The lingering problem that is Derek Stepan

July 12, 2014, by
Derek Stepan is a year away from being a rich young man.

Derek Stepan is a year away from being a rich young man.

Following the news of former New York Ranger and fan favourite Brandon Dubinsky signing an excessive (market representative?) new deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets I was having a twitter chat with well-informed Ranger fan and friend of the blog George Ays (Ranger Smurf). We started discussing the Derek Stepan situation and how Dubinsky’s deal affects the talented Ranger pivot.

Derek Stepan represents a huge headache for the Rangers management. He has already proven he’ll stick to his guns and risk a holdout if he doesn’t get what he feels he deserves and if this summer has shown anything, it’s that it’s very much a sellers’ market. There truly is a dearth of available young talent at the center position. In other words, Stepan knows that if he has a strong season in 2015, he’s getting a truck load of cash.

In fact, the stark reality is that Stepan doesn’t need to be brilliant next year and he’s still going to get rewarded. A young, American forward who has been close to a point/game player (albeit in a lock-out shortened year), who has contributed heavily to a run to the Cup Final and who is arguably the top line center on an original six team? The kid is going to get paid even as a pending RFA. The next deal Stepan signs will likely buy up some UFA years and that’s where it begins to get expensive.

We’ve seen Ryan Callahan leave because of excessive demands. We’ve seen Brad Richards bought out, in part because of his contract relative to his declining play but also in part because of the impact his deal had on the ability to fill out the roster. The next deal for Stepan (and for that matter, to Marc Staal) has the potential to really hamstring the Rangers ability to fill out the roster.

Brandon Dubinsky just got $5.85m/year for six years because he’s a good two-way, team guy who gives 100% every night. Dubinsky will never be an elite scorer and he doesn’t have the upside or pure skill Stepan has. The ex-Ranger just completed his second season where he hit the 50 point mark. Stepan’s numbers eclipse those of Dubinsky and he has much more playoff production to fall back on.

You know Derek Stepan and his agent will have welcomed the Dubinsky news and you know Glen Sather will have seen it too. Chances are, Sather just snapped a big fat Cuban in anger at the deal’s announcement. Stepan’s 2014-15 season just got a little more interesting thanks to Dubinsky. Stepan will have some serious motivation to play out a strong year next year and that should be to the Rangers benefit but RFA or not, Stepan is likely to cause the Rangers a few headaches in the coming weeks and months.

"The lingering problem that is Derek Stepan", 2 out of 5 based on 8 ratings.


  1. Walt says:

    As much as I like Step, he is not a true #1 center, but a very good #2, that plays a good two way game.

    If, and when he wants to play hard ball, on his next contract, well, he may need to be moved for benefit of the team. This may not be a popular remark, and so be it, but team needs should always be first, and any player can be replaced. If they can trade a Gretzky, or a Marcel Dion, well Step can be traded just as easily. He certainly isn’t a Hall of Famer now is he?????

    • Chris says:

      Unfortunately Walt, it seems 5-6m is the going rate for a top six 50-60 point center and he has the potential to be a 60-75pt center. Think about the $ Paul statsny just got and look at his numbers… One 70 point season?… Stepan’s production isnt a long way behind… He’s gonna cash in and less Sather has some dodgy photos of Stepan on file.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      That’s true but like you say he’s not a true number one Center. On a few of the top Western teams he’s a 2C but he’s the best Center on the team right now. Unless they go out and add a real top center. He’s the number one. If Nash were on his left side, he’d be on Stepans forehand.

  2. Chris72 says:

    As much as I love Stepan’s game, he is not a true C1. His strength is his vision of the ice and his ability to create. Defensively I think he is good but there’s much room for improvement. This is where organizational depth comes into play. I agree with you Walt…… better players have been traded. This is where GM’s earn their cash

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      Stepan was a different player in his contract year. He was just about a PPG player. This year he started slow because of the holdout which is his fault but he knew the contract would be 2 years. This year is a contract year. He’s gonna play like 12/13 for a full 82 games. Maybe even have a great playoff run.
      I really think Having Nash on his LW and a righty on his RW will make a line that can take over games. Stepan is a great 2 way Centerman as well. He does a lot more than score points and aside from the broken Jaw hasn’t missed a game since he became a regular NHL player. In 12/13 no matter who played next to him had a good game. Move Kreider down to 2nd LW centered by Brassard and flanked by MSL. Those are 2 good lines to me if a top 6 righty can be signed. There may be $3 mil left or more to find a 2nd line center.
      Sorry about the novel but I really think the Rangers would be improved by having a couple righties. Chris Mueller was a good signing. He’s ready for the NHL. We will find out where but he’s a righty Center that can play LW or RW as well.

