Derick Brassard, who scored a career-high 27 goals for the Rangers last season, was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Monday for younger forward Mika Zibanejad. The Rangers also received a 2018 second-round draft pick and the Senators get a seventh-round pick in 2018.
Zibanejad, a 23-year-old Swede who was a first-round pick by the Senators in 2011, has $2.65 million left in the final year of a two-year agreement, according to Spotrac.com. He will become a restricted free agent after the 2016-17 season. Brassard, 28, leaves New York with three years remaining on a five-year, $25-million contract.
Zibanejad, who has played his entire career with the Senators, set career highs last season in games played (81), goals (21), assists (30) and points (51). He has 64 goals and 87 assists in 281 regular-season NHL games.
Speaking on a conference call, Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said of Zibanejad: “For us, this is a player that is almost six years younger that’s coming off two 20-goal seasons that we think is heading into the prime of his career. The ability to get a younger player, a guy that is fast, big, plays real well in his own zone, can do a lot of things for us, that is the exciting piece. The fact that we have salary-cap space is good, and we’ll look at everything now.
“I think the potential is there for more upside. He’s just scratching the surface at age 23. There’s not a lot of guys that have done what he’s done — scored 20 before that age. You look at the way the game is played, you look at some of the things he does — he kills penalties, he’s emerged on draws. He’s gotten better every year.”
Brassard, who is returning to his hometown, was second on the Rangers with 58 points in 80 games last season. His 31 assists were 10 fewer than the previous season. “I was a little shocked when it happened today,” he said. “But I’m real ly happy to be joining the Sens and playing at home.”
Gorton did not want to be drawn into comparisons of Brassard and Zibanejad.
“I really wouldn’t want to compare him to Derick,” Gorton said. “Derick Brassard has been a real good player for us. That trade we made for him coincided with a lot of good years for us; a lot of success for him and us. But I wouldn’t want to put him player for player and say, ‘He’s going to do this or that.’ This is a trade where we felt we’re getting younger, we’re getting a player that has upside, and we really like the way he’s trending.”
Rangers sign Kovacs. The Rangers also announced the signing of forward Robin Kovacs to an entry-level contract. Kovacs, 19, was the Rangers’ third-round draft pick in 2015. He played in 44 games with AIK IF of Allsvenskan in Sweden this past season and had 21 goals and 13 assists.
Birthplace: Huddinge, Sweden
Drafted: 2011, Ottawa, first round (6th overall)
Penalty minutes: 64