With the news that Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta have been shipped off to Arizona for the 7th overall pick and RHD Antony DeAngelo. There’s a few moving pieces to this trade so let’s run through everything:
There is more coming
That doesn’t exactly mean there’s another trade on the horizon, but it does mean the Rangers have to have something else up their sleeves.
As Adam said on Twitter: The Rangers didn’t just open up about $20-million in cap space because they’re bored. Jeff Gorton has effectively given himself about as blank a slate as possible to put his true mark on this team, whether through free agency or trade.
More on what the Rangers have brought back in later in this story, but what they’ve now created is a big hole at center. Is there a move out there for Alex Galchenyuk? Now that Gorton holds the 7th and 21st overall picks in the draft maybe there is. Or perhaps there’s another player out there who tickles Gorton’s interest that hasn’t been named yet.
Or is there another road? Maybe Joe Thornton to a friendly two-year deal to shore up the Rangers’ center gap. As Adam talked about on the podcast last night, the Rangers didn’t have a true “number one” center in 2014 when they made their run to the Stanley Cup. Thornton, Kevin Hayes, and Mika Zibanejad are not exactly three poor centers to build around. Losing Oscar Lindberg in expansion, however, does remove some of the center depth the Rangers could have leaned on. Boo Nieves had multiple concussions in the AHL and doesn’t seem like he’s ready for a full time role. Outside of him, there’s no other real guy with a chance right now, so the logical guess is that something else is coming. Maybe a Brian Boyle reunion?
Losing Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta
There’s more to come on this one, too, but I did want to spare a few words for him. Word around the guys who know is that Gorton and company were concerned about the direction Stepan’s game was trending. At 27 he’s in the prime of his career, but the Rangers knew that those days were ending.
Do you trade a guy a year too early or a year too late? In this case, the Rangers traded Stepan probably two or three years too early. The point wasn’t to “get rid of him” as most fans were screaming for, but more to alleviate the financial pressure on the team. Stepan’s NMC kicked in next week and there was no way he was approving a trade to Arizona. This was a way the Rangers could remove his salary and get good value back for him before they had their hands tied.
It’s also possible that Stepan’s best years are behind him. This is a young man’s game, and while I’m not suggesting Stepan is about to fall off a cliff, he might be in his plateau stage of his career. Point being, this is no longer something the Rangers need to worry about. Not that it played a major role in this — Stepan earned every penny of his contract — but that thought process isn’t exactly totally devoid of logic.
I loved Stepan. I still do love him. There’s an ode to Stepan piece coming. I think Stepan is a true number one center. I think he was massive undervalued by a majority of the NYR fanbase, but I do understand Gorton’s motives here.
I expected the inclusion of Raanta to help the Rangers a little bit more than it did, but overall the market for backup goaltenders (or in this case a potential starting goaltender) wasn’t that hot. Best of luck to both of them.
The 7th overall selection
The Rangers haven’t had a top-10 pick since the Civil War. Well, OK maybe not that long ago, but it was a long time ago.
This draft is being characterized as a “weak” draft, but I hate that terminology because more often than not it refers to the very top of the draft. There is no McDavid on the board this year, so instantly the rest of the draft is “weak.”
There’s going to be some very, very good players around at 7th overall. To name a few: Cale Makar, Elias Pettersson, Nick Suzuki, or Cody Glass. The Rangers haven’t been in a spot to land a farm changing prospect in a long time, and the ability to re-stock the cupboard is a big one.
There’s a chance to get two very quality players at 7th and 21st, and an even bigger chance to potentially parlay those picks into major hauls on the back of the draft. There’s going to be action tonight, too.
There’s a lot to this one.
Cons: DeAngelo has serious off-ice issues, including abuse of officials and homophobic comments. Both of those things are unacceptable, and they’ve followed him around in his career. In many ways, this might be the 21-year-old’s last shot to prove that he’s grown up. That sometimes works as an amazing motivator, or it crushes them under the pressure.
Pros: DeAngelo might be one of the better puck-moving prospects on the planet. In over 200 OHL games he notched 1.02 PPG. He has recorded 59 points in 93 AHL games. At 21, he has 14 points in 39 career NHL games.
DeAngelo fits an instant need of a potential PP quarterback and the ability to move the puck out of the zone as demanded by Alain Vigneault’s current system. He’s also got a booming shot and can move the puck quickly. For a team that needs all the edges they can get on the power play and in terms of puck movement, he’s a big grab.
The risks, of course, are that the off-ice stuff doesn’t stop and he becomes a non-factor. There’s a hell of a lot to say about moving a true number one center for a 21-year-old with a tremendous amount of upside but who might also be on his last leg.
In a vacuum it seems like the Rangers sold low. In a vacuum.
The 7th overall pick excites the hell out of me, the cap space excites the hell out of me, and DeAngelo has the potential to excite the hell out of me. The end judgement on this trade, however, is perilously balanced on a blade’s edge.
That edge is mainly what Gorton is going to do with all his new flexibility. The Rangers aren’t tanking, people. They’re building.
The only question now is what.