Rangers Flashback: Gorton made the right move in trading Derek Stepan

Stepan (Getty)

Many will say that the true start of the rebuild began with the controversial trade of Derek Stepan. On June 23rd, 2017 the Rangers traded Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes for Tony DeAngelo and the 7th pick of the draft which they used to select Lias Andersson.

Fans In An Uproar

The immediate reaction was the Rangers made a huge blunder. Some blogs pointed to the fact that Derek Stepan was a #1 center, and others called it a mistake almost a year after the deal.

Back in December 2016, I wrote 2 pieces that received considerable flack. Addressing the 800lb Gorilla in the Room and Stepan’s Production is a Concern . The issue some bloggers and fans had is that Stepan’s analytics were on par with other #1 centers in the league not named Sidney Crosby.

Not only was that a terrible assessment based on stats, but his contract was going to have a No Trade Clause kick in that summer. In essence, handcuffing Jeff Gorton to a declining forward’s $6.5M deal.

The right move

Here we are almost 2 years since the trade and from every angle you look at it, the Rangers made the right move. Although he put up a similar statistical season a year after the deal as he did in the past with the Blueshirts, Stepan’s now on pace for his worst year since 2012-2013. He currently has 32 points in 64 games.

For those who continued to repeat the narrative that Stepan is a #1 center, his point production has actually decreased with increased ice time. Sorry, but a center that averages about 50 points a year is barely 2nd line center material.

From a cap standpoint, it should also be noted that the Arizona Coyotes voided his NTC soon after the deal was made. These two issues (contract & production) are exactly why I brought up the reasons to move Stepan while the Rangers could in 2016.

Finally, the play of Alexander Georgiev has adequately replaced the loss of Raanta. As for the Rangers future, it looks brighter with Lias Andersson and Tony DeAngelo going forward. Jeff Gorton has received a lot of unwarranted criticism for his trades, but it’s funny how those critics don’t talk much about this move.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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