One minute Mika Zibanejad was focused on having a new home built in Ottawa this summer while preparing for his fifth NHL season with the Senators, the next he was fielding phone calls from his new teammates on the Rangers after being dealt to New York on Monday.
"This trade was not on my radar, it came as a complete shock to me," the 23 year-old Zibanejad told reporters Tuesday morning on a conference call. "But I am supper, super excited to be a part of the Rangers organization now."
Coming off a career year in which he scored 21 goals, added 30 assists and finished fifth on the Sens in scoring with 51 points in 2015-16, Zibanejad was traded to the Rangers along with a second round selection in the 2018 NHL Draft in exchange for Derick Brassard and a 2018 seventh rounder, in what is far and away the biggest move of the off-season so far for the Blueshirts.
"I'm just hoping to have a big impact for the Rangers," offered Zibanejad, the sixth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, who has recorded 151 points in 281 career games to date. "I've been working hard this summer to improve my game and I'm really looking forward to a new start here and to get going on this new chapter."
Zibanejad's offensive numbers have improved in each of his first four NHL seasons--from 7 goals and 20 points in 42 games back in 2012-13 as a 19 year-old to 16 goals and 33 points the following season to 20 goals and 46 points in 2014-15 to his 20-31-51 totals in a career-high 81 games a year ago. It's a big reason why Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton pointed out Zibanejad's upside on several occasions while speaking with the media on Monday.
The fact that the 6-foot-2, 220 pound Swede adds size down the middle for the Rangers, is a responsible defensive player, and can contribute to both ends of the special teams just adds to Zibanejad's appeal.
"I think I am a solid all-around player, though as a young player you can always improve in every aspect of the game," stated Zibanejad. "I'm a big guy that can skate pretty good for a bigger guy; and I think my game has improved every year. Hopefully I can break out here."
Zibanejad was honest with reporters, stating that the trade "surprised" and "shocked" him, and he admitted at first he was sad to leave Ottawa. However it didn't take long for him to warm to the idea of becoming a New York Ranger, in particular after several of his new teammates called and texted him late yesterday.
"I'm excited," said Zibanejad. "It's an Original Six team, expectations are really high. The roster looks really, really promising and interesting; and this team goes for it every year. So I'm really happy to be a part of this and hoping to add more to that roster, as well. It's a fun opportunity to be a part of this organization."
One of the aspects of being a Ranger that has Zibanejad pumped up is the chance to play regularly at Madison Square Garden.
"It's a great atmosphere at MSG," explained Zibanejad. "As an opposing player you always looked forward to playing at MSG with those fans and that atmosphere. I think to call that your home arena will be very special."
Mike Zibanejad will get that chance soon enough as the 2016-17 regular season is less than three months away from starting.