Glen Sather and the Rangers made it a perfect three-for-three Sunday afternoon, agreeing to terms with free agent Derick Brassard prior to his Monday arbitration hearing just as the team had beaten the clock with arbitration-eligible restricted free agents Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider earlier in the summer.
What made a good day even better for both sides were reports that the team and its soon-to-be 27 year-old center agreed on a long-term contract, meaning that the Rangers locked up one of the top players on the club and Brassard could be secure in knowing that he will be wearing the Blueshirt--something he most definitely wanted to continue doing--at least several years more.
Brassard had been set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, but he has often stated how much he loves playing in New York and how coming to the Rangers revived his love for the game after nearly six full seasons in Columbus. He wasn't looking to go anywhere else, but there is a distinct business side to this sport and a crack at unrestricted free agency is quite alluring to NHL players. Fortunately in this case, both sides were eager to commit long term to one another and, in the end, both sides won out.
The likable Brassard has been a real good player since coming to the Rangers in the Marian Gaborik trade on April 3, 2013. He recorded four points in his Blueshirts debut in a memorable Garden night against the Penguins the day of the trade and finished with 11 points in 13 games to close out the 2013 campaign. This past season he scored a career-high 18 goals, while his 45 points were the second most of his NHL career, as he centered the team's most consistent line with Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot. Seven of his goals (tied for most on the team) and 18 of his points (second most on the Rangers) were scored on the power play, where he proved to be one of the club's most effective performers.
That solid production--not to mention upbeat friendly personality--certainly has won me over since his arrival on Broadway, but where Brassard really proves to me that he is a keeper is his post-season play. He had never played a single post-season game until the 2013 playoffs with the Rangers, but Brassard was clearly ready for the opportunity. Brass notched 12 points in 12 games that spring, leading the Rangers in playoff scoring.
This past spring on the Rangers march to the Stanley Cup Final, Brassard again recorded 12 points, this time in 23 games, but proved even more clutch with some very timely goals. He netted the overtime game-winner in Game One in Pittsburgh then scored the winner in the must-win Game Five again at the CONSOL Energy Center.
When the games are at their most important, that's when Derick Brassard elevates his level of play. That's the type of player I want on my team. Brassard is not afraid of the spotlight or the big moment. Those are keys to success in New York.
Of course there is always room for improvement, and for Brassard that means being more consistent with his scoring and finding a way to become closer to a 60-point player than one whose career-high is 47 points. He is still young and improving, is entering his prime years, has a very good work ethic, is a great teammate, and a real nice fit on this Rangers team coached by Alain Vigneault.
If you are a Rangers fan, those are several of the reasons why Sunday was a very good day.
That and training camp is less than eight weeks away.