Brassard traded for Zibanejad, precursor to a bigger move?

Zibanejad scores (CBC)

Zibanejad scores (CBC)

For weeks leading up to the NHL draft and after it, the entire hockey world was expecting the Blueshirts to make a move that never happened. Then out of nowhere in the middle of July, Jeff Gorton makes a move that appears to come from left field.

The Obvious Reasons For the Deal

Mika Zibanejad and Derick Brassard are both centers. By making this move, the Rangers have gotten a player who is 5 years younger (23). He will instantly become their 2nd line center and gives them an additional right handed option on the PP, outside of Derek Stepan.

Financially, Zibanejad makes substantially less. His cap hit is only 2.625M versus Brassard’s 5M cap hit (a savings of about 2.4M). However, Zibanejad will be an RFA next season and his production level will probably have him net a deal equal to or greater than Brass’ 5M. The upgrade in picks is a nice sweetner.

Why Trade Brassard and not say, Stepan?

If this was a cost cutting move only, you can argue that maybe trading Derek Stepan who has a cap hit of 6.5M makes more sense. Stepan is 26, 2 years younger than Brassard and 3 years older than Zibanejad. So the argument the Rangers wanted to get younger also applies. The following chart shows just how comparable their points per 60 are.

Stepan, Brassard, Zibanejad its per 60

Stepan, Brassard, Zibanejad its per 60

When you also look at Stepan’s Full No Trade clause that kicks in next summer, there are more financial gains and roster flexibility to be had by moving him instead.

One key component for not trading Stepan that needs to be mentioned is his ability to kill penalties. Ultimately by moving Brassard, Jeff Gorton is likely signaling that any of those Stepan trade rumors are now moot. Derek Stepan isn’t going anywhere but is Gorton done?

What Does This Trade Tell Us?

brass zucc getty

brass zucc getty

By moving Brassard, you have to believe that opening up the additional cap space isn’t for overpaying Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes. Before today, the Rangers certainly had enough money to sign both.

What this is telling me, is that more moves or at least one more big trade is coming. If the Rangers use 7M to sign both Kreider and Hayes, plus send down Tanner Glass to the Wolfpack, that would give the Rangers 4.275M in free cap space to improve the team.

Now take into consideration that this means the Rangers could trade Rick Nash and actually take back salary. Is there a bigger move coming up front? On defense? Or both? The obvious need is to find a partner for Ryan McDonagh on the top pair.

Is this a signal that the Rangers will make a move for Shattenkirk? This would be a great move, unless the Rangers are required to send players like Chris Kreider the other way. Or is there a bigger deal with the Anaheim Ducks that could land Cam Fowler and maybe a forward of note?

Right now, this trade seems to create more questions than it does answers. Jeff Gorton’s comments at his presser did not really clarify too much.

In Conclusion

This move certainly gives the Rangers more room and flexibility to change the roster. They did lose however their best offensive player in the playoffs as he recorded 44 points in 59 games since the 2012/13 playoffs.

At the end of the day, Gorton may not want to discuss what he is working on, but this move screams something else is brewing.