How Penguins’ trade for Jason Zucker affects Bruins’ pre-deadline hunt

Matt Kalman
February 10, 2020 - 9:34 pm

The Pittsburgh Penguins were always one of the handful of teams the Bruins were competing with for trades for forward help before the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline.

Exactly two weeks before the deadline, the Penguins struck Monday night acquiring Jason Zucker from Minnesota for Alex Galchenyuk, a highly touted prospect and a first-round pick.

Under some circumstances, Zucker, a left wing with 14 goals this season after he had 21 last season, would’ve been a player the Bruins would’ve had on their wish list. But with three more years left on the  28-year-old’s contract at an average annual value of $5.5 million, Zucker would’ve been too rich for future Bruins roster makeups as he would’ve been too expensive to acquire for the present team based on what the Penguins paid.

Although Zucker will help make up for the Penguins’ loss of Jake Guentzel to a season-ending injury and make them an even more formidable challenger the an Eastern Conference title, there is a silver lining to this trade for the Bruins. Now the Penguins probably won’t be getting in their way of getting the forward they want to acquire.

Whether it’s New York’s Chris Kreider, Los Angeles’ Tyler Toffoli on the rental market or a player with term left like New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, the Penguins are probably out. That means one fewer bidder and a better chance general manager Don Sweeney won’t have to just add a secondary piece to bolster Boston’s lineup.

This trade also means the Wild are open for business, although there might not be much Minnesota has to offer Boston. Eric Staal has always been a player the Bruins have coveted and he’s signed for a friendly $3.25 million for this season and next. But the 35-year-old reportedly used his no-trade power to nix a deal to Boston last season before signing an extension with Minnesota. His addition would allow Boston to use Charlie Coyle on the wing this season and then trade David Krejci for cap relief in the summer, with Coyle shifting back to center. But a Staal trade is unlikely to happen.

If Sweeney strikes out in his attempt to get an impact addition for his top six, Galchenyuk might be a cheap alternative. The 25-year-old has almost used up all his chances to live up to his first-round pick potential, but maybe used in a bottom-six role on a deep team he could chip in either at center or on the wing. He also shouldn’t cost a contender more than a fourth-round pick.

Of course, Bruins fans don’t want to hear about secondary pieces, they want Sweeney to do all he can to add a big-time player to make sure the Zdeno Chara-Patrice Bergeron core has its best chance to get back to the Stanley Cup Final. Sweeney’s been reluctant to trade his first-round picks since he gave one up for Rick Nash in 2018, but maybe the price on rentals dropped a tad considering the Penguins gave up their first for a player with three more years left. How can a team dangling a rental expect to get anything close to what the Wild were able to get?

We’ll find out over the course of the next two weeks.

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