November 17, 2020

New York Rangers heists; best trades in team history

Ryan McDonagh celebrates with Mika Zibanejad (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Trades happen all the time in the NHL. So many of them fall into the category of minor or rentals. Very rarely do you have deals that fall into the bucket of absolute steals.

Here are the Rangers top three.

#1 Rangers acquire Mika Zibanejad for Derick Brassard

It goes without say that the biggest heist of Jeff Gorton’s tenure as Rangers General Manager was acquiring Mika Zibanejad for a song in 2016. Oddly enough, at the time of the trade not everyone was head over heels in Rangerstown.

Zibanejad has emerged as an elite center (AP Photo)

When the Rangers acquired the former 1st round pick, 6th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft from the Ottawa Senators, the hope was he’d realize his full potential. In exchange, Gorton sent to Ottawa the very popular Derick Brassard who scored quite a few goals during the Rangers deep playoff runs in both 2014 and 2015.

So how do fans feel about the trade now? Mika is not only a fan favorite, he’s considered the leading candidate to be named the next Rangers captain. Yesterday, he was also named the 10th ranked center in the NHL.

Mika’s 41 goals in just 57 games played was staggering as were his 75 points. The exclamation point to Mika’s season was no doubt his 5 goal game against the Capitals late in the year. It highlighted just was a dominant force he can be and made the entire hockey world take notice of his incredible shot.

#2 Rangers acquire Ryan McDonagh for Scott Gomez in a 7 player deal

Glen Sather did most of his player acquisitions via free agency. However, there is one deal where he traded away an underperforming big contract for a future Rangers captain.

Here’s the full deal; NYR send Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt, and Mike Busto to MTL for Ryan McDonagh, Chris Higgins, Doug Janik, and Pavel Valentenko.

New York Rangers trades
Ryan McDonagh was a great NYR trade (Getty Images)

Needless to say, aside from Gomez and McDonagh the rest is just the answer to a trivia question. Bottom line, Ryan became the Blueshirts best defenseman for up until the day they traded him in 2018. The deal was one of the early rebuild moves that landed them Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, a first round pick that became Nils Lundkvist, and a second rounder which turned into Karl Henriksson.

So looking back at the deal, McDonagh guided the Rangers to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and eventually won a title with Tampa in 2020. In the end, McDonagh is still helping the Rangers even if he’s been long gone.

#3 Rangers “acquire” Adam Graves for Troy Mallette

This last deal takes us back to 1991, when GM Neil Smith signed a young Adam Graves to an RFA offer sheet. At the time, when you signed an RFA you could try and work out compensation with the other team. Smith and his counterpart in Edmonton, Glen Sather, were not able to agree on adequate compensation, so the issue had to be decided by an independent arbitrator.

new york rangers trades
Adam Graves with the Cup (Getty Images)

Neil Smith was able to convince the mediator that the rugged enforcer, and fan-favorite, Troy Mallette, was a suitable return for Graves. Much to the chagrin of Sather, Mallette was heading to the Pacific Northwest and Graves was packing his bags for the Big Apple.

While this was not a traditional trade, it basically worked itself out to be. Adam Graves went on to become part of the core four that brought a Stanley Cup to NY after 54 years. He became a Blueshirts legend and has his #9 raised to the Garden Rafters.

Even more important is he is still making a difference. He’s an ambassador and continues to be a charitable force. Truly one of the greatest “trades” in the franchise’s history.

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