Understanding why Derek Stepan had to be traded
This is not an article soaked with Rangers kool-aid, praising every move they make as the right one.
Far from it.
Derek Stepan had to be traded. The fault that he HAD to be dealt lies primarily on the Rangers. In 2008, they drafted him 51st overall, in the second round. Stepan had a solid career for the organization, making the team in 2010, and debuting with a hat-trick in Buffalo.
That first big game may have set expectations too high for the Rangers Faithful. From day one he was a dependable player, who rarely missed games due to injury. He was a reliable player defensively for NY, and played in all situations nightly. The problem with him, was all about numbers.
Except for the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season of 48 games (44 points), he was mainly a player that scored in the mid fifties as far as points, over a full season. In the playoffs, that average fell to below .5 points per game.
In July of 2015, the Rangers and Derek Stepan agreed to a 6 year contract with an annual cap hit 6.5 million dollars per year. In it, a no-trade clause.
And therein lies the problem.
The no-trade clause kicked in on July 1, 2017. After another poor statistical playoff, Stepan’s contract was threatening to become an albatross. Was his point production proportional to his production? Most were starting to say no.
Another issue that was more underlying, was his skating ability. Stepan was never a great skater, even when drafted. It was always something he had to work on. In his draft year of 2008, skating wasn’t the the big flavor of the day. In 2017, it is all about skating.
The players the Rangers draft or acquire, in recent years always have the same description: “exceptional skater” or “world class speed”. The trend in the entire NHL is for the high end skater. Speed is the asset most desired. With that being the case, an average skater like Stepan starts to stick out more and more in a bad way.
The other number he couldn’t hide from was faceoff winning percentage. For his career, his percentage is exactly 45%. If there weren’t other “issues”, that is one that could be overlooked. But, Glen Sather handed out some contracts that may have looked ok, or even good at the time, that have turned into major eyesores.
The contract of Marc Staal, and now bought out Dan Girardi, all seem like drastic overpays. Sather misread the market to some degree. The other underrated factor is how badly the Canadian dollar has tanked for the last several years and has not rebounded.
I am sure Sather and the other Rangers number crunchers probably thought the cap would be over 80 million dollars by now. The Canadian economy has prevented that from happening, and that’s something we cannot assign blame to management. If Sather had given Stepan a contract closer to the AAV of Derick Brassard’s 5 million dollar per year, there may not have been a need to move him this June.
Arizona was the one of the very few teams that could take his contract and not give a significant one back. In the end the term and the cap hit of Derek Stepan’s contract had become a detriment to the teams finances. They had to move it, and buy out Dan Girardi, to rid themselves of two of the lesser skaters on the team.
In their place as Larry Brooks points out, they have Kevin Shattenkirk, Anthony DeAngelo and 1st round pick Lias Andersson. Three much better skaters, and many years younger.