The New York Rangers need a defenseman. The Carolina Hurricanes are looking for offensive help. How about a Derek Stepan for Justin Faulk trade?
When the New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the 2015 second round, it was Derek Stepan who scored the overtime winner. In the 2016 playoffs, Derek Stepan stepped up when others did not. However, fans have short memories, and Derek Stepan was terrible in the 2017 playoffs.
Luckily, Jeff Gorton likely has a longer memory. Unluckily, the Rangers will likely need to move a forward in exchange for a defenseman this off-season. It’s an unfortunate truth, as is that one of Rick Nash or Derek Stepan will likely be the player to go. Stepan serves as the more obvious option, as his long term contract provides him with more value.
Although the Rangers likely do not want to trade Stepan at all, the suggestion here is that they trade the alternate captain to a division rival. A Stepan for Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes swap (with other pieces involved) makes plenty of sense for both sides. Let’s take a look.
Why the Rangers would make the deal
The Rangers desperately need help on defense. Acquiring Justin Faulk solves plenty of New York’s problems. Faulk is a top pair defenseman that can immediately play with Ryan McDonagh. Faulk also is a power-play weapon who can put the puck in the net, something New York is sorely missing. Additionally, the Hurricanes defenseman is a right-handed shot, another area the Rangers are lacking in.
Faulk checks in at $4.8 Million per the next three seasons, a terrific contract for a player of his talent level. Faulk’s career 51.7 Corsi For Percentage speaks to his ability to drive the possession game as well.
Truthfully, the deal is a no-brainer for New York. While Stepan is a fan favorite and grew up with the team, the league is a business. New York needs a defenseman far more than they need a forward, and Faulk slots into the lineup seamlessly. He’s a perfect fit.
In fact, the Hurricanes would likely ask for more in the deal, and the suggestion here is that the Rangers should give more if asked. Not too much more, but this is a rare opportunity to add a top, developed defenseman in his prime.
Why the Hurricanes would make the deal
Carolina has not been shy about saying they want offensive help. Carolina scored the 20th most goals per game in the regular season, while playing Derek Ryan as their third center. The Hurricanes boast a bevy of defensemen, more than they possess slots for. Thus, a defenseman for a forward trade makes plenty of sense.
Derek Stepan fits in with Carolina just as seamlessly as Faulk does with the Rangers. Stepan would slide into the second center slot, allowing Victor Rask to be the third center. Rask’s spot on the third line would work similarly to that of Kevin Hayes on the Rangers. He could exploit teams with weak defenses, unable to cover a team that can roll multiple lines.
Carolina can handle Stepan’s long-term contract, as they have plenty of cap space. Stepan’s greatest weakness is his slow decision making, but in Carolina the defensemen can aid him in best utilizing his own talent and the talent around him.
Stepan’s 55 points this past season would have ranked second on the Hurricanes, 10 points ahead of Carolina’s top center. The long-time Ranger can play in all situations, still has multiple years left in his prime, and boasts more playoff experience than any Hurricanes forward.
Although losing Faulk would be a difficult pill to swallow, adding Stepan would be yet another move pushing the Hurricanes towards the playoffs. Carolina can ask for an additional asset or two, furthering their quest for a return to the playoffs.
Although trading within the division is rare, this is a case that makes plenty of sense for each side.