Trading Mika Zibanejad

Folks, we’re a week away from the New Year, and that means something important in Rangerstown: the roster freeze will be lifting and trades can be made once again. Hopefully, Gorton has been working the phones in the holiday season, and has something cooking to bring home legit assets to help improve and even expedite this rebuild. I’m of the opinion that it can be done, and I’m almost positive there’s an easy way to do it: that’s right, it’s time to trade Mika Zibanejad.

There’s a petty reason for my desire to do this, and it has to do with Kevin Hayes. We’ve been re-litigating this whole Hayes thing for months now, and it’s about as exhausting as rehashing about the last (or anticipating the next) presidential election. An easy way to solve this problem would be to trade Mika Zibanejad and extend Hayes. Seems simple enough, and of course putting an end to nonstop and exhausting internet debate is as good of a reason to make a trade as any.

There’s a real reason here, and it has to do with our logjam at forward, and the necessity of opening up room for youngsters to move up the depth chart. Asset management wise, Kevin Hayes is on a one-year deal and will likely pick up less on the trade market than Zibby, and here’s my real, no joke hot take to drop on you all this fine Boxing Day: Kevin Hayes is better than Mika Zibanejad and will help this team succeed long term in a way that Zibanejad just won’t.

Let’s talk about the biggest reason to keep Kevin Hayes – he makes everyone around him better by either scoring or setting up goals immediately. To date, he’s played 345 regular season games, notching 145 points at even strength in that time (0.42 points per game at 5v5). The number of those that are primary points are staggering – 117 are primary points. That’s slightly over 80 percent, which is uh, pretty good odds for putting the biscuit in the basket when he looks like he’s cooking something up. We’re not even taking into account points on the man-advantage either.

Mika Zibanejad, by contrast, has played 163 games with the Rangers and scored 55 points (.34 points per game at 5v5), of which 38 have been primary helpers or goals themselves. That comes out to 69% of his points being finishers or about-to-be’s, which, while still impressive doesn’t quite come to the level of Hayes.

I’m also going to drop two charts on you but recommend you go to Sean Tierney’s Tableau account to check out tings out for yourselves because you can mouse over each individual shot, which is extremely cool. Here goes nothing.

The most notable thing to me here is the expected goals per shot, as well as the shooting percentage. Hayes generates almost 0.10 expected goals per shot, which means if he takes ten shots one of them is going in almost guaranteed. Zibanejad’s, meanwhile, is much smaller – two thirds of Hayes’s 0.09 – and his shooting percentage is 2% higher. This says to me that Zibanejad’s scoring is inflated beyond what Hayes’s is, but that Hayes’s chances are higher quality. Sounds like we’ve got two real deal 1C’s on our hands, but only enough room to keep one.

There’s a better reason to trade Zibanejad though, and that’s his contract. I already mentioned that Hayes’s rental status is going to depress his trade value, but Zibanejad is signed long term. Some similar players, via CapFriendly, who I think most teams would prefer Zibanejad over until 2022, are Ondrej Palat, Nino Niederrereiter (probably the only guy I would take over Zibby, and even then it’d be close), Jason Zucker, JT Miller (remember him?), and Tomas Tatar. There’s a whole list of guys who are making more money too, and I’m sure teams might rather have Zibanejad at $5.35m than Matt Duchene at $6m or Tomas Hertl $5.625. The market value for a center is only going up, and right now Zibanejad’s value only increases as the going rate increases. Under-market-value scoring is going to take home a haul long-term, and that’s perhaps the best reason to trade him.

Hayes meanwhile is only going to get more expensive as time goes on – the moment to sign him was yesterday, but if we could lock him down at $6m per it’d still be either perfect market equilibrium or even below market price. You guys know Logan Couture? He’s played 189 games in the past three season we looked at for Zibanejad, 72 even strength primary points out of 82 (87.8%), and costs $8m per year starting next season. Yeah, at the margins, I’ll take Hayes surround by some young guns, thanks.

