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The great debate: should the Rangers be willing to trade Derek Stepan for Bobby Ryan?

Though it has repeatedly been reported that GM Glen Sather considers Derek Stepan “untouchable,” that hasn’t stopped many from debating whether he should be included in trade offers for superstars like Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan.

Anaheim is specifically seeking a #2 center-man as part of a package for Ryan and has almost certainly requested Stepan from the Rangers (if the Ducks considered Artem Anisimov or Brandon Dubinsky to be suitable second-line pivots, it’s very likely that Ryan would already be a Blueshirt).

So should Sather actually consider dealing Stepan for Ryan?  There is an argument to be made for each side.

On the one hand, Ryan is a proven goal-scorer, a 30-goal guy that is only just entering his prime.  Trading youth for Ryan can’t be considered abandoning young talent, because Ryan himself is only 25-years-old and is already one of the league’s true stars.  Ryan could be a terrific second scoring option after Marian Gaborik and could give New York an enviable array of scoring threats.

Perhaps best of all, Ryan is locked up for three more seasons at an extremely reasonable cap hit of $5.1 million and would likely come cheaper via trade than Nash.  The Rangers are hell-bent on bolstering their offense and Ryan would represent an immediate upgrade while also providing another core building block for the future.

But while Ryan would undoubtedly look great in blue, dealing Stepan would open another gaping hole on the Rangers’ depth chart.  Getting Ryan would ease scoring concerns, but suddenly New York would be left without a second-line center and would have only one true playmaker.

Brad Richards would essentially be left to feed the hungry mouths of goal-scorers Ryan, Gaborik, Chris Kreider and Ryan Callahan.  At 22-years-old, Stepan hasn’t even approached his peak yet and could turn into a star. In my opinion, it would be a critical mistake to send Stepan packing.

Beside the fact that I believe Stepan’s ceiling is very high, I’d also be concerned about dealing from a current strength down the middle.  The true top teams in the NHL in recent years have all been stocked with solid pivots, from Los Angeles’s group of Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll, to Vancouver’s dynamic duo of Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler, to Pittsburgh’s all-world tandem of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

It’s become abundantly clear that having star power down the middle is essential and while the Rangers have a couple of wing prospects that could become goal-scorers in Christian Thomas and J.T. Miller, there may not be another premier playmaking center in the system (Michael St. Croix’s all-around game still makes him a question mark and he could also end up being converted into a wing).

I’m not suggesting that Stepan will ever approach the level of Sedin or Malkin, but slotting him behind Richards gives New York a very solid one-two punch down the middle that is at least a strong foundation to build around for the future. Throughout hockey history, good centers have made their wingers better and Stepan has the potential to do that. I’d prefer to be patient while Stepan and other young players develop to see if the team’s current offensive problems are really as awful as everyone thinks rather than potentially creating more problems down the road.

26 Responses to “The great debate: should the Rangers be willing to trade Derek Stepan for Bobby Ryan?”

  1. Mikeyyy says:

    Nice write up

    In total agreement. We haven’t seen Kreider and Stepan play a lot together yet. I feel a line of Kreider Stepan Hamelin would be crazy good.

  2. Bill T says:

    I would make that trade in a heartbeat… I agree with you for the most part, and have a major problem trading away our youngsters, especially on D, but getting Ryan would be worth losing Stephan.

    I also agree that Stephan has huge potential and he fits the Tortarella system well. He will develop into a great #2 line setup man, but IMO, he will probably never be a 1st line center all around center. One thing that separates great Centers from the rest is faceoffs. It is more instinct than skill and is very hard to teach. If you don’t have it by the time you are at the pro level, you will probably never excel at it… and Stephan was one of the worst centers in the League last season at 44.5% and short handed he was a miserable 31%. That is not good…

    Don’t get me wrong, I like Stephan, he is part of the heart of the team, but right now, the Rangers need scoring, and I don’t believe betting on Stephan’s potential is worth by passing Ryan.