  3. Timg says:

    The short version Trade him now… I have never been fond of his play & his hold out did not help. A possibility of a raise makes it an easy decision for me. Also we love to talk about how much chirping Sid does to the refs – don’t need to look far in our own backyard for another whiner…

    • Spozo says:

      Trade him now? You would feel comfortable having Brassard and Dominic Moore as the only centers this team has?

      • Timg says:

        No, he should be packaged for a true #1. He will not be here next year with what his demands will probably be, nor should he. Time to get something for him now before it is too late. He is not a #1 and nothing is going to change that, especially another year.

        • Spozo says:

          Id love to see the list of teams lining up to trade their #1 center for Derek Stepan and a prospect/draft pick from the Rangers booming prospect pool especially when it is assumed Stepan is going to demand a fat paycheck so he is likely on a 1 year contract.

          Package him for a bonafide superstar #1 center. Oh that’s all.

          • Timg says:

            Funny stuff. No he can not be traded straight up for an upgrade / elite #1 it may even take a three team trade for this to happen. But my opinion is that the NYR as always are still trying to go for it now so he could also be packaged for a a more aging player in a short term deal like they did with Dan Boyle. Either way he will not be worth the raise he will most certainly demand next year AGAIN so move him now… Oh by the way for all those who think he is all that and a bag of chips I would think the comment would be that other teams would jump at the chance for him – guess NOT…

  4. Marc Weissman says:

    While everything you say is true stat-wise about Derek Stepan, I would take and sign Brandon Dubinsky over him in a heartbeat. And Cally ta boot. Which is why those 2 NY-well-groomed leaders are comfortably locked in with their respective teams, whereas Step will hit the open market like gangbusters when Slats refuses to cave in to a player who may produce by osmosis of his fellow linemates, but won’t ever be the impact player #17 and #24 were at MSG and still are.

    Hockey ain’t all about numbers, big boy! 😉

    • tperillo says:

      I highly doubt the Rangers even sniff the finals without making the St. Louis trade. Hated to see Dubinsky go but despite his poor play off performance, Rick Nash is twice the player Dubie is.

    • Chris says:

      By osmosis? to be fair, you can’t build your argument against one player and not with the other…. Brandon Dubinsky played his rookie year with Jagr for gods sake! If that’s not benefiting from a line mate i Don’t know what is…

      Dubi is a well rounded player but he has nowhere near the upside Stepan has. Stepan has performed with a variety of linemates.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      That’s a bunch of bull. Callahan is a grinder and so is Dubinski. You can have them by going to root for TB or CBJ. Say hello to Boyle, Stralman, Anisimov, and Erixon while your there. None of them have the vision Stepan had and none of them have the stats Stepan has. Of those players only Anisimov is a Center but he’s a lefty. None of them could take Stepans place or contract right now. You want a team full of lefties go right ahead. You’ll be lucky to win 30 games. Stepan is going to get paid next summer. Sather said that he would but that it wouldn’t be on his current deal. The cap will go up next season and Stepan will be a part of that. He will have a monster season this year.

    • Lars says:

      When it comes to contracts it is about number Ding Dong!!

  5. WilliamW says:

    Having good young players isn’t something I’d call a problem…

    Stepan is a valuable player for this team and he will become even more so next without Richards. He may not be the true desired star 1C but he is a top 20-40 center in the NHL and those types get paid $5-6 mm per year. There are no options in the organization or cheaper FAs available so Glen will have to pay the man

  6. supermaz says:

    Package him in a deal for an upgrade at the position. Stepan is way overrated, he gets a lot of “cheap” points. Too slow, and has already reached his full potential, he ain’t getting any better. I’d like to see him packaged with Girardi if possible, unload that bad contract.

    • Timg says:

      When ever anyone gets asked what this team needs all will say a #1 center, they will also say it is not Steps. But the 2nd it is suggested he be traded for an upgrade the anonymous vote downs come. Sorry but can not have it both ways we (THE TEAM) need a true #1 and a package with him NOW makes sense while some think he has any value. They will never pay him next year so why wait. I agree his play does not match his stats which are better then what I see on the ice – slow & unsteady in hockey does NOT win the race.

      • supermaz says:

        Thanx Timg, glad to see someone is watching the same games as me, and not looking through red and blue tinted glasses.

