NHL Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Jason Zucker, Phil Kessel and More

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2019

Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

The St. Louis Blues took a 3-2 series lead over the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night. While the Blues and Bruins are still battling it out for hockey's biggest prize, the rest of the league has turned its attention to the upcoming offseason.

Free agency and the trade window are set to open on July 1. On that date, the 29 teams that didn't make the Stanley Cup Final—and even those two, really—will start scrambling to improve their respective rosters.

Here's some of the latest trade buzz with NHL free agency right around the corner.


Vancouver Interested in Zucker

The Minnesota Wild appear poised to deal Jason Zucker, who has three years remaining on his contract. Minnesota nearly had a deal in place to trade Zucker to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Phil Kessel. However, that didn't materialize.

According to The Athletic's Michael Russo, Kessel—who has a no-trade clause in his contract—vetoed the switch because he doesn't view the Wild as a legitimate contender.

The good news for Minnesota is that Pittsburgh isn't the only team interested in acquiring Zucker. According to Mike Halford of TSN 1040, the Vancouver Canucks are also interested in making a deal.

"There are multiple trade offers on the table," Halford said on Halford and Brough.

According to Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Sun, Canucks general manager Jim Benning is looking to add a "top-six" winger to the roster but would likely have to deal Brock Boeser in order to acquire Zucker.


A Zucker-Kessel Trade Is Still Possible

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

While the initial Zucker-Kessel deal didn't go down, there remains a slim possibility that one could get done. TSN's Bob McKenzie believes that Kessel could be convinced to allow the trade to go through.

"I wouldn't be surprised if, at some point, it gets done with Minnesota," McKenzie said on his podcast. "Kessel's 'no' to Pittsburgh wasn't really a hard, 100 percent no so much as it was, 'Naw, I don't really want to go there. Maybe you could check with some other teams.'"

If the Penguins explore other trade options and not one of them appeals to Kessel, they could indeed circle back to a potential deal for Zucker. At that point, Kessel may view Minnesota as the best possible destination and say yes to the deal.

Of course, this will only happen if a team like Vancouver doesn't manage to acquire Zucker first.


Karlsson Could Return to the Senators

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

The Ottawa Senators weren't able to get a long-term deal done with defenseman Erik Karlsson last year, so they traded him to the San Jose Sharks. Now that Karlsson is headed toward free agency, a return to Ottawa could be in the cards.

According to Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun, Karlsson could be "much more receptive" to the idea of signing a long-term deal with the Senators now.

"While the two-time Norris Trophy winner is expected to be the most coveted free agent available when the market opens on July 1, a well-connected source says that he hopes to receive competitive offers from two teams in particular: the Senators and the Montreal Canadiens," Brennan wrote.

Brennan names Karlsson's wife, Brenda—an Ottawa native—and her desire to return home as a factor in Karlsson's upcoming decision. The Swede's familiarity with the franchise—the Senators drafted him back in 2008—is another possible factor.