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Jason Zucker’s goals: Stay with Wild, have a better season in 2020

Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker (16) celebrates after scoring a power play goal in the second period against the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center on March 14. David Berding / USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL — For the first time in his life, Jason Zucker had trouble tuning out the noise.

Whether it was the constant questions from reporters or the fact that he watched as his friends got shipped out of town one by one, Zucker couldn’t ignore the trade rumors any longer.

“It was the first time for me that it had ever been to that magnitude,” Zucker said. “I had to almost come to the realization like, ‘This is happening.’”

Then it didn’t.

While a deal with Calgary Flames fell through at at the last moment, keeping Zucker in the Twin Cities for the rest of the season. He finished with 21 goals and 21 assists — “a down year” by his standards — and heads into the offseason with the uncertainty mounting once again.

It wouldn’t shock anyone if general manager Paul Fenton starts to shop Zucker again in advance of the June 21-22 daft. Fenton already has made major personnel changes since replacing Chuck Fletcher last May, and it seems Zucker has been at the epicenter of potential moves.

Not that Zucker is going to let that get to him.

“I can’t,” he said. “I’m going to approach it like every other summer and get my training regimen in place. Whether I’m here, or elsewhere, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to train the same way.”

Perhaps the biggest reason Zucker might be used as trade bait is the fact he signed a five-year, $27.5 million deal last offseason. With an average annual value of $5.5 million, Zucker certainly didn’t play up to his new contract.

“I want to be scoring 30 goals every year, and so for me, that’s the mindset that I have to have,” Zucker said. “Do I think, ‘Oh that’s just an easy number to attain?’ No, I don’t. It’s just something that I know that I can do and I know I can do it consistently. Anything less than that for me is a down year.”

Besides focusing on his training program, Zucker is looking forward to spending time away from the rink, and away from the reporters who ask him about trade rumors.

“I can’t tell you how many times you guys asked me about it, right?” Zucker said with a smile. “That’s not your fault; that’s your job. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

In that sense, the offseason will be easier for him.

“When I go home, I worry about my wife and my kids; just hang out and forget about the game in general,” Zucker said. “For the most part, everything’s pretty low key at home.”

Still, if Zucker has to be persuasive this offseason, he has no problem doing that.

“It’s just about letting everyone know that I want to be here,” he said. “I’ll tell Paul, I’ll tell everybody, I want to be here more than anything. And then it’s about making sure I have a better year next year.”