In mid-July, the New York Rangers traded Derick Brassard and a 7th-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft to the Ottawa Senators. In exchange, the New York Rangers received Mika Zibanejad and a 2nd-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
As a Rangers fan, when I first heard of the trade, I was appalled. Zibanejad? For Derick Brassard? Are you serious? We are trading Derick Brassard, a prolific scorer and the best post-season performer in recent history for the Rangers, for some young guy I have never heard of? However, as I soon discovered, I was quite misguided on my opinions on the deal.
Derick Brassard came to New York in early 2014 through a trade that sent Marian Gaborik to Columbus. Ever since Brassard’s arrival, he has been a hometown favorite for his hustle, distinguished performance on the powerplay, and excellence in the playoffs.
Brassard led the Rangers with a career-high 27 goals last season and recorded 58 points as well (second on the team).
Mika Zibanejad was drafted by Ottawa in the 1st-round of the 2011 NHL Draft. Zibanejad has been progressing nicely since being drafted, recording career-highs in each of his first 5 seasons. Last year, he finished 5th on the team in goals, assists, and points.
Zibanejad and Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan were the only players 22 years old or younger to score 20 goals and win at least 50% of their faceoffs (minimum 1,000 faceoffs) last season.
Who exactly got the better end of this trade? Let’s analyze!
Last year, Derick Brassard finished with 1.13 Goals/60 and 0.34 PPG/60, respectively placing him 1.4 standard deviations above the mean in both stats (92nd percentile). In terms of scoring, this puts Brassard at an elite level.
On the other hand, Zibanejad finished the year with 0.88 Goals/60 and 0.08 PPG/60, placing him 0.75 standard deviations above and 0.33 standard deviations below the mean (87th percentile and 37th percentile). While Zibanejad averaged fewer goals per 60 minutes than Brassard did, he should still be considered a prolific scorer. Contrary to his reputation, he was substantially below average in power play scoring.
Purely based on scoring, Brassard has the upper hand, especially considering that he had 5 more power play assists than Zibanejad. However, Zibanejad is also a key contributor on the penalty kill, while Brassard plays the vast majority of his special teams minutes on the powerplay.
Brassard and Zibanejad finished with similar, but below average numbers on turnover differential, Corsi %, +/-, and expected +/-.
Both Brassard and Zibanejad were slightly above average on faceoffs, with Brassard coming in at 50.2% and Zibanejad coming in at 50.5%.
So, on first glance, it appears that the Senators easily won this trade. Right?
The Senators are receiving a developed player, who has proven to be a prolific scorer, especially in the postseason, while the Rangers are receiving a developing player. However, if you look deeper, it is actually the New York Rangers who won this trade.
With the exception of power play goals, Brassard and Zibanejad are virtually identical players with one key difference. Zibanejad is 5 years younger than Brassard! This means that Zibanejad still has plenty of time to develop and is nowhere close to his prime, while Brassard, 28, is likely experiencing his peak right now.
Additionally, Brassard’s cap hit is $2.5 million more than Zibanejad’s in the 2016-17 season. This trade freed up $2.5 million in cap space for the Rangers next season, which effectively allowed the Rangers to sign both Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes during their arbitration hearings.
Even though Zibanejad is a free agent after the 2016-17 season, he is a RFA, meaning that the Rangers can sign him as long as they match the highest offer. This gives the Rangers great flexibility in the future as they can resign Zibanejad if they want to, but could also pass on him. Considering he is a highly talented young player, the Rangers will likely not have enough cap space to sign him unless they clear cap space.
On top of that, the Rangers received a 2nd-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. 2nd-round picks in the past have proven to be a great asset in trade negotiations. Additionally, many talented players have come out of the 2nd-round, including P.K. Subban, James Neal, Patrice Bergeron, and Duncan Keith.
Although the Rangers’ management has made some bad calls in the past 2 years, (Carl Hagelin trade, Dan Boyle signing, Keith Yandle trade, Cam Talbot trade, Martin St. Louis trade) this trade certainly isn’t one of them. While this trade may have benefitted the Ottawa Senators, the New York Rangers certainly won this trade.
Data courtesy of Hockey Reference and NHL.com. Thanks for reading!
Written by Jason Platkin