Now that emotions have subsided, we examine and really dive into the narrative surrounding the New York Rangers Derek Stepan trade.It’s been almost a month since the New York Rangers traded Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes (with Antti Raanta) for Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft.
The emotion of the trade hurt Rangers fans, as Stepan was a homegrown player who was also an alternate captain for the team. However, from a pure hockey standpoint, this trade made complete sense. Now that fans have had the ability to emotionally digest the trade (at least some of them), here are the reasons it was a good trade.
First, Derek Stepan is not a number one center. It’s a blunt assessment, but the numbers back it up. This isn’t to say that he sucks or that he’s worthless or anything, but he isn’t good enough to be the number one center for a team, especially one hoping to go deep into the playoffs.
Stepan never once reached 60 points and never once won over 47 percent of his faceoffs. Regardless of what is said about his effort or what have you, the simple fact is that he did not produce enough to be a number one center. He’s a very good number two center and lived up to what you would hope for from a second-round pick, but to say he’s a number one guy isn’t really accurate.
Raanta was the other player moved in this trade. Raanta was well-loved and has shown he has what it takes to be a good starter in the NHL. It would have been great to keep Raanta, but trading him was the right move.
Warning, as another blunt assessment is coming up: Antti Raanta was never going to take the starting job from Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist is a living legend who has carried the Rangers for a decade. Raanta is a good starter, but Lundqvist was (and arguably still is) an elite goalie in the NHL. Even if Raanta stuck around he was never going to beat Igor Shestyorkin to be the guy to take over from Lundqvist.
Lundqvist is a living legend who has carried the Rangers for a decade. Raanta is a solid starter, but Lundqvist was (and arguably still is) an elite goalie in the NHL. Even if Raanta stuck around he was never going to beat Igor Shestyorkin to be the guy to take over from Lundqvist.
Plus, this upcoming season was going to be Raanta’s last season with the Rangers anyway. As much as he loved playing with the Rangers, he was gone after this upcoming season. He was going to get offered a starting job somewhere as a free agent, and no goalie is going to stick around to be a backup when they have a chance to start somewhere else, no matter how much they love playing for their team.
Anthony DeAngelo is an interesting case. He has a ton of talent (he was named the CHL’s defenseman of the year award in 2015) and was a first-round pick who will only be 21-years-old when the season starts (although he turns 22 very early in the season). But let’s not ignore the scary part about his acquisition: he has gotten into some trouble in the past.
He was suspended by his team in juniors for using a slur directed at a teammate. This has been spoken about numerous times, so it will be left alone for the rest of this article, other than to say that sometimes teenagers say things without fully recognizing why it’s a problem and he hasn’t had any incidents with that since turning professional, which suggests he learned from it and did not mean it as an insult to that community.
He has also been suspended by the NHL for abuse of an official. Although, that was only a three-game suspension which is very light for an offense like that. Oftentimes, those suspensions are at least five games. What this suggests is that the league wasn’t convinced the action was intentional but that they had to do something about it.
So, although there are some concerns with maturity and emotions, the biggest one was him only being an immature teenager and not a bigot of any kind. And his skill is undeniable. As a rookie 21-year-old defenseman (which is young for an NHL defenseman), he scored 14 points in 39 games on an awful Coyotes team. His scoring should only increase as he comes to a much better team.
His defense needs to be shored up, but that should come with experience. Plus, he has a strong group around him and Ryan McDonagh can absolutely help him with his defense. Ultimately, DeAngelo will probably be in the opening night lineup and should be an excellent player for the Rangers.
The seventh overall pick is obviously a very good place to select.
Although not everyone loved who the Rangers decided to take at that spot, that has nothing to do with the return in this trade. The seventh overall pick was the first first-round pick the Rangers have had since 2012 when they took Brady Skjei 28th overall, and the highest they have had since 2004 when they took Al Montoya sixth overall (well they can’t all be winners). It’s also the first time they had multiple first-round picks since 2004, when they also took Lauri Korpikoski 19th, who played one season with the Rangers, scoring six goals and 14 points (come to think of it this may not be the best argument for having multiple first-round picks).
At the end of the day, a high upside young defenseman and a top 10 overall draft pick is a great return for a number two center and a goalie who was never going to take over as your starter. Thus, emotions aside, this trade was the right move by Jeff Gorton and the Rangers front office.