The Rangers need to keep Mika Zibanejad

By James Van Casteren
AP
Corey Sipkin

Heading into the bye week, the Rangers are picking up some steam. They are playing sound hockey, and have a little jump in their game. With all this being said, and the trade deadline fast approaching, the Rangers will be big-time sellers yet again.

We all know that Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes are likely skating on their farewell tours on Broadway, and many others, such as Chris Kreider, have had their name kicked around; but who is “safe”? The Rangers have made it clear that they will listen to offers on nearly any player aside from their young guns, but I think that center Mika Zibanejad should also make the cut and here’s why.

In July 2016, the Rangers made a big move when they acquired Swedish center Mika Zibanejad, along with a second-round pick in exchange for Derick Brassard. When the deal went down, I was upset because I was a fan of the Hull, Quebec native, but it was the right move. At the time, Zibanejad was just 23-years-old. He had one year left on his deal carrying an AAV of just over $2 million. In his first year on Broadway, Mika had a solid year helping the Rangers get to the postseason tournament and losing in the second round to none other than his former team. In the summer of 2017, Zibanejad became an RFA. After a little pushing and shoving, the Rangers agreed on a five-year contract carrying an AAV of $5.35 million. I personally thought this was the right deal in terms of dollars for the Swedish pivotman, but I wanted Gorton to stretch it out over six or seven years instead of five, and now we are seeing why.

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Zibanejad is having a marvelous season, as he is on pace for 75 points; something we, as Rangers fans, haven’t seen in quite some time. Number 93 has been anchoring the first line all-year long playing with a plethora of linemates and having the responsibility of playing against the opponent’s top line on a nightly basis. Not only is the 25-year-old having a great offensive season, his 200-foot play has been great as well; something he prides himself on. He has been, in my opinion, the best Ranger from the start of the season.

So what’s the point?

The Rangers talk about this group of players that are “walled-off” from trades, and I believe that Zibanejad should be in this category. He is only 25-years-old, has an extremely team-friendly contract, and will be in his prime when this team is, hopefully, on the other side of this rebuild in two years. He does everything asked of him, has become a leader for this young Rangers team, and as mentioned before, which may be the most important thing, he is a massive financial asset. I will be the first to say that I wanted to trade Zibanejad over the summer as a possible way to move up in the draft, and I could not be happier that the Rangers held on to him. The 25-year-old Swede should be the guy spearheading this rebuild because he has earned it. He has developed into a true 1C and is one of the few bright spots on this Rangers team that is having a tough year, as we all expected.