Jun 13, 2019
Off-Season Watch: Zucker still available?
Each day through the NHL Draft (June 21-22 in Vancouver) and free agency on July 1, TSN.ca breaks down the latest news and rumours around the NHL. In Thursday's roundup, the latest on Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker, if Phil Kessel could still be available and a potential Canadian landing spot for Corey Perry.
Each day through the NHL Draft (June 21-22 in Vancouver) and free agency on July 1, TSN.ca breaks down the latest news and rumours around the NHL.
Jason Zucker has been mentioned in two speculated trades that have fallen through over the past five months and Minnesota Wild general manager Paul Fenton told The Athletic his name continues to come up in trade talks.
But Fenton, who said he's looking for a right-handed scoring winger, denied that Zucker has been talked about more than other players on his roster.
“I would just say that there are lots of phone calls being made everywhere, and even though Jason Zucker gets mentioned, so does every other player we have that doesn’t have a no-move contract,” Fenton said. “I mean, that’s the God’s honest truth. As we’re sitting here, I’ve had two phone calls in the last five minutes from general managers that are probably doing the same thing - asking what your plans are, what you’re doing going forward.”
Michael Russo of The Athletic added that the Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks, Winnipeg Jets and Carolina Hurricanes have all discussed potential Zucker deals with the Wild. That is in addition to the Calgary Flames, who had a trade for Zucker fall through at the trade deadline and Pittsburgh Penguins, who had a deal largely worked out last month until Phil Kessel declined to waive his no-trade clause.
Zucker, 27, has four years left on his contract at a $5.5 million cap hit. He scored 21 goals and posted 42 points in 81 games this season.
As part of the reported deal with the Penguins, the Wild would have sent forward Victor Rask to Pittsburgh for defenceman Jack Johnson. With Rask still on the roster, Fenton told the Athletic that the team does not plan to buy out the 26-year-old, who has has three years left on his contract at a $4 million cap hit.
“He came into (Carolina’s) camp last year and he had the injury to his thumb,” Fenton said. “I don’t think he ever got going again. We talked to him about the way that he would train this summer in a different way to get back that strength, power, hunger.
“He’s a distributor by trade, he’s a very smart player. If you look at his years that he had, he had real good years with Carolina. He’s not a guy that is going to wow you all the time, but he just plays the right way. And for me, you gotta give this guy a chance to come in and establish himself as one of our offensive players again.”
Rask, acquired this season in exchange for winger Nino Niederreiter, scored three goals and posted nine points in 49 games with the Wild and Carolina Hurricanes this season.
Still on the Block?
Despite general manager Jim Rutherford stating Tuesday that he expects Phil Kessel to stay with the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer, Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review still expects the veteran winger to be on the move.
Gorman believes Rutherford's comments on Kessel earlier this week was, "public posturing at its best" and writes that the general manager is simply sending a message to teams around the league that he won't take a lesser return from one of the team's on Kessel's eight-team approved trade list. He adds that Rutherford also sent a message to Kessel that he can either accept a trade that works for the Penguins or stay where he is.
“You have to understand that he has a no-trade clause and a lot of leverage,” Rutherford told The Athletic on Tuesday. “In situations like this, it usually doesn’t work out so well for the team. That’s just the way it is. So, at this point, it looks to me that he will return at this season. That’s how I’m proceeding moving forward.”
The 31-year-old is ranked No. 1 on the TSN Trade Bait board. He has spent the past four seasons with the Penguins, winning the Stanley Cup with the team in both 2016 and 2017. He scored 27 goals and posted 82 points in 82 games this season and added one goal and two points in four playoff games.
With Corey Perry and the Anaheim Ducks appearing to be headed for a split this off-season, TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger speculates the Edmonton Oilers could be a landing spot for the 34-year-old.
TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun reported last week that the Ducks will try to trade Perry this summer, and are willing to retain up to 50 per cent of his $8.625 million salary, but added that a buyout could also be an option. Dreger told TSN Radio 690 Montreal that he believes the Oilers could be among a number of teams interested in Perry should he become a free agent.
“If you look at Corey Perry, I think Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks have been very honest with him. They know that they’ve got to get younger… And Corey Perry, frankly, isn’t the player that he used to be," Dreger said. "He probably would have preferred a trade but if that is the path that the Ducks decide to go down with him, I’m telling you there’s a market for Corey Perry. I look at a team like the Edmonton Oilers, Corey Perry isn’t going to make them younger or faster but Connor McDavid needs some help in the leadership department. If you get Corey Perry on a discount rate on a short term, why wouldn’t you consider that? And I don’t think Edmonton would be alone.”
David Staples of The Edmonton Journal believes a trade between the Oilers and Ducks for Perry is unlikely, noting the Oilers would want to shed Milan Lucic's $6 million cap hit in such a move but then need to add a sweetener for the Ducks since Lucic has more term remaining. As a free agent, however, Staples believes the Oilers could be willing to sign Perry to a $1 million deal, hoping he can regain his scoring touch.
Perry, who tore his MCL and meniscus in the preseason, was limited to 31 games this season and posted six goals and 10 points. He is a six-time 30 goal scorer, but has failed to top the 20-goal mark in each of the previous three seasons.