        • supermaz says:

          They didn’t listen to me with MDZ, and waited too long to trade him. Hopefully they don’t do the same with this loser.

  7. mikeyyy says:

    Kept playing with a broken jaw.

    Seems like ranger material.

    If he puts up a ppg pay the man.

    • flatbush says:

      Just about all the remarks conclude Step is not a # 1 center and a good # 2. Never a big fan But playing with a broken jaw gained him more respect. The team comes first and numbers alone should not dictate his contract. If he fits what the team needs keep him. If not, see ya. One guy not going to win you the cup.

  8. Erixon20 says:

    I disagree with the Step haters. Would love to see him centering the 2nd line with MSL. I’d trade Brass (and I really like Brass) before Stepan any day as part of a package for a true #1. Step would be a better 2nd line center, he’s used to playing against top D pairs….Brass had favorable matchups all last season. Would love to keep both, but will cost too much for a 3rd line C.

  9. Frank Cerbone says:

    Stepan has NEVER missed a Ranger game during the regular season.

    Stepan is a plus 59 at age 24 , OReilly a minus 8 at age 23.

    OReilly & Stepan have about the same total number of goals and assists

    Stepan is more physical has 302 hits, OReilly 181 hits in 61 more gms

    Oreilly is better at takeaways & faceoffs

    OReilly is soft, plays like Richards outside the
    faceoff circle.

    Oreilly played wing last season, but still takes faceoffs.

    Both players are $6-7 mil players, so they better get signed to LONG TERMS.

    Staal needs to go; will never be a 1st pairing defenseman, peaked 3 years ago, and will be terrible this season without Stralman to offset his inability to make the outlet pass.

    The Rangers minor league system is DEAD LAST IN THE NHL and WILL BE WORSE NEXT SEASON WITH ISLANDERS,BUFFALO, & TAMPA having all those extra picks (they are 1,2,& 4 in prospect rankings)

    • supermaz says:

      Staal is one of the most underrated players on the team. If I were him I would want to be traded to a team whose fan base appreciated me. What games are all the Staal bashers watching? 2nd best d – man on the team.

    • Timg says:

      Step is also a turnover machine,

      He is absolutely soft (why so many haters)!

      His dump no chase which always leads to turnovers look more like someone avoiding contact.

      His shot is weak, and often taken from way to far out or completely misses the net which leads to yet more turnovers.

      He is slow with little to no skating ability unless you call his tri-pod skating style a positive.

      When talking about perimeter players he looks more like a new skater who skates around the boards so he can hold on.

      If you go to a game and watch him without the puck he has zero urgency, and is constantly not in the play.

      He does not have the puck enough to be a playmaker and those who think he should be on a 2nd line with MSL are crazy. Please explain how that works he does his usual dump in and what MSL goes to get the puck to pass to him with his laser shot??? When he played with Kreider & Nash he was so often not visible unless you owned a 200 foot TV.

  10. Frank Cerbone says:

    There is no situation on a contending team where Staal would be considered a 1st pairing defenseman
    His scouting reports all the way back to juniors confirm that statement. Can’t make the outlet pass & not an offensive threat on a contending team.

    Move Staal NOW, save money for next year’s cap problems with Stepan, Hagelin, & Talbot needing to be paid.

    Reread interesting article by Joe Fortunato why Rangers should not sign Richards at $6.5 mil back when Richards was a UFA leaving Dallas. Probably the only time Mr Fortunato & I were on the same page.

    Also reread article on draft picks 1-2, & 3-7 from 2001-2010. Rangers were near to last in 1-2 rds over 2001-2010 & in lower middle place for late rd picks. Why have Rangers made playoffs contended? 1) mortgage future for short term needs & 2) unlimited bank acct.

    Like I said, I reread the scouting report on Staal….nothing has changed….other than he peaked 3 years ago

    • supermaz says:

      Frank, your a moron, game is played on the ice not on outdated scouting reports. Staal is an excellent top tier defenseman, whose offensive talents have been underutilized by short sited coaches.

  11. SalMerc says:

    Until we have another alternative, Stepan will get his money.

  12. Lars says:

    Stepan is worth every penny they pay him. His numbers speak for themselves. I love it when people write that he’s too slow, too weak, can’t shoot, but every year leads this team in points or close to it! We finally get a home grown center that has over achieved in his first 4 years and you want to trade him. If Sather would of taken care of Stepan last summer, ( like all other GM’S do) we would not be in this position today. This will all be on Sather. If he was smart he would extend Stepan right now before his case gets to arbitration, because Stepan is going to kill it if it goes to Arb!!