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Mika Zibanejad begins 'new chapter in my career'

Center hopes to meet expectations of Rangers after trade from Senators

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Changing teams might be the easiest part of Mika Zibanejad's offseason. The toughest seems to be figuring out what to do with the new house he moved into days before the Ottawa Senators traded him to the New York Rangers last month.

"I'm working on moving that house here," the 23-year-old center said on Friday, when he met the New York media in person for the first time. "I don't know if that's possible. We're looking right now for a place."

Zibanejad was acquired by the Rangers on July 18, along with Ottawa's second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, for center Derick Brassard and New York's seventh-round pick in 2018. Zibanejad was in New York trying to get acquainted with the city while looking at apartments and touring the Rangers' suburban practice facility.

"A little bit different," said Zibanejad, who spent his first four NHL seasons with the Senators. "But it's an exciting start, a new chapter in my career."

Zibanejad said it took him a week to come to grips with closing the old chapter and why it happened. That he had just moved into a house he had built in the Island Park area of Ottawa didn't make it any easier on him.

Video: Zibanejad on being traded to Rangers

"It's nothing I counted on, obviously," Zibanejad said.

What did help was the immediate reception he got from some of his new teammates, including Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh, alternate captains Dan Girardi and Marc Staal, goalie Henrik Lundqvist and forwards J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes.

Zibanejad said they each reached out to him via email, text message or phone to welcome him to New York and tell him about the team and the city. He said it made him feel comfortable with his new team.

"A lot of the guys are saying the same things, I'm going to love it here and New York is New York and you can't get much better than this," Zibanejad said. "Being from Stockholm, a big city, going back to that will be nice. It's a change from Ottawa. It's a little bit busier, but I like that."

Now that he has come to grips with being traded and has been greeted by many of the core players, Zibanejad has turned his focus to preparing to performing on the ice for the Rangers and believes this will be his breakout season.

"I feel at this stage of my career, I'm ready for that," Zibanejad said.

His production has increased in each of his first four seasons in the NHL, going from 20 points to 33 to 46 and to 51 last season.

The Rangers certainly think he's on the cusp of taking his game to the next level. It's a big reason why they traded the popular Brassard, who turns 29 on Sept. 22, to acquire the younger Zibanejad.

New York general manager Jeff Gorton said upon making the trade he thinks Zibanejad can give the Rangers more in terms of production than they got from Brassard, who led the team with 118 points in the past two seasons.

"He's just scratching the surface at age 23," Gorton said of Zibanejad.

Zibanejad said there are two ways he'll know if he has reached the next level.

One is obviously with his statistics. He'll try to top last season, when he had 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists) in 81 games. Brassard had 58 points (27 goals, 31 assists) in 80 games. Zibanejad is expected to play a similar role to that of Brassard, but also kill penalties.

The other way he'll know if he's having a breakout can't be measured.

"It's more for me a mindset of not, like the years before, having to worry about who I'm playing against, but to have it the other way around," Zibanejad said. "To be more of a threat to the other teams and having the opponents know that I'm out there, to be a big presence."

Zibanejad will get that chance in all areas of the game, but first he has some other personal business to tend to, like figuring out where he's going to live in New York City and what to do with the new house in Ottawa.

Neither pending decision has affected Zibanejad's enthusiasm about his new team.

"I want to have that goal or mindset to not just make the playoffs, but also go far and aim for the Cup," he said. "It's going to be exciting."

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