    • Blueshirt in Paris says:

      Re: Faceoffs. It is also a skill you get better at with age and experience.

  3. Walt says:

    This is all academic, and what if, so if the trade is made with Stephan, what happends to his bud McD? They are tight, and can be perceived as being disloyal on the part of the team. Should that happen, maybe he walks when the time comes!

    No body has brought this up yet, but why are the Ducks hell bent on tradeing the Ryan kid? Is he a cancer in the locker room? There has to be a reason for this, what is it?

    I don’t want to give up on the kids, wait to see what developes with CBJ’s, and Nash. Every day we hear all the garbage being written, Shea coming to NY, Nash, Ryan, Doan, and mark my words, the list will expand. People don’t move for no reason, so why would all these players be on the move, or are they?

    • Justin says:

      I wouldn’t put that much stock into the potential effect on McD. These guys are professionals and trades are part of the business. You have to reach a pretty high level of accomplishment in the eyes of the franchise before loyalty becomes a tangible factor.

      I think ANA knows that dealing Ryan is the best thing for the franchise. They obviously prioritize building around Corey Perry, and the best thing for their retention effort would be to reload and show him that they are an emerging team with some nice young pieces, rather than a rotting core.

      I agree with Bill on the face-off point. Step is pretty brutal on the draw and that could effect his ability to be that number 2 center that he seems to be capable of being. Face-offs are an issue for this club, and if Step can’t be productive in that category, he might be worth more to secure consistent scoring. Nice write up, Kev.

      • Walt says:

        Justin
        Good points, but if your trying to build a team around Perry, why trade the second best player on their team? I still think the man is trouble, and no one is talking about it!

        • kgb16 says:

          Justin, solid post. I also wonder if there really is a problem other than lingering unhappiness of watching the tea,m’s success dwindle in the rearview mirror.I think there would be more out there if things were that bad. Attitude can be corrected as can team infidelity issues, 2 problem areas that come to mind.

  4. Scully says:

    The comparison I’m about to give is a bit odd – A certain NYC baseball player put up these statistics in 1996 and 1997:

    96: .314 10HR 78RBI 104R .370OBP .430SLG .800OPS
    97: .291 10HR 70RBI 116R .370OBP .405SLG .775OPS

    If you look at those numbers one could say he regressed a bit in his second season. After the 97 season there were a lot of Yankee fans wanting to trade this guy as part of a package for Albert Belle who was a year away from free agency and coming off several monster seasons. Ok so the obvious part is that this guy turned out to be Derek Jeter. No one knew that Jeter would be a sure bet hall of famer in the winter of 1997.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that Derek Stepan is a hall of famer in the making, but he just put up 51PTS in his age 21 season. When he’s Ryan’s age at 25 he’ll have 7 (SEVEN!!) full NHL seasons under his belt. You do not trade a guy who can easily put up 60PTS next season in a league where that’s a good amount for a 2nd line center… when he’ll only be 22… with no organizational 2nd line level depth at center. Yes faceoffs tend to be instinctive, but the guy IS an NHL player so you’ve got to believe he can improve… plus he did improve a bit this season. We have to remember he’s only going to be 22! He’s a baby by NHL standards and more than holds his own. I’m telling you we could stand pat and (barring a healthy Gaborik) but cup contenders this season without making a move. Last season was not a fluke, it was just the opening up of the flood gates a bit early.

    • Eddie says:

      Very well said. The best trades sometimes are the ones not made. Stepan and Kreider have looked amazing together in the WJC on Team USA I would love to see them togehter all year. Also you can teach a guy to win faceoffs. You can not teach a guy to score. Either he can or he can’t. That is why the NHL is the only pro league where you see 18 year old pros and actually playing. Scorers are born not taught. Faceoffs build up his upper body and he will improve.

    • RangerSmurf says:

      Step will be concluding his 5th season when he raises the Cup in June 2015, when he turns 25.

