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McKenzie: “Stepan’s name fairly prominent in trade chatter”

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NHL: New York Rangers at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

In case one lightning bolt wasn’t enough today with the announcement of Dan Girardi being bought out, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is saying that there has been a lot of talk about Rangers center Derek Stepan in trade chatter.

(Note: McKenzie’s initial tweet was mistaken, Stepan carries a $6.5 million cap hit through the next four seasons.)

Another layer to this story was a piece published today by TSN about the Matt Puempel signing that projected Stepan as a player the Rangers would leave exposed to Las Vegas:

A first-round pick of the Senators in 2011, Puempel owns 10 goals and five assists in 79 career games. Puempel is expected to exposed to Vegas along with forward Derek Stepan and defenceman Nick Holden and Kevin Klein.

Could this mean that Michael Grabner or Oscar Lindberg will be protected instead of Stepan? This raises a lot of questions (including whether or not this was a mistake made by TSN). One has to imagine that the Rangers could get something substantial in a trade for a center who has 360 points in 515 career games.

Stepan’s NTC kicks in on July 1st, which leaves the Rangers with 17 days to move the soon to be 27-year-old center. If the Rangers hope to protect another player in the expansion draft, a trade would have to be made before 5:00pm on Saturday, June 17th. That is the deadline for teams to submit expansion draft protection lists.

Rumors about a Stepan trade have been prevalent on social media since the Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs this year. Alain Vigneault leaned on Stepan a lot during the 2017 Playoffs, but the center was very critical of his own play and fans took notice.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

"I've been not very good with the puck," Stepan admitted during the Ottawa series. "I've worked extremely hard to try to defend the right way and get myself in the right positions. But when that puck is on my stick, I have not been all that sharp with it. I don't know why."

Stepan has scored 20 or more goals twice in his seven-year career and has yet to record a 60 point season. He was the Rangers 51st pick of the 2008 Draft. He led the team in power play points (18) last season and was ranked third on the team in total points (55) behind J.T. Miller and Mats Zuccarello.

Another bit of news that came out today is that the salary cap is expected to increase. James Mirtle has reported that the cap for the 2017-18 season will likely be increased by the end of the week and raised to $75 million.

From Mirtle’s piece in The Athletic:

According to several sources, the most likely outcome is a salary cap figure of $75-million next season. That is only a $2-million rise from last year.

After buying out Girardi the Rangers will have a lot of cap space to play with. Even more space could be made available in a trade that moves Stepan’s $6.5 million hit. It looks like big changes are coming for the Blueshirts.