Lastly, and this is purely subjective, but I have a hunch that Kevin Hayes’s playmaking and vision is going to age a bit better than Mika Zibanejad’s speed and slapshot. The former skill set can set up clean exits and entries, quarterback long cycling plays that wear teams down, and, as we’ve already gone over, really make it easy for guys to score. Speed and a wicked slapper can do you well too, but Mika also has a history of injuries and won’t be as much use when he slows down and loses a little bit of heat and precision on that shot of his. It’ll be a tough decision to make given the excitement he brings to the team, but Hayes surrounded by young gun wingers in front of a column of center depth is going to be a force in this league as the Rangers rebound.

I hope I haven’t ruined your holidays with this hot take, but it’s been on my mind. One way or another the Rangers are at an impasse and need to maximize their value. We need young players and draft picks, especially on defense, and the way to do that is to sell high on prime assets. I’m not saying Mika Zibanejad is a bad player, quite the opposite. What I’m saying is that trading Hayes and keeping Zibanejad does this team less good over time than does trading Zibanejad and keeping Hayes. Besides which, I’m sick of arguing about this all the time.

Show More
  • Mikia is a better value than Hayes and works harder. Don’t be fooled by the last 10 games of Hayes’ career. He needs to go, Mika needs to know he is the true #1 center and the logjam at center needs to be broken.

    • “Mika needs to know he is the true #1 center” I’m sure Zibby felt that when JG decided to hire a fellow Bostonian and family friend of Hayes. Than add in all the numerous talks of wanting and still expecting him to stay here long term. Trust me, Zib must have been feeling the love since July.

      “Don’t be fooled by the last 10 games of Hayes’ career” Lol can you say delusional? KH smoked him since January 2018 with multi point games.

      Face bro, Hayes is the better 5v5 player and sets more high quality plays for his teammates. He can take the puck end to end and create a grade A scoring chance for himself or other’s. His 200 ft game> Zib’s

      Zib has hardly been in a matchup role and 3rd in mintues on the PK ( not even close to what Hayes averages) and he has terrible pk stats. His +\- has been polar opposite to what Hayes presents ( once again ). JG will be the final judge to this topic.

      • Hayes is playing this hard because he IS playing for a contract. Once he signs, the lazy 48 point Hayes will re-emerge.

        • Well you can keep that narrative for later after he resigns here. It sounds like some fun pillow talk for you and the other armchair GM’ s who wanted to see him gone. In sophmore slump season, he put up what most teams would die to have as a 3c- 35 points. Hayes is the better center. Have a good day 🙂

        • My thoughts also. Professional sports are filled with “contract year” stars that never seem to replicate them. I hope he keeps improving his trade value.

        • I’m with Mint on Hayes. He’s showed improvement in his overall play every year aside from his 2nd year — and I attribute part of that decline in the 2nd year to the absence of Hagelin on his wing, who was the perfect compliment to Hayes’ game — then came Grabner who was also complimented Hayes.

          There’s no good reason to assume this season is just an aberration, it looks more like the maturation of a good player (like Kreider). For years I’ve heard fans whine and complain that guys like Kreider and Hayes weren’t living up to their potential, well at the ripe old ages of 26 and 27 they both have finally arrived. They are keepers.

  • we only need 1 of them long term 1 needs to go for more assets which one will cost the least Mika. that says sell high ASAP on Hayes. If he breaks his leg we get nothing!

    Krastsov was good last night will be watching again tonight!

    • The kid is impressive……………..

      I fear that Zib’s concussion history is going to come back and bite him in the rear. He may well be the odd man out, and gets traded. Time will tell who gets traded, hope it’s the right person!!!

      • Hayes won’t ever succumb to a concussion because he doesn’t go to the dirty parts of the ice (the corners and the crease). Zibby isn’t afraid to work in both areas.

    • What’s impressive about Kravs is that even when he doesn’t score (like last night against the Czechs) he still finds a way to drive the play. In the 3rd period he produced numerous monster shifts where he just controlled the play all shift long. That said I’m not sure I want him at Center … would much prefer to see him totally freed up offensively on the wing and not burdened by the additional responsibilities of playing center.

  • Fun fact – you don’t need to trade either one! If you want to maximize return on a player right now it’s Kreider.

    • you mean the teams only goal scoring threat right now (and strongest and fastest player) ? if anything he’s one you extend.

      • He turns 28 in August and is shooting ~5% above his career average. Probably not sustainable that he’s going to be this kind of scorer going forward.

