Another restricted free agent has been sorted out by the Wild, as Jason Zucker has re-signed for two seasons.
Zucker has 12 points (8-4) in 47 games over the past three seasons for the Wild, and one big post-season overtime winner in there for good measure. Injuries and inconsistency have kept him from reaching any further heights.
The contract signed is a two-way deal in 2014-15 and a one way deal in 2015-16 (monetary details were not released by the team. I’m guessing someone with more access than myself will fill them in soon enough). This seems like a good hedge by the Wild, as I am not sure where Zucker fits in to the current setup. His speed and offensive skill-set are built for more of a top-six role, and his lack of defensive game essentially pre-empts him from bottom six duty. The issue is, the top six spots are pretty much locked in at this point, with some combination of Coyle, Parise, Vanek and Pominville manning the wings and Koivu and Granlund down the middle. If Zucker doesn’t improve defensively, he’ll find himself back in Iowa, a fate he wasn’t too happy about last year. I can’t imagine that will change.
The good news is that the Wild have not pursued sure-thing bottom-six forwards via free agency or trade, leaving only Matt Cooke, Nino Niederreiter, Kyle Brodziak and Erik Haula as locks for now. Zucker can compete with Cody Almond, Jordan Schroeder, Kurtis Gabriel, Justin Fontaine and Stephane Veilleux for the other two spots. If his defense improves to at all competent, I would imagine he has an inside track on one of them.