There is a lot of interested in trading for Ryan Kesler, and for good reason. Kesler is a top line center who is usually good for about 60 points per season when he isn’t hurt. He plays a solid two-way, three-zone game, and would give the Rangers a lot of options in their top-six. In a vacuum, dealing for Kesler is a very shrewd move that would cement the Rangers place as a true contender in the Eastern Conference.
The problem is the cost. The Canucks are rumored to want a “young center that is 20-25 years old, a top prospect, and a third round pick.” You can’t blame them for wanting this much, as Kesler is locked up for another two seasons at $5 million per year. For the Rangers, that would mean dealing Derek Stepan, a top forward prospect (Danny Kristo, Oscar Lindberg, Jesper Fast), and the pick.
Depth down the middle wins championships. Every single Stanley Cup champion since the 2004-2005 lockout has had incredible depth. The Rangers could use an upgrade in their top-six, especially if they prefer Brad Richards on the wing. Kesler-Stepan-Derick Brassard-Brian Boyle would be one of the best groups of four in the league. This assumes Brad Richards moves to the wing for this season and is bought out in the offseason.
And therein lies the concern with trading Stepan. The Rangers would just be dealing their young center –who is cost controlled for the next four seasons– for an older version who costs $2 million more. That depth mentioned above takes a big hit with Stepan removed from the equation.
Depth aside, the Canucks are essentially looking for a 20-25 year old Kesler (plus some) in exchange for their 30-year-old Kesler. In a salary cap era, you don’t deal your cost-controlled younger center for the older player who scores 10 points more per season.
Dealing for Kesler would be a great move for the Rangers, but including Stepan in the deal is a step sideways. The Canucks won’t be dealing one of their best players without getting something significant in return. If the Canucks insist on Stepan, it’s something the Rangers should walk away from.