Mika Zibanejad has a new house in Ottawa but a new hockey team in New York. So Monday’s trade from the Senators to the Rangers for Derick Brassard was not quite a housewarming gift for the 23-year-old center.
“It wasn’t anything I counted on,’’ Zibanejad said on a conference call Tuesday. “It wasn’t anything I was waiting by my phone to get that phone call. It came as a surprise and kind of shock in the beginning, but once that settled down and I got to just realize to be a part of the New York Rangers organization it was more excitement for me and the family, as well. “
Zibanejad had a house built for a reported $2 million in Island Park, a tony neighborhood in the west end of Ottawa, about 450 miles from Manhattan.
“It’s not convenient, I’ll tell you that much ,’’ he said of having to relocate. “It is what it is. I really would like to stay [in Ottawa] for a longer time, but things like this happen. I’m not too worried about it. I know I’ll figure it out and I’ll be fine. I’m just looking for a move to New York now.’’
In June 2012, Zibanejad was said to be part of a package the Senators offered the Blue Jackets in exchange for Rick Nash. The deal reportedly fizzled because Nash would not waive his no-trade clause to play in Ottawa. Nash later wound up with the Rangers.
“I mean I heard rumors about it,’’ Zibanejad said of that proposed deal. “I’ve been hearing rumors before about other trades. I guess at that time I felt it was close, I don’t know how close it was. This trade wasn’t really on the radar for me, at least I didn’t hear anything about it. It came as a shock and surprise, but like I said before I’m for it right now, obviously, and I’m really excited to kick off the season here.’’
Zibanejad said he has already received welcoming texts from some new teammates and looks forward to formally meeting fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist.
“I spoke to him a couple of times, just said ‘Hi.’ I haven’t really interacted with him too much on a personal level,’’ he said. “I just know he’s really good friends with [Senators captain] Erik Karlsson, one of my closest friends in Ottawa. He has nothing but good things to say about him, so I’m excited.’’
As for what he brings to the Rangers, the 6-2, 223-pound Zibanejad said, “I feel like I can skate very good for a bigger guy. I feel like my shot is getting improved every year. I feel like I’m a pretty good all-around solid player. I think obviously as a young player you can always improve in every different aspect of your game. Keep working on the faceoff, keep working on the little details that will help me and the team be successful. I feel like I’m solid all-around, but I’m not happy just yet with what I’ve accomplished and where I am so [I want] to make a bigger impact every year as well.’’’
Zibanejad, who had career highs in goals (21) and assists (30) last season, may want to show his old team they made a mistake.
“Yes and no,’’ he said. “I don’t know how to say it in the best way but obviously you want to prove what they are going to miss, I guess. But I’m excited that [the Rangers] believe in me and really think I can make an impact and see the potential in all of this. And I’m happy the way things went down.”