After getting run out of the playoffs in the first round by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers made another move to improve their speed.
They also got a little younger in the process.
The Rangers on Monday traded centre Derick Brassard to the Ottawa Senators for forward Mika Zibanejad in a deal involving players coming off career seasons.
The deal includes draft picks with the Rangers receiving the Senators' second-round draft pick in 2018. Ottawa will get the Rangers' seventh-round pick that year.
"I think the potential is there for more upside," Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said of Zibanejad. "He is just scratching the surface at age 23. There are not a lot of guys who have done what he has done as far as scored 20 before that age."
Zibanejad skated in 81 games with Ottawa with 21 goals and 30 assists. He established career highs in games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals (seven), and faceoff win rate (50.5 per cent). He has scored at least 20 goals in each of the past two seasons.
The 28-year-old Brassard, who is returning to his hometown, had a career-high 27 goals and finished second on the team with 58 points in 80 games last season. His 31 assists were 10 less than the previous season.
"I was a little shocked when it happened today," Brassard said. "But I'm really happy to be joining the Sens and playing at home. I really like their team, I really like the balance of their team all the way from the goaltender all the way out to the forwards. I think they're the up-and-coming team and with Guy Boucher being the coach, I think it's going to be really good for the team."
Zibanejad gives New York a player who has had success in the shootout. He has tallied a goal on 13 of his 28 career NHL shootout attempts, and he has five game-deciding goals in the shootout.
Zibanejad led the Senators in game-winning goals, faceoff wins, and faceoffs taken, ranked third in short-handed goals (two), tied for third in games played, tied for fourth in assists, and ranked fifth in points and power-play points (11) in 2015-16. He also ranked third among Ottawa forwards in short-handed ice time per game (1:25).
The 6-foot-2 Swede has skated in 281 NHL games over parts of five seasons (2011-12 to 2015-16), getting 64 goals and 87 assists. He was selected by Ottawa with the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Brassard skated in 254 games with the Rangers over parts of four seasons, getting 69 goals and 105 assists. He was acquired by New York from Columbus in April 2013 in a multiplayer trade that sent forward Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets.
Senators general manager Pierre Dorion believes Brassard is a better hockey player at this point than Zibanejad.
"Our ultimate goal is to make the playoffs again, and we feel that Derick's going to help us make the playoffs," Dorion said. "There's also more: We feel that Derick provides great talent, brings leadership into our room. He's someone that's played a lot of games in the NHL more than Mika."
Zibanejad will be a restricted free agent after the 2016-17 season and will earn $2.62 million.
Brassard is under contract through 2018-19, earning $5 million annually.
Gorton, who signed Michael Graber and Nathan Gerbe as free agents in the off-season in an effort to improve team speed, refused to say whether the Rangers were planning any other moves with the new found salary cap space.
In other matters, Gorton said the Rangers decided not to buy out the contract of veteran defenceman Dan Girardi.
"We have seen some real good production out of him for many years, and he did by all accounts not have the kind of year we wanted or he wanted," Gorton said. "We expect Dan to be better and he expects to be better. The buyout just didn't make sense for us."