Chuck Fletcher, like most NHL general managers, rarely will talk about trade rumors surrounding their team.
But if you connect the dots, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Philadelphia Flyers were trying to get left winger Jason Zucker from the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer.
The Penguins reportedly were attempting to get the under-achieving Zucker and his $5.5 million cap hit off the books. The Penguins had a chance to do that this summer and decided the price was too steep, according to the well-respected Dave Molinari of Pittsburgh Hockey Now.
Molinari, a Hockey Hall of Fame writer, said the trade proposal came from an unspecified team believed to be in the Metropolitan Division. The proposal: Pittsburgh would deal Zucker and a first-round pick for basically nothing … just to free cap space.
The Flyers made a similar move in 2021 and it backfired. They dealt puck-moving defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and second- and seventh-round draft picks to Arizona to get cap space.
It was too steep of a price.
Gostisbehere had a very good season (14 goals, 51 points) with the lowly Coyotes, and Fletcher acquired defenseman Tony DeAngelo two months ago for three draft picks. (a second, a third, and a fourth). The Flyers also received a seventh-rounder.
DeAngelo’s cap hit ($5 million annually) is more than Gostisbehere’s, and he’s basically a righthanded version of Ghost.
The net result of the two trades: The Flyers lost four draft picks and got a similar player.
‘Reverse’ Ghost trade?
Which brings us back to Zucker.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Fletcher tried to do a “reverse” Gostisbehere trade to acquire him.
For one, the first-round pick they would have received is much-needed.
For another, Fletcher is very familiar with Zucker. While he was Minnesota’s GM, he drafted him in the second round (59th overall) in 2010, and he had some quality seasons for the Wild, including a 33-goal campaign in 2017-18.
Zucker has loads of ability and could have filled Claude Giroux’s old spot as the first-line left winger. He will likely be on the second line in Pittsburgh.
Whichever team made the offer, Penguins GM Ron Hextall turned it down. He has made it clear he wants to restock the Pens’ prospects pool, per Molinari.
Hextall is hoping Zucker, 30, hits the 20-goal mark for the sixth time in his career.
If Fletcher did make the proposal, good for him. He could have freed cap space by putting Ryan Ellis on the LTIR list, gotten a player who could flourish with a new team, and more importantly, added a No. 1 pick.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happened.
Keep this deal in the back of your mind in case it is revisited — with a revision, most likely — at some point moving forward.