Ignoring the 800lb Gorilla in the room: Derek Stepan’s Contract

Derek Stepan relieved to scored (Elsa/Getty)

Derek Stepan wins it in OT  (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Derek Stepan wins it in OT (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Derek Stepan signed a 6 year deal back on July 27th, 2015. The contract comes with a $6.5M annual cap hit that will take him to the age of 30. Whether you feel he is or isn’t a #1 center that’s not why I’m making the 800lb gorilla analogy.

The Clause

Via the NYDN on July 27th, 2015:

Stepan said the contract includes a full no-trade clause in years three and four and a 15-team limited no-trade clause for years five and six. He is not eligible for a no-trade clause in years one and two, which would have been restricted free agency years.

That’s right, on July 1st of 2017 trading Stepan will be impossible. Think it doesn’t matter? One of the key components in Montreal deciding to trade P.K. Subban to Nashville was just that. Subban’s trade value was not only at its highest, but the team that acquired him didn’t need to honor the clause.

This was further explained by Cat Silverman from Today’s Slapshot:

When the Canadiens inked Subban to his current contract – which spans eight seasons and pays out an annual average of $9 million each season – the team granted the defenseman a no-movement clause, set to kick in on July 1st of 2016. Subban would not have been eligible to qualify for a NMC before that time.

Per the 2013 CBA, though, deals that are traded before a player’s no-trade or no-movement clause kicks in don’t necessarily bring those restrictions with them. It is up to the discretion of the teams bringing the player on board to determine whether they will honor the restrictions or not – and in this case, the Predators have chosen no to honor the NMC in Subban’s deal.

To Trade or Not To Trade

As of this moment, and especially with Mika Zibanejad out with a broken leg, there is zero reason to even consider moving him. That said, Zibanejad will be back way before the NHL trade deadline, and Kevin Hayes‘ stellar player makes the trading Stepan idea very interesting.

Can you imagine the haul trading a 27 year old Stepan would bring at the deadline? Quite possibly that top pairing right defenseman we all feel the Rangers need to win the Cup.

Stepan's pos per gm avg (Sporting Charts)

Stepan’s pos per gm avg (Sporting Charts)

Statistically, Stepan seems to be going in the wrong direction. His points per game have continued to decline since he hit his peak in 2014 (.80). There’s really no excuse for it since he consistently plays top minutes with players like Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, or Chris Kreider. Not to mention heavy PP minutes as well.

In comparison to other top centers making similar money, his point production is near the bottom of that group. So, suggesting that trading Derek Stepan at the deadline in a potential blockbuster isn’t as outlandish as you may think.

Stepan vs. similar paid players (Sporting Charts)

Stepan vs. similar paid players (Sporting Charts)

Removing the Handcuffs

If Jeff Gorton wants to change this team to make a legit Cup run it will be difficult. He is handcuffed by Rick Nash‘s limited no trade clause, and imprisoned by the no move clauses of both Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. There is also the looming expansion draft that will make it harder as well.

Looking ahead, does he also want to add Derek Stepan NTC to the mix? This isn’t an easy decision to say the least. While Stepan doesn’t score as much as the other players I compared him to, he’s a complete player who can kill penalties. However, going along that thought line should increase his value as well.

Bottom line, it may not be talked about much now in December, but you can expect it to bubble up come February as we near the trade deadline.