New York Rangers: Predicting who will replace Derek Stepan

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New York Rangers
Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports /

Josh Lipman-

Mika Zibanejad will be the Rangers’ number one center next season. Only a broken fibula kept Zibanejad from establishing himself as the team’s top pivot in 16-17. Strangely enough, the front office is probably quite happy about that given Zibanejad’s restricted free agent status.

Zibanejad’s strong playoff performance and chemistry with Chris Kreider point toward an offensive explosion. While the dynamic Swede is poised to take the number one mantle Derek Stepan vacated, New York still needs someone to handle defensive matchups.

Neither Zibanejad nor Kevin Hayes play styles suited to that role.

The Rangers will go outside their organization to add a veteran defensive center. Though they may try to woo Joe Thornton, expect New York to add a lesser name such as Martin Hanzal or Brian Boyle. General manager Jeff Gorton could also investigate the availability of a center through trade like Winnipeg’s Mathieu Perreault.