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[Penguins still in on Zucker, Rask?]
[Zucker, Kessel possible teammates in ARI?]
[2nd Western team not on Kessel’s list gathering intel]

Penguins continue to pursue trade talks for Jason Zucker
In the aftermath of Phil Kessel officially nixing a trade to the Minnesota Wild last week, the Pittsburgh Penguins have continued to pursue a trade for Jason Zucker, TIOPS has learned.

The Penguins emerged out of their pro scouting meetings in early May with Zucker a favorite among Pittsburgh’s pro scouts and the coaching staff, which has seen Pittsburgh make a revised offer (excluding Kessel) for Zucker, while the original deal is still on the table if Kessel changes his mind.

[hide] Bryan Rust has been a new name discussed in talks, per sources.

Minnesota over the weekend is said to have begun exploring other deals for Zucker, but Pittsburgh and Minnesota continue to keep touch and the Penguins willingness in taking on Viktor Rask ($4 million cap hit through 21-22) to land Zucker (with or without Kessel involved) still gives them a seat at the table for now.

Zucker’s lofty $5.5 million cap hit for the next four years doesn’t concern the Penguins one bit, though, it probably should.

Sources say Rutherford views a potential Zucker acquisition as another key development in revamping the top-9 forward group for the present and future, following his trades for Jared McCann, Nick Blugstad last February.

— Here’s a wild scenario getting talked about from some circles:

Phil Kessel and Jason Zucker go from almost being traded for each other to being teammates with the Arizona Coyotes?

It won’t be a shock to a few executives as some believe Arizona’s patient approach in the Kessel talks eventually pays off for them in getting a favorable deal for the soon to be 32 year old.

As for Zucker?

Arizona is hot after Zucker with a Zucker for Christian Dvorak deal believed to have been offered by Minnesota.

One executive predicted a Zucker acquisition would see Arizona try to move Michael Grabner as part of a deal for Kessel. The Penguins brought Kessel in for a visit during 2018 free agency before breaking off talks with the Grabner camp to sign Jack Johnson.


— Industry buzz is Pittsburgh has approached the Calgary Flames about some possible trade scenarios surrounding Kessel. Whether the Flames decide to pursue Kessel is not clear yet but there are strong indications over the last 72 hours that the Flames have been gathering intel on whether Calgary would be a place that Kessel would consider before they go any farther.

I don’t think we’ll see another situation like Pittsburgh-Minnesota where they complete the framework of the trade gets finalized/leaked without knowing Kessel’s intentions beforehand. [/hide]