Welcome to another edition of Pittsburgh Penguins News & Rumors, and in this piece, we will be discussing Josh Yohe’s recent article, which highlights Jason Zucker, Cody Ceci, and potential untouchables and trade candidates (from ‘Yohe: Which Penguins are staying and leaving? The biannual most-likely-to-leave list,’ The Athletic, 07/19/2021).
Penguins to Explore Zucker Trade
For starters, let’s talk about Zucker. Since being traded to the Penguins, he has 15 goals and 30 points through 53 games played, which isn’t terrible production. Along with this, he has been a class act and a great teammate, however, the problem comes with his cap hit, standing at a large $5.5 million annual value.
Yohe goes on to say the Penguins would be perfectly pleased to drop Zucker’s cap hit for this exact reason, and find him a new home. He says if the Seattle Kraken claim him in the expansion draft, the team will manage some immediate cap relief, which they could use towards free agency or trades.
He also says it is difficult to determine if there is a trade market for Zucker, but the Penguins will at least explore it. He says if Zucker was making $2 million less he’d be a bargain, but it’s hard to defend him at $5.5 million.
I see a couple of options for Zucker. I could see a team like the St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, or Florida Panthers have interest in him to help improve their team for a push to the playoffs this season, but I could also see a rebuilding club looking to improve their team with a good veteran presence for a potentially cheap price, maybe the Detroit Red Wings or New Jersey Devils, being interested. Either way, I don’t see Zucker in a Penguins jersey next season, unfortunately.
Unlikely Ceci Returns
Yohe moves onto Ceci, who puts in a “division” with Mark Jankowski and Colton Sceviour called “so long, farewell.” During his one season in Pittsburgh, he had four goals and 17 points along with 6.8 goals above replacement (GAR) in 53 games played.
Yohe says that Ceci did above and beyond what his job was in Pittsburgh, and said “whatever was wrong with him” in past seasons was very clearly fixed in Pittsburgh.
He also says that the Penguins are not happily letting Ceci go, as general manager Ron Hextall would love to keep him on the team, however financially speaking, it just seems unlikely. He looks very likely to walk in free agency and move on someplace else, leaving the team with a hole on the right-side.
Crosby the Penguins’ Only Untouchable?
Yohe says although there are plenty of other players on the Penguins’ roster that are almost certainly remaining in Pittsburgh, nobody is really “untouchable” other than Crosby after four consecutive playoff series losses. He says that he remains the face of the franchise as is a legend, and says he does not envision him ever playing on a new team.
He goes on to discuss his “franchise icon” division, which includes Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. He says that due to the fact Malkin is dealing with a serious knee injury which will likely keep him out for a large part of the season, he won’t be traded, as it doesn’t make sense for teams to trade for a player who is one year away from being an unrestricted free agent if they are going to miss most of this season. He says the reason he didn’t put Malkin as part of the “untouchable” division with Crosby is that he is not positive he would be if he were healthy.
Yohe highlights Bryan Rust in the “sensible hockey trade” division. He says he has not been told that the Penguins are looking to trade him, however it makes more sense than trading Jake Guentzel. He says that Rust is three years older with two fewer years of term, and his production is not as good as Guentzel’s. He also says that he is a free agent in 2022 and is set to be paid big money, likely in between $5 million and $6 million per season.
I agree with everything Yohe says here – I believe the Penguins move on from Zucker and Ceci, and I do think Crosby is the team’s only untouchable other than maybe Guentzel.
PIT Penguins Writer THW. Instagram: puckempire. Formerly a Florida Panthers writer.