        With that said, my point was more that there’s other guys you could move if the objective is getting parts/picks back for the rebuild outside of breaking up a 1A/1B center duo just because.

      • They’re not going to resign Kreider anytime soon. They will probably keep him for a possible 2020 playoff. I don’t see the Rangers paying him 6.6 to 6.9 for 6 years that will take him into his mid 30s. Sorry but he’s not a Filip Forseberg type to warrant that kind of money.

        • The kid is thoroughly conscientious about keeping his body in tip top condition. I don’t think he’ll be one of those players that declines as he crosses the 30 year old barrier, to the contrary I think he’ll improve like a fine wine into his early 30’s. We’ll see over the course of the next couple of years whether that bears out, if it seems to then we might consider the possibility of signing him to a 5-6 year deal heavily front loaded with a very limited NTC in the last half of the contract.

          PS: He should be wearing the C … and Hayes the A, or the other way around — let the players decide.

  • “We have two 1c’s on our hands” the biggest crock I’ve heard out of our fans. no wonder the last cup was 20 years ago. Overall Hayes is 60th in points. and to date … Has never hit 50. Zib, has nicked it once at 51. I’d keep mika BC he is by far our best shooter. You can find playmakers a lot easier, esp later in the first round. Plus a zib trade would likely be in the summer. they need to get the 2019 pick as high as possible.

  • Well would you look at that? Hayes leads the team in points, assist and shorthanded points. Who would have thought that he just needed some more ice time, quality linemates and a chance on the PP1? As I said back in August, that Quinn will hook his boy up in a position to succeed. He’s already passed the strict shutdown role, he put up similar numbers to Kreider and Zib lol. He still ended up being a much better 5v5 and main assist player than those two. What he’s been doing since last January shouldn’t come as a surprise.

    Going into 2019 with Hayes leading sounds about right lol. The Hayes vs Zib will come into full affect before July 1st. This is why I think they trade Kreider in a package deal for a huge haul.

    “Hayes’s rental status is going to depress his trade value” Is the reason I’ve been telling folks that the management obviously wanted to keep Hayes. As Sather said, he expects JG to offer a even better contract so Hayes can be here long term.

  • Keep them both, there’s no evidence that any of the young kids can step in and be a #1 or #2 line center as of yet. There will always be time to trade either Hayes and/or Mika down the line, but for now the younger players are doing just fine playing on the wings or in the case of Howden, centering the 3rd line (something we made Hayes do for years before promoting him after the Stepan trade).

    • Yeah but Hayes will age better than Zib. Look at how Brian Boyle has played, I could see Hayes be that version for the top 9 with better wheels to him. His hands, vision and 3 zone play with/without the puck won’t vanish out of thin air. I think he’ll be a top 6 center in his early 30s or at least on this team seeing how guy’s like Andersson looked so far.

      Without a doubt Hayes paid his dues. FO loves stuff like that and now they’re repaying him with a like minded coach.

      • Maybe … maybe not. Mika is under a great contract through the age of 28, until his last year (2021-22) there will be no point trading him unless someone wants to blow us away.

    • The Rangers still haven’t filled the giant chasm left when they traded away McDonough. Now some Ranger fans are advocating trading away 3 out the 4 things they got going for them; Hayes, Zib and Kreider ( Lundqvist is the 4th.).

      Going forward I would like to see the Ranger franchise keep their good players and unload the underachievers. The first being Shattenkirk even if it means retaining salary . Next Skinny Smith and McQuaid.

      Zuc will likely be moved because of his age, but for this fan, the departure of the Magical Hobbit marks an end of a special era in Ranger history.

  • I think Hayes turns into Stepan after the 2nd year of his contract. We need to be very careful with any extensions.

      • What I am saying is that we need to be careful when we sign players to long term contracts that extend beyond their 30th birthday. Holds true for Panarin (f we choose to sign him) as well. I would rather sign a 23 y/o to a 6 year contract than a 26 y/o to a 6 year contract.

        • 26 for an extra 6 isn’t that bad, but I agree with what you’re saying in principle. Usually though with a 26 + 6 you can usually move them in year 4 or 5, unless they’ve deteriorated completely — and I don’t see that in the cards for Hayes (or Mika) who are just now hitting their prime. Kreider will be a greater concern as his contract draws to a close, that’s where the greatest caution will have to be exercised given his age (although in Kreider’s defense, he’s a beast that is totally committed to keeping his body in tip top shape).

