It was a tough year for Jason Zucker in Minnesota, and it ended about as badly as one can imagine.
Which is why his head coach didn’t mince words about what the team needs out of Zucker moving forward.
“He has to have a way better year next year,” John Torchetti said after the Wild’s season-ending loss to Dallas on Sunday, per the Morning-News. “That’s the bottom line.”
After a quality ’14-15 campaign — 21 goals in 51 games — Zucker struggled this season, finding the back of the net just 13 times while sitting as a healthy scratch on a few occasions, under both Torchetti and ex-bench boss Mike Yeo.
The diminutive forward also suffered a concussion on a huge hit from ‘Hawks d-man Michal Rozsival in late February.
In Sunday’s loss, Zucker missed a gifted opportunity from Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, and was on the ice for three goals against.
A pending RFA, Zucker now heads into an offseason of what figures to be tense negotiations.
The Wild are invested in him — a second-round pick in 2010, he’s spent his entire pro career with the organization — but GM Chuck Fletcher won’t have a ton of cap room this summer, and has other key RFAs (Matt Dumba, Darcy Kuemper) to sign as well.
Regardless, Zucker remains firmly in the Wild’s future plans.
At least according to Torchetti.
“We know [Zucker will] bounce back for us next year, that’s the number one thing,” he explained. “He’s still a great player.”