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Derick Brassard for Mika Zibanejad: Gorton makes a good, yet tough, decision

Bobby Bevilacqua

zibanejad-brassard.jpg

Photo courtesy of NHL.com

I’d like to preface this article: I haven’t been posting at all for a while, missing out on a busy and exciting time of the NHL offseason, and not covering a lot of Ranger moves. I was interning at MLB Network with varying hours and shifts, making it hard to write articles, work, and balance everything else. Now that my internship is over, I look forward to covering the Rangers again, writing lots of articles, sharing my opinion on signings and trades that already happened, and providing you with steady content again. Thank you for the continuing support.

Heading into the offseason and nearing the trade deadline, it was a huge question mark as to what Jeff Gorton would do to address the Rangers’ many needs. Upgrading the defense would be tough considering the massive, practically unmovable contracts of Dan Girardi and Mark Staal, they didn’t have the cap space to get a big name forward, and locking up all of the UFAs and RFAs would be tough.

The last thing that anybody expected was for the team to trade Derick Brassard, their leading goal scorer from last season.

Jeff Gorton made a trade with the Ottawa Senators, sending Derick Brassard and a 2018 7th round pick in exchange for 23 year old Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 2nd round pick.

At first, my emotions got the better of me and I was upset about the trade. Brassard has been fantastic since joining the team in the 2012-13 season, always improving his play, anchoring the top line for the last two seasons and playing with fire and passion on the ice.

But after stepping back and looking at the trade, Jeff Gorton did extremely well here, and the Rangers will be the long-term winners.

The Senators are in a win-now mode, looking to capitalize on their young forwards production and make a run in the playoffs. At this very moment, Derick Brassard will help them in that area, providing leadership, experience, and postseason success. He’ll anchor their top line and probably provide them with 20+ goals and around 60 points.

The Senators are also a team that operates on a budget, so Brassard’s friendly cap hit of $5 million a year is a huge bonus for them. But Brassard is owed less than that since his contract was frontloaded and the Rangers paid his $2 million signing bonus before the trade.

Because they paid that bonus, Gorton managed to snag a 2nd round pick in the move, which was a fantastic and unexpected throw in to the trade. Second round picks have a pretty good chance of turning into a solid NHL player, so well done by Gorton here.

On top of that, Mika Zibanejad is a Ranger, which is very exciting. At just 23, Zibanejad has four full NHL seasons under his belt, improving every single year and showing some excellent upside and skills in the process.

Gorton saved some money for this season as well, with Zibanejad’s contract coming in at $2.625 million this year. He’s an RFA before the 2017-18 season and will probably get a salary around what Brassard has, but the key is his age. Assuming he is re-signed, the Rangers will have him during the prime of his career, when he is still improving and at his best. That’s exciting.

Gorton also didn’t really sacrifice production in this trade. Zibanejad is a two-time 20 goal scorer who tallied 51 points (21-30-51) this past season. He’ll likely have a rotating cast of wingers, but expect him to play alongside guys like Chris Kreider, JT Miller, Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash. The talent will be there, and Zibanejad will be given a lot of opportunity and resources to succeed. And with him improving every single season, it’s not unlikely to expect another jump in production from Mika.

Zibanejad is also 6’2” and 222 pounds, adding some more size and physicality to the team’s center depth. On top of that, he’s pretty quick, and is a slight upgrade in the possession category as well. He’s also a better defensive player than Brassard, and also solid when it comes to suppressing shots.

The Rangers will miss some aspects of Brassard’s game though. Brass scored 27 goals last season, and while some of that had to do with his shooting percentage jumping 3% higher than his career average, it was also the fact that he was finally utilizing his shot more, both the wrist shot and his powerful slap shot.

Brassard also led the team with eight power play goals, and for a team that was already struggling on the man advantage, losing him will make that even tougher. With Keith Yandle, Dan Boyle and now Brassard gone, there is nobody left to take the big shot and generate pressure from the point. That hurts.

Zibanejad is said to have a strong and accurate wrist shot, so he may have success as the trigger man, an area where Derek Stepan has struggled. But I don’t think he’ll have the same success as Brassard did.

Brass was also fantastic in the playoffs, scoring 44 points (18-26-44) in 59 playoff games, all with the Rangers. He scored some big-time goals and led the team with 16 points in 19 playoff games during the 2015 run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Zibanejad has only played in 16 playoff games, tallying 8 points (2-6-8).

In conclusion, the Rangers swapped centers and got younger, bigger, and probably faster while maintaining similar production levels and also getting a second round pick. It was a tough trade considering Brassard’s status among the fans and his teammates, but a good one for the team.

It also shows that Gorton is truly a different GM than Glen Sather, and that he did something that Sather usually failed to do; look toward the future rather than only right now.

Confidence in Gorton should be sky-high following this largely successful offseason.

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Posted on August 1, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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