Could the Rangers trade their star center after disappointing postseason?

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Despite boasting the best record of any NHL team during the regular season, the New York Rangers‘ playoff ambitions were abruptly halted, largely due to underperformance from key players. This unexpected downturn in form was particularly evident during their series against the Florida Panthers, a team now on the brink of clinching the Stanley Cup, leading the series 3–0 against the Oilers.

Zibanejad’s Playoff Struggles and Speculations With the Rangers

May 26, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) looks on against the Florida Panthers during the second period in game three of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers’ star center, had an impressive regular season, netting 26 goals and contributing 46 assists, which underscored his significant role and value to the team.

However, his presence diminished during the crucial stages of the playoffs, particularly when the Rangers needed him the most against tough opponents like Florida. While Zibanejad started the postseason strongly with 11 points in six games against Washington and Carolina, his output waned, tallying only three points in the final eight games. His contribution of just two assists in their pivotal Game 5 loss at Madison Square Garden against Florida showed signs of life, but was too little, too late.

Could Zibanejad be traded this offseason?

May 16, 2024; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) looks on efore the game against the Carolina Hurricanes in game six of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

This drop in performance has fueled speculation about Zibanejad’s future with the Rangers, especially given his eight-year, $68 million contract, which will count $8.5 million against the salary cap in the upcoming season.

While Zibanejad has a full no-move clause, requiring him to waive it to facilitate any potential trade, the consensus within the organization appears to lean towards retaining him. Despite his postseason struggles, Zibanejad’s consistent contributions over the years cannot be overlooked, and he remains an integral part of the team’s core, having been a pivotal player since his acquisition in 2016.

As the Rangers contemplate their offseason moves, it is clear that, while they might seek upgrades in other areas, Zibanejad’s position on the team appears secure. The hope within the organization is that with the right adjustments and a return to form, Zibanejad and the Rangers can replicate their regular-season success and translate it into a deeper playoff run next year.

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