-round pick in either the 2020 of 2021 NHL Entry Draft. This is a big trade with implications that will last for years, so it’s definitely worth looking into.
Let’s get the easiest part of that trade out of the way first: That first-round draft pick. How it will work is fairly simple. If the Penguins qualify for the playoffs in 2020 then the Wild will get their 2020 pick. If the Penguins end up missing the postseason then Pittsburgh can either send them the 2020 pick or the 2021 selection. This is just basically the Penguins protecting themselves in the unlikely event they choke hard in the final months of the season. With a 34-15-6 record, they’re comfortably holding onto a playoff spot so while nothing has been secured, the Wild will almost certainly end up with a 2020 first-round pick out of the trade.
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After that, the most straightforward part of this trade is Galchenyuk. That’s not to say that his inclusion in this trade isn’t interesting. At his height, Galchenyuk scored 30 goals with the Canadiens in 2015-16 and until recently, he was seen as a significant top-six contributor. After all, the Coyotes acquired him in exchange for Max Domi straight up in the summer of 2018. In the summer of 2019, he was a key part of the package the Penguins got in exchange for Phil Kessel. However, Galchenyuk never found a place with the Penguins. He averaged just 11:29 minutes in 45 games with them, resulting in him scoring an underwhelming five goals and 17 points in 45 contests.
Perhaps the change of scenery will spark Galchenyuk, though the fact that he logged just 12:26 minutes in his Wild debut is somewhat discouraging. That said, the main reason why Galchenyuk’s inclusion isn’t that big of a deal is because his contract will expire at the end of the season. That takes a lot of the risk out of acquiring him. If he ends up working out with the Wild, then that’s great for them and Minnesota might be able to re-sign him. If he doesn’t work out, then the Wild will likely let him walk and Galchenyuk will almost certainly have to find a team who will sign him to a cheap one-year deal with the hope that he can bounce back in 2020-21. I think this situation is worth monitoring, but I’m not ready yet to recommend picking up Galchenyuk in the hope that he’ll perform better with Minnesota than he has with the Penguins.
There's a doubleheader on NBCSN tonight, which you can also watch online. First up, the Flyers will play the Panthers, starting at 7:00 pm ET. You can watch that game here. NBCSN will also play the latest chapter of Alex Ovechkin's pursuit of the 700-goal milestone as the Avalanche host Ovechkin's Capitals, starting at 9:30pm ET. That game can be watched here.
The last piece that the Wild got was Addison. He’s a 19-year-old defenseman with 10 goals and 43 points in 39 WHL games this season. The Penguins took him with the 53rd overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. So if you want, you can look at this trade as the Penguins giving the Wild a first round pick, a second round pick, and a spare part in exchange for Zucker. That said, Addison is arguably a better prospect than that second round selection would suggest. Addison recently thrived with Team Canada in the World Juniors, helping them secure the gold by scoring nine points in seven games. In a couple years, he could be a significant part of the Minnesota Wild’s blueline.
So why did the Penguins feel comfortable giving up a great prospect like Addison along with a first-round selection? Part of the reason is that Zucker is far from a rental. In Zucker the Penguins have acquired a 28-year-old forward who comes with a reasonable $5.5 million cap hit through 2022-23. He compliments Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin well and helps the Penguins make the most of the remaining window of those two superstars.
The Penguins top-six for the next few years is going to be very strong indeed. Crosby and Malkin flanked by combinations of Zucker, Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust, and Jake Guentzel (the last currently injured)? There are not many teams in the NHL who will be able to match that. The Penguins are once again mortgaging their future and at some point that’s going to bite them, as the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, and Detroit Red Wings can attest. But you can’t fault the Penguins for seeing if they can win yet another championship before Crosby and Malkin begin to fade.
As for Zucker, this could be a huge for him from a fantasy perspective. He had 14 goals and 29 points in 45 games with Minnesota this season while playing primarily with Eric Staal and Mats Zuccarello. Those are capable forwards, but imagine what Zucker can do playing alongside Sidney Crosby. Granted, Zucker’s debut with the Penguins wasn’t awe inspiring, but he might just need time to settle in. Zucker is currently owned in 47% of Yahoo leagues and if he happens to be available for you, I’d give serious consideration to grabbing him now.
The trade deadline is on Feb. 24th, so we should see the trade start to come quicker. Because Taylor Hall was shipped relatively early into the season, there isn’t any superstar who is on the block at this point. Instead, the best player who will probably be available is Chris Kreider. The Rangers are reportedly investigating the possibility of re-signing him, but he might not fit into their cap plans. Kreider is a good top-six forward who would bolster any playoff contender.