Trade Tree: Mika Zibanejad

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The Hurricanes just finished up a wild 8-5 win against the New York Rangers, a team that has given them hell for nearly a decade. Throughout the game, I kept recalling the July 2016 trade where the Senators sent Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 second round pick to the New York Rangers in exchange for Derick Brassard and a 2018 seventh round pick. This was a trade that changed the future of both franchises in a matter of seconds, even though neither team would play for another two months. Some of my readers that have been with me for a while will remember my trade trees that I made in 2016 and 2017. I’m excited to bring it back and look at how this trade has shaped both franchises over two years after the call was made.

On the Surface

It’s pretty easy to look at this trade and think that the Rangers came out ahead. At the time, Zibanejad was a 23-year-old forward that was just starting to reach his potential offensively. He was coming off of a career year with 21 goals and 51 points and was looking like a bright young star on a Senators team that was looking for consistency. Brassard was coming off of an impressive season as well, scoring 27 goals and finishing the season with 58 points. Derick Brassard was 28 at the time of the trade and would turn 29 by the time the regular season started, which has to be taken into consideration here. Zibanejad was just starting to enter his prime at 23 years old and was coming off of a career year. Brassard was starting to exit his prime at 29 years old, and although he was a proven scorer already, some regression had to be expected when this trade came along. Still, Pierre Dorion and the Senators decided that giving up one of their best young forwards and a second round pick was the right move here. It turns out that the trade worked out fairly well early on for the Senators. Call it a fluke, call it luck, call it whatever you want, the Ottawa Senators made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017. Brassard only had 39 points during the regular season but was able to have 11 points in 19 playoff games to help the Senators make it that far. Zibanejad struggled with an injury that kept him out of 26 games but was still able to have 37 points for a Rangers team that looked to be aging rapidly. So in the first year, it’s pretty safe to say that the acquisition of Brassard was enough to offset the loss of Zibanejad.¬†Zibanejad returned to form in the next season, scoring a career high 27 goals and finishing the season with 47 points in 72 games. The Rangers were in the process of rebuilding, but that didn’t stop Zibanejad from having a great season.

Brassard Traded Again

Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators were one of the NHL’s most talked about teams during the 2017-2018 season. The trade for Matt Duchene, the Erik Karlsson trade rumors, and the all-around terrible play after making it to the Eastern Conference Finals the year before were enough to make the Senators the talk of the town. Ottawa was one of the NHL’s worst teams and had to make some decisions heading into the deadline. The Senators decided to trade Derick Brassard to the Penguins in this trade:

To Pittsburgh:

2018 third round pick

Derick Brassard

Vincent Dunn

To Ottawa:

2018 first round pick

Filip Gustavsson

Ian Cole

2019 third round pick

This was a huge return for the Senators, who desperately needed a first round pick. The Matt Duchene trade involved the Senators sending, among other assets, their first round pick in either 2018 or 2019 to the Colorado Avalanche. At this point, it was unclear whether or not Ottawa would keep their first round pick in 2018, so adding an extra first round pick was a big deal for the franchise. The addition of Gustavsson was another big piece in this trade. Gustavsson was a 19-year-old goalie who was having a phenomenal season in the SHL. Gustavsson is still a very good asset and began his professional career towards the end of last season, playing seven games for a terrible Belleville team. He’ll begin the season in the ECHL, which is fine for a goalie that just turned 20. Ian Cole was another good addition for the Senators. He was always solid for the Penguins and looked to be a smart depth addition for the rest of the year. Adding a third round pick in 2019 would have been better if the Sens didn’t trade their 2018 third round pick away, but c’est la vie. This trade left the Senators with two first round picks in 2018 but no picks in the second or third rounds. For a rebuilding team, having picks in the second and third rounds can be almost as big of a difference maker as a first round pick. Still, the Senators made a good move. Vincent Dunn was just a throwaway contract at that point, and didn’t sign an NHL contract after his ELC expired in 2018.

Ottawa immediately proceeded to flip Ian Cole to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Nick Moutrey and a 2020 third round pick. Moutrey was another player that struggled to do much in the AHL and ended up as a free agent after the season ended. The good thing about this trade was that Ottawa essentially received a free third round pick in 2020 since Cole never played in a game for the Senators. On New York’s side, Ottawa’s second round pick that they acquired in the Zibanejad trade was sent to Detroit to fulfill a condition in a 2017 trade that sent Brendan Smith to the Rangers. All in all, here are what the Rangers and Senators acquired in the Brassard/Zibanejad trade before the 2018 draft:

New York Rangers Acquire: 

Mika Zibanejad

Ottawa Senators Acquire:

2018 first round pick

Filip Gustavsson

2019 third round pick

2020 third round pick

2018 seventh round pick

The Senators acquire four picks and a good prospect as a result of this trade. Pierre Dorion may not have done well with the Duchene trade (yet) or the Karlsson trade (yet), but he did well on this one.

2018 Draft Moves

Ottawa decides to keep their 2018 first round pick, giving them the fourth overall pick along with the 22nd overall pick. The Senators also have the Rangers’ seventh round pick that is 194th overall. The Rangers decide to make another trade with Ottawa, sending the 26th and 48th overall picks to the Senators in exchange for the 22nd overall pick. Ottawa moves down four spots and moves into the second round where they did not have a pick. The Rangers draft K’Andre Miller, a defenseman from the United States that has a ton of potential both on the offensive and defensive side of the game. The Senators used the 26th overall pick to take Jacob Bernard-Docker, a defenseman with strong offensive skills that will play in the NCAA this season. Ottawa then used the 48th overall pick on Jonathan Tychonick, yet another defenseman committed to an NCAA team. Pittsburgh traded Ottawa’s third round pick (64th overall) along with the 146th overall pick to Nashville in order to move up six spots and take Filip Hallander, a center from Sweden. Ottawa’s last move was to select Luke Loheit with New York’s seventh round pick. It’s much too early to determine whether New York or Ottawa won this trade, but it’s looking like the Senators may come out on top in this trade. The Rangers acquired Miller and Zibanejad, which is huge, but it’s nothing compared to what Ottawa received. Here’s the full list of what they have acquired:

Ottawa Senators Acquire:

2018 first round pick (Jacob Bernard-Docker)

2018 second round pick (Jonathan Tychonick)

Filip Gustavsson

2019 third round pick

2020 third round pick

2018 seventh round pick (Luke Loheit)

It’s unclear whether any of these players will pan out for the Senators. Ideally you’d hope for at least two of them to play in over 200 games for Ottawa in order to deem this trade as a “win.” If that’s the case, it’s likely that both teams win this trade. New York has Zibanejad signed until 2022, meaning that he’s a part of their plans long-term. Still, the trade can’t be labeled as a win or a loss for the Senators until we start to see how some of these picks develop. Then, and only then, can people start labeling the trade how they want.

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