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.


  • Nice piece. You pointed out the Canadian dollar and where the cap is as opposed to where it should be or could be. Great point. Will miss Stepan but he was on his way to becoming the next Girardi as far as his contract/performance go

  • Stepan had to be moved because of Girardi and Staals contract, thats it. If Girardi and Staal performed to the price of their contract they would not need to improve the defense. Since they do not they needed to free up cap space to improve the defense, while getting value in return.

    Stepan lack of speed did not fit well in AVs system, however he still preformed, against other teams top pairs. Looking at the contracts handed out this weekend, as well as the rumored amounts of McDavid, and suggested Drisitali (may be spelled wrong) the 6.5 cap hot to Stepan will be the average second line center pay.

    While the defense may be “better” then last year, the middle is alot worse. Hopefully there is something in works, I dont buy the JT is a natural center Kool Aid that Gorton is selling right now cause if that was the case they would have sent Brass for a dman. Good thing in July 3 and not September 3

    • What does Stepan have to do with 2 defensemen. STOP BLAMING GIRARDI AN STAAL FOR EVERYTHING. Stepan is soft, slow, an was overpaid. THAT IS IT. We have had quite a few good seasons in a row with the team we have right now. Some Ranger fans like to blame everything on the defense for not winning the Cup. Face it the facts we just didn’t play great in the playoffs.

      • What does Stepan have to do with 2 defenseman, he was traded for 1 and a pick and his salary was replaced by another. Who said I blame Girardi and Staal on everything, infact Im one of the biggest Girardi supporters. So if you want to lump me in with others thats fine. But its easy to follow the line on how a 6.5 cap hit for a center was then used for 6.65 (same term) to bring in a UFA dman. Also, the 2 defenseman that I named carried (prior to girardi buyout) a combined 11 million dollar cap hit. If they played to their contract would they be buying out one and adding a new one?

        Slow I’ll give you but soft not so much. Overpaid, so an eilte center gets over 10 million, 1 line non elite 6.5 is not overpayment.

        • Step is in his prime but he isn’t 1st line center and never will be. Great teammate and locker room guy but that didn’t cut it.. if we didn’t have staal contract to worry about think he stays. We are not done – trade will happen withthis team -only one or two players away from breaking it all out.
          Step will be missed without doubt – you could tell on hanks remarks..
          Sather did overprice him in 2015.

  • We all liked Stepan, he was a solid consistent 55 point center, but not a 1C. He was not worth 6.5M. Sather overpaid him and Girardi, and Staal, but the biggest issue was he gave them all Full NMC. That was the killer. If we didnt have the Girardi and Staal contracts, we would have kept Stepan, but we couldnt survive with all 3 of those contracts/buy outs, and had to move him before his NMC kicked in. Like I said solid 55 points, but I dont think he had anymore upside than that, Despite what he did for us, he should have scored a lot more, my memories are full of him missing gaping nets, plus he is a slow skater and marginal at face offs. Of course none of will ever forget the OT series winner against Washington in 2015. Iwish him the best in AZ and hope he does well.

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