  • Unless the Rangers are going to do a tear down or get blown away by an offer, I do not see any compelling reason to trade Zibanejad. He is only 25 and they have him locked up for his prime years.

    Likewise, unless they get blown away by offers for Hayes or he demands a ridiculous contract to sign, I don’t see any compelling reason to trade Hayes either. I’d instead try to lock him up for a few years. For that matter, I don’t see a compelling reason to trade Kreider unless when his contract comes up he is looking for too much money and a NMC.

    It seems to me that the two centers are fine on the club for now. It also seems that the Rangers lack wingers so trading Kreider would make matters worse.

    Now, if they are doing a tear down, then trade two or all three and cash in. But is that really the plan? It doesn’t seem to be. Not when you have Adam McQuaid and Brendan Smith and Marc Staal on the roster. Not when you sit DeAngelo and can’t find time to play Lias Andersson. Right now it seems like the plan is a muddle. At least it does to me.

    • … and not as long as Hank is around. I know Hank wants to retire a Ranger, but I wonder if he would have really bought in on the rebuild (renovation) if the plan wasn’t to be competitive in 2-3 years.

  • Happy to see Anderson go down he was wasting time up here. I’m also worried that Howden is hitting the wall a bit maybe time with the pack would help him too. Possibly Howden and Anderson can rotate between 3rd line center and the pack. Playing 20 year olds on the 4th line is dumb.

    Time to limit Hank to only every other game too.

    • Yeah that is DEFINITELY not going to happen. Quinn didn’t want to rotate Andersson in 3c for to long ( until Howden could return ). I don’t know what makes you think he would send Howden on a bus to the AHL? just so a lesser talented prospect can get his reps in? Quinn also has been bad mouthing Andersson’s skating and conditioning. There’s no room or logic to see him skate in the top 9 or on any of the special teams. Boo is a better NHL center right now for this team.

      Don’t worry about it though, this isn’t a demotion for Lias haha.

    • Agreed Joen7, it is far, far better for him to be playing top line minutes in Hartford than 7 minutes a night in New York. The visit to the big club however should tell him what he needs to do in order to stick in New York.

      • True, but the answer might be he should be given more time in NY — like start with some PK time (Howden as well), it’s not like using Mika on the PK is working. I blame DQ, in general he should use the 4th line more — you need 4 lines to succeed in the NHL.

  • A couple of years ago, Stepan was the designated whipping boy for the fans. I guess this year it’s Kevin Hayes’ turn in the barrel. IMHO, I haven’t seen enough from any of our prospects at center yet to make me eager to trade away either Hayes or Zib. There’s just no one on the shelf who’s a sure upgrade. That being said, I also believe that anyone on the team is tradeable, FOR THE RIGHT RETURN. If Peter Chiarelli, or someone similar, wants to throw away an elite player on his latest whim, then we’d be idiots not to listen to him. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that will happen. And, in this era of ping pong balls deciding draft position, there’s also no guarantee we’ll get the #1,2, or even 3, pick, so trading for draft picks is just a crap shoot. To my mind, the best approach is for JG to stay in touch with the other GM’s, being patient, keeping his ears open, and negotiating for whatever trade brings us the best immediate return.

  • Oh my another trade scenario. I can’t take it. Who will be right and more importantly which will prove to be the best deal. Entertaining discussion.

  • Not that anyone will read this but here I go….

    How does one evaluate talent today? Can you use metrics? Can you use the eye test? Or is it a simple combination of both?

    How many times do you hear about elite players and their passion for being the best on the ice? At this point today it is more like a mantra then a saying. Kind of Cliche. Do you really think there is that much difference in say a Crosby over a Zibanejad/Hayes?

    If you do…then how can the likes of a Dubinsky/Stepan shutdown a player of such a higher caliber in multiple playoff series? I kind of made this point a long time ago about Lundquist. When the game is on the line…is that player at his absolute best? Or does he gaffe up at the most important moment? Isn’t that what really separates Crosby from a McDavid? Or a Messier in a game 7?

