The Pittsburgh Penguins managerial staff made yet another great move last night in terms of AB, when they traded struggling forward Alex Galchenyuk, defense prospect Calen Addison and a conditional 2020 1st round pick for forward Jason Zucker.
We cannot begin to describe how much we love this trade for Pittsburgh. Despite the fact that Zucker makes $5.5 million, we feel he is worth every penny, as he excels in every stat category we look at. Zucker was among the better players on the Wild this season in drawing penalties, as he has drawn 11 compared to the 7 he has taken. Last season, he led the Wild with 31 penalties drawn compared to 10 taken. This was actually 11 more penalties drawn than the second-highest player on the team last season (Zach Parise with 20). This season, Zucker has taken the puck away more times than he has given it away (25/17) which was among the higher ratios on the team as well. Most importantly, his career AB score is a +2.71, which is extremely above average. Compared to Alex Galchenyuk, Zucker’s career AB score is 4.53 points higher despite us having the same 7 seasons of data for each player. Jason Zucker actually registered the 2nd highest AB score in the league in 2016-17 with a +11.36, trailing only Connor McDavid’s +13.38. Both of their 2016-17 scores are in the Top 20 all-time individual AB seasons, and we have data for over 8,500 players over the course of 2007-2018. Fun fact, in that 2016-17 season, Jason Zucker was an outstanding +34 in 79 games played with the Wild, leading the team to a playoff berth.
Jason Zucker will immediately go from playing with Mikko Koivu as his centerman to either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. He is already on pace to break his career-high of 22 goals in a season, as he has 14 through 45 games this season averaging just under 16 minutes per night. Now, he will be inserted into the Top 6 of one of the most elite teams in hockey and should see an increased amount of ice-time as well. What makes this trade even better for Pittsburgh is that Jason Zucker has 3 more seasons of his current contract left to play out at the conclusion of this season, while Galchenyuk is set to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. Despite all of the injuries, potential Jack Adams candidate Mike Sullivan, and GM Jim Rutherford have assembled a team 4 points back of the Metropolitan Division lead with 2 games in hand on the Washington Capitals in this tight race. We applaud Rutherford, as Zucker isn’t the only noticeably positive AB player he has acquired to help the Penguins win hockey games since last season (we are huge fans of Brandon Tanev more to come on that front soon). It will be interesting to see what other moves Rutherford and his team decide to make in the coming weeks, as the Penguins appear to be gearing up for yet another long postseason run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. More to come.