The New York Rangers’ 2015-16 season came to an abrupt end in the first round of the playoffs when they were systematically dominated by a better, faster and more skilled Pittsburgh Penguins team.
The roster had some obvious flaws, and one of the most glaring was a lack of speed that the Penguins were able to consistently expose in the five-game series.
On Monday, general manager Jeff Gorton said one of the goals for the Rangers this summer was for the team to try to get younger and faster without having to give up too much in return. They attempted to address that on Monday with the trade that sent veteran forward Derick Brassard to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Mika Zibanejad.
Even though Brassard has developed into a pretty solid two-way center for the Rangers, and his production was nearly identical to Zibanejad’s this past season, it is still easy to see why this trade was so appealing for the team.
In Zibanejad they are getting a player that is not only more than five years younger, but has also been trending upward over the past few seasons from a production standpoint and is already a strong penalty killer. He also gives them a dimension up front that they had started to lack over the past couple of years with his speed and overall skill level. With a pair of 20-goal seasons already under his belt before his age 23 season in the league it shouldn’t be be out of the question to think he could reach the 30-goal season in the coming years.
But while Zibanejad brings some much needed youth, speed and (for now) salary cap relief to the team, it is still the only significant move the team has made this summer to add talent and address the most glaring flaws on the team. And while it is a nice move, it doesn’t really do much to significantly close the gap between them and the top contenders in Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington.
Gorton refused to say on Monday if he had another move coming after clearing about $2.5 million in cap space.
“You can say cap space if you like, but for us this is a younger player who is almost six years younger, has two 20 goal seasons, and is a player that we think is heading to the prime of his career,” Gorton said.
“The ability to get him, a younger player, someone who is fast, plays well in his own zone, can do a lot of things for us. That is the exciting part, the fact that we have some cap space is good. We will look at everything now but even if I had a move I promise I wouldn’t tell you.”
Gorton also said on Monday that the team had no serious discussions about buying out the remainder of Dan Girardi‘s contract following a tough 2015-16 season.
That means the defense will be mostly the same one that struggled through much of the second half of the season and playoffs … minus its two best puck-moving options in Keith Yandle (traded to Florida) and Dan Boyle (retirement).