The New York Rangers had been quiet this offseason for some time. It was so alarmingly curious that I wrote about it. Naturally, mere hours later, the Blueshirts executed a major trade with the Ottawa Senators, acquiring center Mika Zibanejad and a 2nd-round pick in 2018 for fellow center and New York fan favorite Derick Brassard, along with a 2018 7th-round pick.
Without question, losing Brassard is a tough blow for Rangers fans. The 28-year-old came to New York in 2013 and established himself as a legitimate first-line center with the Rangers, putting up numbers he was never able to in Columbus after the Blue Jackets selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft. He embraced being a Ranger and played with a passion that endeared him to fans. Brassard was also a notably strong playoff performer for the Blueshirts, as he piled up 44 points in 59 career playoff contests with New York.
Despite all of that, though, if fans are able to look past the emotional downer of losing a beloved player, they should see that this was a solid move for the Rangers. Zibanejad, who like Brassard was drafted sixth overall but in 2011, is an excellent player in his own right, having tallied 21 goals and 30 assists this past season (Brassard had a career-high 27 goals and 31 assists).
Zibanejad’s point totals have increased every year since he came into the NHL on a semi-regular basis in 2012. Brassard did have better relative shot suppression numbers at even strength than Zibanejad did last year, but Zibanejad, unlike Brassard, also plays on the penalty kill (he scored two shorthanded goals last season).
Why the Rangers Won the Deal
The biggest advantage for the Rangers, though, is the age difference between the players. Brassard will be 29 by the time the regular season starts, and as such, has likely peaked in terms of production. Zibanejad, on the other hand, just turned 23 in April, and is already just about as good as Brassard. He has likely yet to peak, and he already has two 20-goal seasons under his belt, compared to Brassard’s one. Zibanejad could very well develop into a 30-plus goal player for the Rangers.
The Rangers also save cap space this year, as Zibanejad has one year remaining on a contract that carries an annual cap hit of $2.625 million, after which point he will become a restricted free agent. Brassard has three years remaining on a deal that carries a cap hit of $5 million annually. So the Rangers have a bit more room now to not only lock up RFAs Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes but to also explore other potential moves as they shape their roster for next season (the part of my last article that discussed the need to revamp the defense still holds).
Of course, Zibanejad will most likely be in line for a nice raise next offseason, but he will probably be a good investment for the Rangers given his youth and continued improvement.
Based on these factors, one could declare the Rangers the winners of this deal if Zibanejad and Brassard were the only pieces involved. Then you throw in the fact that they also acquired a 2nd-round pick for a 7th-round pick, and the deal tilts in the Rangers’ favor even more.