Unless there is a major turnaround in the situation, veteran forward Jason Zucker and the Minnesota Wild are expected to meet in an arbitration meeting on July 28. As a restricted free agent, Zucker is tied up in contract negotiations with the Wild and filed for arbitration on July 5.
And unfortunately for Zucker, he doesn’t know what his future holds... However he definitely knows what he wants, and was not afraid to let his club know ahead of the crucial meeting.
“I want to be in Minnesota; I love Minnesota,” he told Twin Cities Pioneer Press on Tuesday after a speaking engagement at the Wild Leadership Summit. “My family roots are now here. This is a second home to us and I want to be here. We have a great team. We have a lot of really good things going for us. … If it was my choice, I’d be here playing for the Wild next season.”
Zucker cashed in $2 million last year, but he is expected to get a massive pay raise after tallying 33 goals last season. Many expect him to make somewhere in the $5 million range this time around.
That surely poses a huge problem for the team's management: the Wild is currently just at $9.9 million from the salary cap, according to the information provided by Cap Friendly. The team also needs to come to terms with defenseman Matt Dumba, who was the top scorer in the Wild's blue line last year with a total of 14 goals in 82 contests.
Zucker's name has been at the centre of trade chatter since the beginning of the summer, especially since new general manager Paul Fenton took over the team back in May.
“I’m trying not to think about, and even when I do think about it, it’s part of the business,” he said. “If I get traded, it is what it is and I’ll look forward to a fresh start. That said, I would love to be here. This is where I want to be. That is Option A. And the rest is out of my control.”
While Zucker would love to return and might have used this opportunity to beg the Wild to offer him a great contract, other rival clubs would jump at the chance to land him.
His agent Eustace King has been doing most of the work while the forward patiently waits for an update. One thing is certain, besides the fact that he wants to return to Minnesota: he wants to do more!
“I’m very confident that I can be better” as a player, he said. “I’m not satisfied. I want to keep getting better, and I want to improve my game. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m guaranteeing 40 goals. That just means I’m going to guarantee myself that I’m going to be a better player next season.”
Now the Wild just have to show him the money...