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Zucker a perfect fit for Penguins' style

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Penguins

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan was sitting on the dais at the 84th annual Dapper Dan Dinner event on Monday night when his phone rang.

It was general manager Jim Rutherford.

Minutes earlier Rutherford had completed a trade with Minnesota to acquire forward Jason Zucker in exchange for winger Alex Galchenyuk, prospect Calen Addison and a 2020 first-round draft pick.

"We're thrilled to have Jason. We think he's going to make us a better team," Sullivan said Tuesday afternoon. "He brings a speed game, he brings an offensive dimension. He has a defensive conscience as well, he's a versatile player, he's a competitive guy.

"We're excited to add him to our group."

Zucker, 28, is expected to arrive in Pittsburgh on Tuesday afternoon, and should suit up for the team in this evening's home contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.

Zucker, who is under contract through the 2022-23 season, will begin the game on a line with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, and may see some time on the power play.

"We'll start him with Crosby and take each game as it comes and see where it goes," Sullivan said.

Zucker has 14 goals, 29 points in 45 games this season with the Wild, the team with which he's played his entire eight-plus year NHL career. The former second-round pick (59th overall in 2010) posted a career-best 33 goals, 31 assists and 64 points in 2017-18.

Zucker's skillset should be a perfect fit for the Penguins' scheme, which utilizes a high-tempo and aggressive style matched with structured defense.

"Whenever we talk about adding players to the existing group, we always have the conversation around the style of play that we're trying to play, the identity of this team and how a player can fit in and help us to play to that identity," Sullivan said. "We think he's a guy that has attributes that fit into the style of play we're trying to play. We believe that he's a top-6 forward. We really like his speed, his overall two-way game, his ability to shoot the puck."

Zucker will bolster the Penguins' depth up front. The team still has some room under the salary cup for another maneuver, but Sullivan likes the current makeup of the team. It's up to the coaches and players to take the pieces and make them work on the ice.

"We're trying to become the best team that gives us the best chance to win," Sullivan said. "We're excited about the group we have, but now we have to go out and earn it each and every night. We have to play to the identity that we've established this year for this team, and specifically how we have to play to give ourselves the best chance to win each and every night."

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