Penguins bolster depth by acquiring Zucker from Wild

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Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford had his eyes on Jason Zucker this summer and finally pulled off the acquisition Monday evening.

NHL insider Bob McKenzie broke that story and reported that the Pittsburgh Penguins sent Alex Galchenyuk, Calen Addison and a conditional 2020 first-round pick to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Zucker.

The 28-year-old forward has 3 years remaining on his contract after this season with a $5.5 million cap hit. He erupted offensively in the 2017-18 season when he recorded a career high 33 goals and 64 points, but has been unable to replicate that production since.

Pittsburgh hopes to unlock that offensive potential by pairing him with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Rutherford was likely not enthused about surrendering a premium draft pick, but the strategy is to extend the Penguins’ championship window for as long as possible.

“Jason Zucker is a top-six forward that we think will be a great fit for our group,” Rutherford said in the team’s press release. “He’s a proven goal scorer, and with three more years on his current contract, he has the potential to make an impact for us moving forward.”

Rutherford originally tried to acquire Zucker this summer in a trade for Phil Kessel, but the deal was nixed due to a no-movement clause.

From Minnesota’s perspective, the team unloads a long-term contract and will see if Galchenyuk can find his stride. He will become an unrestricted free agent when his contract expires at the end of this season.

If Pittsburgh does not qualify for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they have the option to move the first-round selection to Minnesota from the 2020 NHL Draft to the 2021 NHL Draft.

Pierre LeBrun reported that no salary was retained in the deal.