New York Rangers fans all in unison checked their phones and Twitter pages and immediately had feedback when hearing about the Derick Brassard, Mika Zibanejad trade. Mostly upset, as Jeff Gorton had traded fan favorite Derick Brassard and a seventh-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft to the Ottawa Senators for forward Mika Zibanejad and a second-round pick in the 2018 draft.
Derick Brassard, 28 at the time, just came off a career season as he led the Rangers with 27 goals which was a career high and Brassard was second on the team in scoring since joining the squad back in 2013 via a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Rangers looked to have solidified a 1A center who was on the rise and could maybe even be locked up for a couple of years.
But, Mika Zibanejad is no slouch, after being drafted and joining the Ottawa Senators in 2011 as the 6th player selected in the draft there was a pretty high ceiling for the native Swede. Every season since he’s joined the league Zibanejad’s stats have improved and this season, his first in New York, seems like they may take a slight dip due to injury. But when healthy, Mika Zibanejad is having one of his best seasons and filling the shoes of Derick Brassard with ease.
Not taking away from everything that Brassard did in New York, he was a key component in the 2014 Stanley Cup run and the 2015 conference final. The chemistry he had with his line-mates hasn’t been replaced nor forgotten. But Zibanejad at this moment and time in his career is further along and is the cheaper option, for the time being. Brassard is 29 and is racking in $5 million a year, whereas Zibanejad who is 23 is only making a base salary of $3.25 million. Thus Zibanejad is already the cheaper and younger option. Brassard is under contract until 2019. Whereas Zibanejad is on his last year of his contract and then becomes an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent.
The two have very similar styles of play, they like to play the game at a fast pace and it’s something Zibanejad enjoys. “It’s a fast team,” Zibanejad said. “I feel like I can play that game. I’m hoping I’ll fit wherever they put me and however they want me to play.” We are just over the halfway mark of the season and with Zibanejad returning to the Rangers just a couple of games ago it looks like it could be time for him to get back on the fast track to being the number one center on the Rangers. Even at only a mere 21 games played Zibanejad has racked up 17 points, Brassard on the other side has found himself in a rut this year only tallying 22 points in 43 games.
The Senators are having themselves a pretty decent year as they find themselves in a very tight battle among the talented teams in the Atlantic Division. Brassard is just 6th in points on the Senators which is not terrible but Ottawa definitely is expecting more out of Derick.
Now that Zibanejad is near 100% healthy and has resumed his spot in the lineup, it’s almost as if the Rangers just acquired a number one center at the trade deadline. This can really be that spark the team desperately needs as of late. The Rangers were 13-5-1 before losing Zibanejad to a broken fibula he suffered on November 20th against the Florida Panthers. I expect Zibanejad to get right back to producing points as he gets more chemistry with his line-mates, he has such a high ceiling and is only 23 years old.