The trading of top center Derek Stepan was a shock to everyone. He may not have performed to his greatest abilities in the 2017 Playoffs, but he was reliable for the regular season. And he had been for the past seven seasons since his first game when he scored a hat trick against the Buffalo Sabres.
With him out of the picture, there are way too many questions that have surfaced and not enough answers. Whoever takes his position has big shoes to fill and should be able to put up a lot of points, at least 45.
Considering the Rangers are always looking for that ideal “young and fast” group of forwards, I think Mika Zibanejad is going to get the call to fill the position as the team’s number one center. He’s got the experience and had a great season with the Rangers despite missing two months due to a leg injury.
He also proved his reliability in the playoffs, which gives Alain Vigneault another reason to trust him. The Rangers will still need to find another center (or ideally two) before the end of this offseason, but the position of being a number one center is one that’s hard to fill. And I think Zibanejad will be thrust into that position and it’ll make him (and the team as a whole) better for it.