The New Jersey Devils should target Jason Zucker
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New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero, and head coach John Hynes, both went out of their way to say the team needs to prioritize adding more talent this summer.
The talent the Devils are lacking most, arguably, is goal scoring ability. They don't have much firepower in the lineup. That leads to inconsistent offense at the best of times and it is downright awful when any of their key guys are injured, which became especially apparent during the 2nd half of the season.
They need to add another capable scorer – ideally on the left side – and it just so happens one could be available on the trade market.
The 27-year-old winger, who has averaged 25 goals per over the last three years, was almost dealt to the Calgary Flames in February and it seems likely his name will continue to be out there.
Michael Russo of The Athletic recently hinted at as much
He’s coming off a down year with 21 goals and was nearly traded to Calgary at the trade deadline. While it would seem to be a huge risk to trade one of their fastest players a year removed from scoring a career-high 33 goals and from a team that’s downright pathetic offensively, trading Zucker seems like just a matter of time. Fenton is committed to building through young players like Fiala and Donato, so it would make sense to try to get them on their natural left side full-time. Trading Zucker opens up that spot for achieving the former or pursuing somebody like Anders Lee in free agency. Also, Zucker, for the first time, will submit a 10-team no-trade list July 1, so trading him beforehand allows Fenton to talk to 30 teams as opposed to 20.
Though Zucker's numbers tumbled a bit this season, a lot of that has to do with a dip in shooting percentage – both on-ice, and individually. The shots were still there for Zucker, and he set a new career high in scoring chances. They just didn't go in as often.
Even after a down year in terms of raw production, he's still been one of the league's best 5v5 producers over the last three seasons. Zucker is tied for 25th in goals and 44th in points during that span.
He'd fill a big-time need for more scoring, his speed makes him a natural fit with the way the Devils want to play, and he is under contract long-term (four more years at $5.5 million). I think he'd be a perfect fit in the top-6 alongside high-end playmaking centers like Nico Hischier and/or Jack Hughes.
If the Wild are going to sell low on Zucker – much like they did with Nino Niederreiter, which has predictably blown up in their face
– the Devils should be all over it.
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