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Zucker, subject of trade rumors, not worried about new Wild GM

Forward, teammates waiting to see who replaces Fenton

by Jessi Pierce / NHL.com Correspondent

EDINA, Minn. -- Jason Zucker, a subject of rumors since before the NHL Trade Deadline last season, found out directly from Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold that general manager Paul Fenton was fired on Tuesday.

"It was pretty basic. [He said], 'Jason, I made this decision today, I'll update you guys when I know more,' and that was really about it," Zucker said Wednesday. "I thought it was very respectful of him to do that. Not sure who he called, but I thought it was very respectful for him to do it for the players of the team and let us know himself.

"That's obviously a bit of an odd time for it to happen, but it's something that Craig felt it was necessary to happen. That's it. At that point, timing doesn't matter."

 

[RELATED: Fenton fired as general manager of Wild]

 

Zucker was rumored to be on the market at the deadline and he continued to be mentioned in talks, reportedly involving Phil Kessel and the Pittsburgh Penguins, throughout this offseason. The 27-year-old had 42 points (21 goals, 21 assists) after setting NHL career highs in goals (33), assists (31) and points (64) in 2017-18.

"Names get floated out there all the time, and I'm glad the trades didn't happen," Zucker said. "It's always something. If it happens once, it's in the back of your mind for a bit; if it happens twice, it's really in the back of your mind, and it was definitely something at the forefront of my life for the last while. But again, it's hard for me to fault [Fenton] if he thought that's what's best for the organization.

"Whether you agree or disagree with it, he felt those were moves that would make the team better, and ultimately Craig disagreed and didn't like what was happening and decided to go in another direction."

Fenton was fired 14 months after being hired May 21, 2018. Assistant GM Tom Kurvers is acting Wild GM until a replacement is hired, with Leipold having said there is no timetable to fill the position.

Video: Russo on why Wild made GM change

Fenton made his mark in Minnesota before the trade deadline last season, swapping forwards Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund for forwards Ryan Donato, Victor Rask and Kevin Fiala.

The Wild went 20-21-6 after the deadline to finish 37-36-9. They missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, seven points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card from the Western Conference.

Zucker said with all of the moves, "things (felt) a bit off."

"I think it's pretty easy to tell the team that we had to start the year, versus the team we were at the end of the year (was off)," Zucker said. "Obviously that's hockey, things change, but I think it was a lot of big changes, and that's tough for teams to manage sometimes.

"I think they're tough moves to make. They (were) key guys on our team, and Paul felt like he brought in guys that were going to be key parts to our team, and you can't fault him for moves that he felt were going to make us better."

Zucker, who is playing in Da Beauty League, a weekly set of 3-on-3 games for NHL players with ties to Minnesota, said he believes he can be a 30-goal scorer and is not concerned about proving himself to a new general manager. But he said it will be on every Wild player "to prove to the GM who they are, why they should keep them, and why they should be centerpieces of the team and things of that's sort."

What will a new general manager need to prove to his players?

"As far as clout with the players, that doesn't really matter," Zucker said. "You earn the respect by the moves you make, the teams you build, and the championships you win, and that's what it comes down to. For us, we're excited to see who comes in and the direction he's going to take this organization."

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