New York Rangers: Derek Stepan’s contract is just right

Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports /

With the expansion draft approaching and rumors about the New York Rangers shaking up their roster, Derek Stepan’s name has been brought up. Some argue that Stepan is underperforming compared to his contract value. In reality, the Rangers perfectly nailed Stepan’s market value and would regret moving him this off-season.

Derek Stepan is clearly the New York Rangers number one center, and with that comes a high price tag. Stepan was able to ink a six-year contract worth $39 million in the summer of 2015. This price tag, however, has recently gained some criticism, especially after Stepan’s poor postseason performance.

In order to understand if Stepan is underperforming compared to his market value, his market value should be analyzed.  Below is a quick breakdown of top centers in the league with similar contracts to Stepan.

NameCap HitAgeSigned UntilGames PlayedCareer Average PPGCareer Plus/MinusHighest Point Total
Nicklas Backstrom$6.702920217340.99113101
Derek Stepan$6.502620215150.710957
Sean Monahan$6.382220233190.68-1963
Nathan MacKinnon$6.302120233000.69-563
Filip Forsberg$6.002220222640.72-164

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Understanding Stepan’s Market Value

When comparing him to the other top centers in the league, it seems as if Stepan is on par with his peers. With players like Monahan, MacKinnon and Forsberg, their age compared to Stepan’s creates the theory that their prime has not happened yet. But, at this point in time, Stepan’s numbers and contract compared to his peers seems to reflect his market value.  Stepan averages a better PPG than both Monahan and MacKinnon.  Stepan also has a better plus/minus rating than everyone on that list and is just behind Backstrom.

It should be noted that Stepan has never played with the talent that Backstrom has. Playing with guys like Alexander Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Alexander Semin, and Evgeny Kuznetsov over the years is gonna help your cause.

Despite not having such a high production ceiling as the centers listed above, Stepan’s a defensive zone asset. A player who you can count on to get 50 points per year and also be a big presence where it matters.  His stats show that as well. A career plus/minus of +109 is not something that should be ignored. His high plus/minus rating is a testament to Stepan’s overall solid play for the Rangers.

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Other Number One Centers

Derek Stepan is not Steve Stamkos, Sidney Crosby or John Tavares. These players are arguably not only top five in their position but the top players in the game today. Players who can command double digit per season figures. Stepan should not be compared to these players. They are a different class.

Despite this, Stepan is a center who can do it all. He is an asset in all facets of the game. He may not put up 70 points a year but you can count on him to show up when it counts. Despite his poor showing this postseason, Rangers management should be confident that the 26-year-old Minnesota native will come back hungry next year.

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It would be naive to not dangle Stepan’s name out there as trade bait. As a General Manager, very few players should be out of the trade conversation.  This summer, Stepan’s name will be thrown out there and the rumor mill will churn. Unless Jeff Gorton gets a deal he cannot resist, then he should hold onto Stepan. I believe Stepan has many more years of great two-way play in him and he will produce unforgettable plays like this one.