Wild Speculation: Derek Stepan to Minnesota
This morning I broke down every single component of Larry Brooks’ article on the Rangers off-season plans. You can read that in its entirety here. One huge piece of information from the article is that the Minnesota Wild have heavy interest in acquiring Derek Stepan.
As of this writing, only Lyle Richardson of Spector’s Hockey addressed Brooks’ trade rumor. He wrote on his website, “As for the Wild’s supposed interest in Stepan, no word from Brooks as to what the Rangers seek in return or who the Wild are offering in return. I’m assuming it would be a defenseman as that’s where the Wild have the depth to deal from.”
I think the logical question is this, what benefit would the Rangers get by trading Stepan? At first glance, I see none. Stepan is 25 years old and statistically speaking he is on the rise. Last season, he was scoring at a .73 points per game pace, a tick down from the year before (.80). With Stepan entering his prime years we should see that stat increase making him an almost point a game player. If he continues to improve, his 6.5M cap hit until he’s 29 will be an absolute bargain.
So what we need to assume here is that the Rangers would be looking to move Stepan in order to save some cap space to improve the team. Lyle Richardson speculated that Minnesota would likely look to move a defenseman where they have depth, but the Rangers would be making themselves shallow down the middle. That would indicate to me a center is the more logical choice and the Wild have 3 trade chips there.
Here are three candidates:
Charlie Coyle: 24 years old, 3.2M AAV, expires 2020
Mikael Granlund: 24 years old, 3M, expires 2017
Erik Haula: 25 years old, 1M, expires 2017
All three are young but Coyle would be the most attractive due to his contract. Statistically there is a decent drop off, but all three should also see improvement.
A move for Coyle would add 3.3M in cap space, Granlund 3.5 and Haula 5.5 respectively. The question is, would that really help the Rangers to downgrade at center? Even if you were to add a 21 year old defenseman, Matthew Dumba who is a RFA to the deal, I’m not sure it’s worth it.
Could trading Stepan be a precursor to a blockbuster deal that will bring a legitimate star forward to the Rangers? Elliotte Friedman stated last week that some big names could be available, is it possible one of those names is now a high priority target for Jeff Gorton? The upcoming expansion draft and too many cap strapped teams are certainly setting the condition to make this so.
Here’s my educated guess, the Minnesota Wild need to improve at center and Stepan would do just that. From a marketing perspective, he’s a hometown boy and the fans would love it. It’s a no brainer for the Wild.
From the Rangers perspective, trading Stepan makes little to no sense. Unless it’s to bring in a superstar they believe will make them Cup Champions next season.
FINAL THOUGHT: Stepan goes nowhere.