When the New York Rangers traded wing Marian Gaborik to the Columbus Blue Jackets at last season's deadline, there was surprise that an Original Six team would part with one of the NHL's top scorers.
But the Rangers got back some important pieces, notably center Derick Brassard, who almost immediately became the Rangers' most consistent offensive force.
With a spot centering the Rangers' second line and able to enter free agency next summer, this could be a big year for the Quebec native. Brassard's play could dictate how much the offense improves on a team that last season ranked 15th in the NHL in goals scored.
Brassard wasted little time making his presence felt in New York. In his first game with the Rangers, he collected a goal and four points, winning over the faithful. He scored 11 points in 13 regular-season games, providing offensive depth to a team that was lacking it.
Brassard led the Rangers with 10 assists and 12 points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, getting time quarterbacking a sputtering power play. Following a second-round elimination by the Boston Bruins in five games, Brassard admitted his first playoff experience was an eye-opener.
"I learned with the playoffs, it's a grind. I learned about self-discipline and how hard I'm going to work this summer to be ready," Brassard said then. "I've been telling everyone here that I'm really excited to be here. I think I can bring a lot to the team. Next year it's going to be a full season. I'm just going to need to bring my game and be effective."
When former Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was named Rangers coach this summer, one of his first staffing moves was to hire Scott Arniel as associate coach. Prior to coming to the Rangers, Arniel coached the Blue Jackets for a season-and-a-half. In Arniel's first season, Brassard established career highs in goals (17), assists (30) and points (47).
Brassard's offensive play made him a key in the Rangers' lineup, but it was his versatility that made him invaluable. Former coach John Tortorella was prone to juggling lines, and Brassard was one of the few players able to consistently produce offense no matter which wings flanked him.
"I just felt like in Columbus, my passion and the emotion of my game was gone. When I got traded, honestly I felt so good inside," Brassard said. "I feel really comfortable here. The organization is great. Next year I'm going to feel good starting a new season."
For all 30 in 30 stories go to NHL.com/30in30stories and for the full 30 in 30 schedule visit NHL.com/30in30.