    Or is it the team that surrounds the player?

    You here a lot lately from the team about character players, but what exactly does that mean? Does it mean they are good individuals on and off the ice? Like a Graves? Or does it mean they are a good team guy like jesper fast? There is just so much vagueness in the terms that get thrown around.

    Anyone who watches the Rangers right now and just watches Zuc for 5 seconds can tell he essentially has quit and is just waiting for a trade. But how many noticed that exact thing about Mac last year? Honestly? Now there is talk of him winning the Norris?

    When talking about talent …and guys I want on this team …I just want to see effort. I believe if you can make it to the NHL you are good enough to play with anyone on the ice. You will rise to the occasion as they say. What I see from Mika is exactly the opposite. He never rises to the occasion. When it gets tough out there…. he folds. IMHO he is no leader, and sure he has skill and talent that probably far exceeds that of Hayes. But whenever Hayes has been asked to rise…well he has done that exact thing. And this contract year is just another check to the list of challenges he has faced and won.

    As for the debate ..there really isn’t one when you look at all the information. Problem is most people only see what their narrow sight can focus on. Hayes is a leader and a player that makes people around him better. Can’t truly say I have seen the same for Mika. He looks like he is waiting for something else in life. Or maybe the personnel around him just doesn’t suit his play style? Whatever the reason Hayes has consistently looked better year after year then Mika, with far less talent than Mika has had around him and possesses himself. Mika is faster, has a better shot, is good on the boards, but somehow just isn’t as good as Hayes. I can’t see why.

    Now ask if I think Kevin Hayes is a 1C ….that is a totally different animal. He is good I just don’t know if he actually has the talent level to be a 1C. IMHO he is a solid 2C or a great 3C on a really loaded team. Getting anywhere from 18 to 15 minutes a night in icetime is his ideal world.

    My wish list is we trade away players who just have never reached their potential for whatever the reason. Guys we have seen for a more than 2 years and just never lived up to their billing. And when we do sell away these pieces we go forward with a actual plan not just a well we will trade Brassard for Zibanejad cause that is a easy swap to see as a win. This needs to be more like a chess match and alot less like checkers. If Richter can come up with a plan to execute in 30 minutes…….HOW COME OUR GM CANT SEE PAST ONE MOVE TRADES? We need a 1C badly. And to do that we either need to tank for a few years or sign a big money free agent 1C. But let’s make that decision now and stop mucking around with players like Hayes and Mika who in no way shape or form have ever truly been capable of being 1C’s. ?

    • That’s the whole problem. We pretty much have a great #2 center playing as a #1 and a good #3 playing as a #2. Step was a bottom #1 all along but we never filled it. Zib shows some highlights but he struggles on the other side of the puck and as a center you can’t do that.

    • It’s funny how you picked up on Zucc, and Mac, last season, quitting. I also mentioned it about Mac myself, and was challenged as if I made the crap up!! You made some very solid points, and the post was well thought out………

      • Walt …. look who MaC played with last year and look who he’s playing with when traded. Maybe he knew he was gone and held back or he just looked so awful cause whom ever they paired him with was a #3 or 4 pairing. Which is still going on. We have no top 1-2 defensemen. Now MaC is playing with an all-star D team and a couple of em were here and we gave em up ( Ok G is beat up along with maybe he knew as well he was gone , which I would have much rather bought out Staal)

    • “You will rise to the occasion as they say. What I see from Mika is exactly the opposite. He never rises to the occasion. When it gets tough out there…. he folds. IMHO he is no leader, and sure he has skill and talent that probably far exceeds that of Hayes. But whenever Hayes has been asked to rise…well he has done that exact thing. And this contract year is just another check to the list of challenges he has faced and won.”

      Except when it matters in the playoffs where Hayes completely disappears. In 34 career playoff games, all with the Rangers, he has 2 goals and 10 points. In 9 career playoff games just with the Rangers, Mika has 2 goals and 9 total points.

      So looking forward to the yearly Kevin Hayes post-All Star game disappearance after he signs a loaded contract with no movement clauses

  • I’d rather trade Buchnevich and Chytil than Hayes or Zibanejad. Both Buch and Chytil are too soft. Andersson is the future captain, just watch.

  • Back to top button