Well, this came from out of nowhere: The New York Rangers have dealt center Derick Brassard and a 2018 seventh-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for center Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 second-round pick.
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Both teams get something out of this deal, but it seems to check more boxes for the Rangers, who get younger, cheaper and deeper as a result.
Zibanejad is coming off a career-best season of 21 goals and 51 points. He's versatile, has good size (6' 2", 220) and a heavy, improving shot. And at 23, he has five years on the 28-year-old Brassard. That's a move in the right direction for a team whose Stanley Cup window has closed and needs to get younger as a result.
Friday, May 27, 2016
The second-rounder is equally significant. The Rangers have made just two picks in the first two rounds over the past four years, so this high-end asset should help refill a very shallow talent pool.
But the key to making this swap lies in the cost savings. Zibanejad counts just $2.65 million against the cap compared to $5 million for Brassard. That leaves the Blueshirts with $10.65 million worth of space, which should be enough to get RFAs Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes signed to new deals while leaving a bit of breathing room for GM Jeff Gorton down the road.
After playing the past three seasons in New York, Brassard should make a smooth transition to the Sens. He's a local boy who grew up just across the Ottawa River in Hull and has some familiarity with Guy Boucher. The incoming head coach was behind the bench when Brassard finished off his junior career with Drummondville of the QMJHL in 2006-07.
Brassard had a career-best 27-goal season, and his 31 assists and 58 points were his second-best totals. He's a better player than Zibanejad at the moment and should boost a Senators attack that ranked ninth last season, scoring an average of 2.8 goals per game.
Still, it's tougher to suss out Ottawa's motivations. The Sens, who missed the postseason last spring largely due to their defensive failings, aren't appreciably closer to that goal as a result of adding Brassard.
If there's one obvious benefit, it would be cost certainty. Brassard is signed through the 2018-19 season, at which point he'll become an unrestricted free agent. Zibanejad is only tied down through 2016-17 and Ottawa's brass may have been concerned that his next deal would have cost them more than they were comfortable with.