Minnesota Wild: The Effect of Jason Zucker’s New Contract


The Minnesota Wild made their first free-agent signing of the offseason by re-upping Jason Zucker for two more years and $4 million.  His signing was expected and is a good move, but it will have implications on the Wild’s signings for the rest of the summer.

The first Minnesota Wild free-agent domino fell today as it was announced that the Wild would bring back RFA Jason Zucker on a 2 year $4 million contract.  By and large Zucker’s signing was only a minor note in the craziness that saw three other major deals in the NHL today including the surprise re-signing of Steven Stamkos by the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Still for the Wild this is the largest move this far that will certainly have implications on their negotiations going forward.

Zucker’s re-signing is hardly an unexpected move.  The Wild really had nothing to lose by re-signing him as an RFA, and most thought this would fit into the Wild’s plans.  They still can trade him if they see the right deal, and with him being re-signed they have a little more of a bargaining chip as the team acquiring him would not have to sign him.

Still it looks like all signs point to Zucker staying put and being a part of the Bruce Boudreau era.  He’ll fit in well with Boudreau’s system as he looks to rebound from a down year that saw him score only 13 goals which was well below expectations.  His year was further shadowed by his benchings by John Torchetti were largely because he didn’t fit in to Torchetti’s mold, but under Boudreau he might find a better system more suited to his game.  So it looks like the Wild are hoping the change of leadership and system will spark Zucker back to his 20 plus goal form.

The implications of Zucker’s negotiated salary though could be bigger than most realize.  With a cap hit of $2 million a season, the Wild will have $12.16 million of remaining cap space.  That’s still a quite a bit of cap space left, but that space could go a lot faster than most people realize.

Related Story: Minnesota Wild Make Qualifying Offers to Seven RFAs

His contract could be the standard for the other two big RFAs the Wild need to sign.  Mathew Dumba and Darcy Kuemper will most likely use Zucker’s contract as a starting point in negotiations with the team.  It’s conceivable both Dumba and Kuemper could get a contract that takes a cap hit of $2 million as season.  That would mean the Wild would have $6 million tied up in these three players and thus only have $8.16 million remaining with to sign free-agents.

Jason Zucker
Jan 8, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker (16) celebrates his goal during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

With two or three more possible re-signings on top of those three, that cap space could get even smaller.  So realistically the Wild will only have about $7 million give or take to spend on their big game hunting this offseason.  The price point for many of the big free-agents are at or above that price.

What’s more the market for free-agents will be very competitive, with Stamkos off the market now other teams that lost out on that sweepstakes will look elsewhere.  Teams with big cap room like Detroit, Boston, and Buffalo might start to take that cap room and throw it at a target of the Wild like Kyle Okposo.  That means that overpaying for Zucker or the other RFAs by even $0.5 million could be huge in the ability to sign a top-tier free agent.

Next: Sam Anas Won't Let Size Stop Him

But back to the Zucker deal itself, you have to think from purely a hockey standpoint this is good.  There is no denying that Zucker is still a top nine possible top six forward and will notch some goals.  The dreaded Sophomore slump is something that many great players go through and quickly get past.  Zucker’s chances of having a great season are worth the gamble of re-signing him, and in the end the Wild just need quality forwards and Zucker is certainly that.