  5. Jess says:

    The one thing nobody seems to listen to is that Gordie Clark drafts payers to compliment each other.

    The Rangers are not going to return to their ways of filling one hole by creating another.

    It is almost comical how nobody listens to Sather when he says he is not going to trade his youth.

  6. Tom says:

    My sentiments exactly. Not really sure if the Rangers can afford to part with a center.

  7. Nicky says:

    Sell high!!! I like Steps but he may be the most over rated NY Ranger in the last 30 years. There is almost nothing that Bobby Ryan is not better than Stepan at. Ryan has a chance to be an all star for years. Steps will not be an all star. This is trading youth for better youth.

  8. Nicky says:

    By the way this part of Scullys post made me laugh. “Now, I’m not suggesting that Derek Stepan is a hall of famer in the making, but he just put up 51PTS in his age 21 season. When he’s Ryan’s age at 25 he’ll have 7 (SEVEN!!) full NHL seasons under his belt. ”

    Steps is 22 now. How is he going to play 5 more NHL seasons in the next 3 years? :)

  9. Mikeyyy says:

    I think too many people are willing to pull the trigger on a deal hoping it will net a cup.

    I will say it once so,pay attention. We will not win a cup by trading youth for other talent.

    The rangers are one of the youngest teams in the league. Our d was the youngest on ice in the entire league, and they did amazingly well.

    Give it one more season before trading people away.

    Let’s face it….gabby’s injury is a good thing. This will require the team to come together even more to win games…and when gabby comes back. It’s just icing on the cake…

    We have some impressive pieces…

    And remember most of our guys had a bad year last year. Lol. Dubi was off, Boyle couldn’t score, step couldn’t win a face off, Staal was out, sauer hurt.

    Really with these guys playing a better year next season, sky’s the limit…but you have to have patience and wait for it.. Rushing into anything for instant cup of Stanley will not work..anyone remember Neil smith? That’s what I thought.

  10. Nicky says:

    Do I remember Neil Smith? Yeah I remember him as the only NY Rangers GM to win a cup in the last 72 years or so. :)

    • Mikeyyy says:

      He also was the one that scared messier , and Keenan away.

      He also was the one that traded all his prospects to win the cup and was never a contender again.

      He is now the owner of a rangers affiliate in Greenville sc.

      And he quote wears His islanders cup ring with pride.

      • Nicky says:

        Mess left for more money.

        Kennan has had a long list of teams that he left or that left him.

        I haded trading Amonte, Weight and Gartner but it was Keenan that pushed for those trades not Smith.

        Trading Stepan for Ryan isnt like those trades anyway since Ryan is still 25.

        The bottom line is Neil Smith is the only GM to win us a cup in 72 years.

  11. JimBob says:

    Very very simple all you NYR bloggers……keep every player you have today – NO TRADES . If management wants to buy a free agent, so be it, but keep your considerable youth and talent. These youthful talents will turn into # 1 and #2 draft picks later if and when you trade some.

  12. kgb16 says:

    Semin will only cost us money, Dolans have that.

  13. rob sahm says:

    dont trade stepan dont trade kreider or mcdonaugh or del zotto . well it looks like we are going to be stuck with aaron asham and taylor pyatt as our great signings cause you are not going to get elite scoring talent by giving other teams garbage in return so it goes like this mr. sather you have to give something to get something oh i forgot the haley signing was brilliant alsomay i mind you

  14. TheGreatBenbi says:

    Great read man. Stepan had 51 points this year at 22 years of age. Give him time…

    Ranger fans…. “Time???????”

  15. MBN says:

    Do not do this trade. Steph is only going to get better, and be a very solid scoring c-man in a year or 2. I would not be surprised if he develops into a consistent 25-45-70 point guy, annually.

    And, right now, his cost is low. I doubt it will reach Ryan’s, even after he is a RFA and gets extended.

    Steph between Kreider and hags is a line I would love to see. Could be the quickest in the NHL.