Stepan, Nash and Stamkos rumors: making sense of it all

Will Stamkos replace Stepan as the NYR top center? (TBT)

Will Stamkos replace Stepan as the NYR top center? (TBT)

In the days leading up to this pivotal week fro the New York Rangers, three names have been mentioned often. Derek Stepan, Rick Nash, and Steven Stamkos, but what does it all mean?

The fact that you are hearing those three names tied to Blueshirt rumor chatter is significant. What may not be clear to some is that these names could be indicative of a course changing strategy for the New York Rangers.

First off, we know that for what Rick Nash is being paid, he certainly isn’t producing enough. Nash is an excellent two-way player who is a strong 5×5 player and an even better penalty killer but is awful on the PP. His 7.8M AAV cap hit would go a long way to retaining our four RFA’s (Kreider, Miller, Hayes, and McIlrath) and give us some play room to change the overall dynamic of this team.

Nash fail

Nash vs. players making between 7.25 to 8.6M

Enter the name Steven Stamkos, who is by far the best player mentioned between the three and is a game changer. Stamkos is widely considered in the top 5 of the NHL elite, and as high as the 3rd best forward in the league behind Crosby and Ovechkin. So the fact that Jeff Gorton may be unloading salary to obtain a legit offensive force at the age of only 26 is no shock.

In order to do so, he may also have to trade Derek Stepan and his 6.5M cap hit to accommodate what many expect will be at least a 10M a year salary for Stamkos. Also, have 3 centers making over 22M or more, just isn’t prudent. There won’t be enough ice time to go around as well.

But why go this route?

Lundqvist (USATODAY)

Lundqvist (USATODAY)

Jeff Gorton sees the Rangers Stanley Cup chances dwindling with each year Henrik Lundqvist blows out the candles on his cake. He knows that the moves he makes this season, handcuffed by the ones he can’t (i.e. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal) could be the difference maker for a legit Stanley Cup run by 2017-18.

The trading Nash and Stepan needs to free up salary and return younger players with upside and a small cap hit at the most. The money can then be used to lock up the RFA’s and make a run at Steven Stamkos on July 1st. Then next season, when you can move Girardi’s 5.5M off the books, and possibly Staal’s 5.7M, you can add a top tier defenseman and winger.

As for their prospects this coming season, the Rangers may or may not make the playoffs without Nash and Stepan, replaced by Stamkos. More importantly however, Kreider, Miller and Hayes will have matured another season. Pavel Buchnevich will have a year in the NHL under his belt as will Brady Skjei. You can see where this is going? A younger, faster team with an elite goaltender in the back and a world class sniper in Stamkos up front.

This week could be a complete team building philosophy overhaul. The Rangers could be going from a veteran defense, with a well balanced offense and great goaltending to a younger, faster, risk taking team with a stud in goal and an elite forward on the 1st line. It may not look that great next year, but once the Rangers can unchain themselves of a few more aging players, the sky’s the limit.

Now, will the Rangers try and trade for Stamkos’ negotiating rights this week? If they do, then we know exactly what Jeff Gorton is looking to do with this team.

 

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