Updated: Apr 2, 2020
Revisiting the controversial Zibanejad – Brassard swap 4 years later
*All current stats relative from March 19, 2020
A mere two years ago, the New York Rangers released a statement to fans and season ticket holders stating the new direction the team will be going in. The letter stated that the team was heading towards a rebuild and that fans should expect to see lots of change and movement towards bringing in new, young faces along with a stockpile of picks. Of course, that means that some of New York’s fan favourites may be shipped out as a result. In just over two years, Jeff Gorton has done a phenomenal job in doing just that, reshaping the once dominant Rangers into a team that looks extremely promising starting as early as next season. Just for reference, here are some of Gorton’s latest and best deals during their rebuilding phase dating back to mid 2017:
Not a bad track record for Jeff Gorton as he did an excellent job at trading off some older vets for high end draft picks, and even went out and splurged by acquiring both Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox (the latter has been especially phenomenal for the Rangers in his first year). With that being said, the reason I am even writing this article is not to comment on how well this rebuild has gone, but more so about one trade in particular that is now looking out to be one of the biggest steals of the last five years. Yup, as the sub-title suggests, I am talking about the Mika Zibanejad and Derick Brassard swap with Ottawa. I remember at the time in the summer of 2016 there was a lot of buzz and controversy surrounding this deal with arguments being made for both sides. Let’s take a look back at it over three years later.
The trade is as follows: the New York Rangers receive Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 2nd round pick from the Ottawa Senators, in exchange for Derick Brassard and a 2018 7th round pick. At the time of the deal, Zibanejad was only 23 years old, and produced 151 points in 281 games for the Ottawa Senators while making $2.625M in the final year of his two-year deal. Now, Brassard was already 28 with much more money owed to him over the next three years, so already, this trade did not make much sense, let alone adding a high-end draft pick for a lower one in the Rangers favour. Confusion.
Ottawa was at a point where they were in a “win now” scenario, and that season they went on to make it to the conference finals before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champions the Pittsburgh Penguins in the double-overtime period of game 7. So maybe that alone makes this trade worthwhile, as Brassard picked up 11 points in 19 playoff games for the Sens that year. But what about long term?
Brassard followed up his first season with Ottawa with an injury riddled one but was producing at a good rate with 38 points in just 58 games. Not bad right? Well, he was then traded to the very same team who knocked the Sens out less than a year ago in a three-team deal. Ottawa would end up receiving defenceman Ian Cole (who never suited up for the Sens as he was traded shortly after), Filip Gustavsson, a 2018 1st round pick and a 2019 3rd round pick for shipping out Brassard, prospect Vincent Dunn, and a 2018 3rd round pick. So, all in all, I guess you could say the Sens were able to recoup their assets for Brassard but damn, Zibanejad is beginning to look like one of the best centres in the league. Here is a look at how the return has played out for the Senators:
This took a while to research and track throughout the drafts, but we can narrow it down to this - in the end, Ottawa received Filip Gustavsson, Nick Moutrey, Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jonathon Tychonik, Mads Søgaard and a 2020 3rd round pick. We do, however, have to keep in mind that they ended up moving on from a lot of other draft picks that were involved, and they lost out on the prime years of Mika Zibanejad. However, credit to Ottawa’s general manager Pierre Dorion for building a team that was one goal away from reaching the Stanley Cup finals AND recouping some solid assets in the deal that saw Brassard head to Pittsburgh.
Of course, all this hype is stemmed from Zibanejad’s five goal game against the Washington Capitals on March 5, 2020, only adding to his already career high in goals (39) and bringing him within two points of his career high in points (72) in just 55 games played. I am sure playing alongside Artemi Panarin helps with offensive production, but Zibanejad is still only 26 years old and is arguably entering his prime this season (if it continues). Since the trade, Zibanejad has 230 points in 265 games for the New York Rangers while Brassard is now on his fourth team since the trade after signing a one-year deal with the New York Islanders and amassed 138 points (30 this year with the Islanders) in 288 games.
Obviously, there is a huge discrepancy between these two players now, and I am sure Ottawa knew that it would eventually end this way by acquiring a much older, albeit more established player, for a younger one on the rise. With that being said, it is clear that New York is happy with this deal and would do it again in a heartbeat if they had the chance, but would the Senators? Was a year and a half of Brassard and a conference final appearance worth giving up a 2nd round pick AND Mika Zibanejad? We may never get an answer, but I am sure Jeff Gorton is loving how his rebuild is coming along, being led by his number one centre Zibanejad.
Stats from eliteprospects.com
Contract Research and Trade History from CapFriendly.com