Derek Stepan. Hastings, Minnesota. Homegrown talent. Scored a hat trick in his first career game. Consistent, great locker room presence, oh, and there was that goal in game 7…
Unfortunately, the end of the road appears to be here for Stepan, as the Rangers appear to be shopping him around. This is tough to stomach for Rangers fans; I myself feel like with these trade rumors, and with the buyout of Girardi, that this is really the end of an era. However, any one trade could revolutionize a franchise. Look at both Toronto and Pittsburgh with the Kessel deal; one team is presently a powerhouse, and the other is going to be one down the road. Let’s explore the possible parts of some potential trades for Derek Stepan.
Funny how this works out. The team the Rangers knock out now wants to be the Rangers. Many rumors have been flying around that Montreal would ship Alex Galchenyuk to the Rangers in exchange for Stepan. Galchenyuk is a special talent, earning high praise from Alain Vigneault, saying that, “no team in the league has a skill player like that on their fourth line.” Galchenyuk’s best season was 2015-2016 when he potted 30 goals and 26 assists. This past season, he was injured and never could rediscover his scoring touch. That being said, a healthy Galchenyuk can be an absolute weapon for the Rangers. Let’s say he slots into the same line Stepan was playing on. His wingers would be Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello. A speedy Kreider and a gritty Zuccarello combined with a touch of skill from Galchenyuk would be absolutely deadly.
Galchenyuk is also just 23, and has a lot of upside, versus Stepan, who is 2 or 3 years away from being removed from his peak. Galchenyuk would also require a new contract. This would likely be similar to the one handed out to Chris Kreider last year – very team friendly. However, it’s also been rumored that the Rangers want a lot for Stepan, including a surefire #1 pair right-handed defenseman. I think that this can be overlooked. Couple Girardi’s buyout with Klein’s potential retirement with this trade and the Rangers have a lot of cap room. This cap room can be used to bring in Kevin Shattenkirk, a former Blue and Capital who has been linked to the Rangers for a long time. Signing Shattenkirk fixes the defensive problem on the right side, and enables the Rangers to be a bit more flexible.
This is rumored to be the most likely scenario for a Stepan trade as of June 17th.
Wow, another potential trade with the Coyotes. From Wojtek Wolski all the way back in 2011 to the Keith Yandle deal, these teams do have a big trade history between each other. The Rangers would also be looking for a top-pair righty defenseman for Ryan McDonagh to play with. The first name that comes to mind is Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the ultra-talented defenseman for the Desert Dogs. Despite his skill set, this trade makes little sense for the Rangers. A righty defenseman is needed, so why ship out a key piece for yet another lefty blueliner? Forcing Ekman-Larsson to play on his off-hand is playing with fire: it could work to perfection, or he could never settle into the role and the Rangers would be in a jam. I don’t think Gorton wants to take any risks here, given that the so-often discussed window to win is continuing to slowly shut, day-by-day.
Another option would be for picks and youngsters. This makes sense for the Rangers, but not so much for the Coyotes. Two names that I’ve heard mentioned are Anthony DuClair and Clayton Keller. DuClair would make more sense as he is a former Ranger, but Keller is young as well with a lot of upside. Neither of these deals would likely happen simply due to the fact that Arizona is still a rebuilding team; why trade away the future when you’re trying to build it?
The final option here would be draft picks. Arizona possesses 5 picks in the first 3 rounds of this year’s draft – they would have to part with at least a 1st in order to get Stepan. But again, a young team trying to rebuild likely wouldn’t part with draft picks in the high rounds.
Derek Stepan is the embodiment of what it means to be a New York Ranger. Hard working, always shows up to practice, has never had his effort questioned, a great veteran presence in the locker room, and has scored some big goals over the years. Unfortunately, his lackluster playoffs and big contract might be what eventually will do him in. The Rangers need to free up some cap space in order to transform themselves into a serious contender. His big contract is one that jumps out as one that could and should be moved.
Sometimes to gain, you have to give, and this is potentially one of those scenarios. Will he be dealt? I don’t know. What is certain is that whatever happens, Derek Stepan will go down as one of the most well-liked Rangers of recent memory. If he stays, great. If he goes, then I’m sure a standing ovation will be coming his way when the Canadiens venture south of the border.
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