After being knocked out of the playoffs in a Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the New York Rangers have some work to do this offseason. With multiple key players having their contracts ending this summer, the Rangers’ front office will have some tough choices to make. However, if any player deserves a big contract (barring cap limitations) will be Derek Stepan.
Number 21 has certainly been quite an important player for the Blueshirts since he’s become a mainstay back in 2010. He is due to become a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights. He may be looking for a similar deal to Derick Brassard, five years and around $6 million.
Despite the salary cap rising, the Rangers are still going to be tight with salary. Yet, losing a player such as Stepan would be a huge loss for the team. He has become such a vital player to the organization and is currently one of New York’s alternate captains.
Stepan is a leader on offense for the team as well. In the 2013-2014 season, he seventeen goals and fifty seven points. This year, in sixty eight games, he tallied sixteen goals and fifty five points. He was one of the hottest players in the postseason this year, despite the Rangers falling one win short of advancing to the Final in consecutive seasons. He had five goals and twelve points in nineteen games this postseason.
His biggest games this past playoff campaign came during the second round series against the Washington Capitals. In Game 5 at home, Stepan set up the game-tying and game-winning goal to help the Rangers force a Game 6. Then in Game 7, he scored the game-winning goal in overtime which put the Rangers back into the Eastern Conference Finals.
He is a calming-presence on and off the ice and has great vision. He is one of the Rangers’ best playmakers on a team where they are shaky down the middle. At such a young age (24) Stepan has matured quite quickly in his short team being in the NHL. He has been to three Conference Finals and a Stanley Cup Finals since 2010.
The core of this team has mainly stayed the same and Stepan has been one of the veterans leading the way. With such talent, he has got to be on the top of the list for Glen Sather and his team to resign. He is a big time player and brings a lot to the table. The front office will need to figure out what he is worth and start putting numbers on the table to bring this kid back. Losing him to free agency would be a big loss to the Rangers.