Rangers deal Brassard for Zibanejad, as Ottawa goes win-now

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TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 18: <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/players/3987/" data-ylk="slk:Derick Brassard">Derick Brassard</a> #16 of the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/nyr/" data-ylk="slk:New York Rangers">New York Rangers</a> celebrates a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 18, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 18: Derick Brassard #16 of the New York Rangers celebrates a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 18, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Hey look, the New York Rangers finally made a significant move in the 2016 NHL offseason.

The Rangers traded center Derick Brassard and a seventh-round pick in 2018 to the Ottawa Senators for forward Mika Zibanejad and a second-round pick in 2018.

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Renaud Lavoie reports that the trade was agreed upon for weeks but that Brassard just earned a $2 million bonus on July 15, and the Senators wanted the Rangers on the hook for it.

Brassard, 28, makes $5 million against the cap through 2019, scoring 27 goals and adding 31 assists in 80 games. Zibanejad, 22, makes $2.625 million against the cap through this season and then goes RFA. So we’re talking about a deal that gives the Rangers cap savings in the short term and flexibility in the upcoming expansion draft.

We’re also talking about a trade that makes the Rangers arguably weaker up the middle in the short term, but we’ll get to that.

Brassard has a modified no-trade clause. The Rangers had discussed both him and Derek Stepan with teams this summer, but they needed to get a center back in any move they made. Zibanejad had 21 goals and 30 assists last season, and his 51 points was his highest point total in his four years in the NHL.

The evaluation from Silver Sevens earlier this summer, in discussing why he might not be an untouchable if the deal is right:

His value has never been higher, and we don’t know for sure that his linear growth is going to keep going up. It may be smart to cash in on the belief that he can become a 65 point player, because Ottawa’s need on defense is so large. However, he may actually become that 65 point centre, so a trade to another team may end up being regrettable.

Brassard, meanwhile, is a proven 60-point center. He clicked with Mats Zuccarello and J.T. Miller, and was responsible for whatever offensive consistency that can be squeezed out of Rick Nash these days. Kyle Turris and Derick Brassard are a rather solid one-two punch for the center spot in 2016-17. And it’ll be fun to watch Brassard on that Senators power play as well.

It’s beyond next season that’ll judge the success or failure of this move. The Rangers pry open a bit more cap space with this deal, and one wonders what GM Jeff Gorton might be still attempting here for next season.

But if Zibanejad trends up again and the Rangers have to hand him a massive deal next summer … well, god-willing they get a bit more room if they can convince George McPhee to take Rick Nash off their hands and then maybe slip something into Dan Girardi’s drink to get him to agree to join them. Otherwise, depending on the term, Zibanejad earns a higher cap hit than Brassard. But again, he’s significantly younger. And hey, a second-round pick in the balance is nothing to sneeze at.

A short-term win for the Senators here, because they got the best player in the trade, but with the caveat that Zibanejad could be something special in the long-run for the Rangers.

Although Ottawa selling high here gives us pause on that theory.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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