The New York Rangers came into the offseason with multiple young restricted free agents to deal with. To this point in the offseason, they still haven’t locked them all up, with the contract talks between the Blueshirts and Derek Stepan not going particularly well in recent days.
Which means it’s time for the Florida Panthers to make their move. The Cats haven’t been particularly active because of a reluctance to overpay for the few assets that were actually out on the free agent market, which means that outside of Aleksander Barkov, they haven’t done much to improve a team that finished last in the league standings last season.
General managers typically don’t like to use offer sheets, for fear of angering rival general managers, but in this case, the Panthers may want to strongly consider putting in an offer sheet to pry the restricted free agent forward away from the Rangers. He’d represent an asset that this team currently lacks.
The Panthers could use a center like Stepan, as any team could. He’s coming off a career year, in which he notched 0.92 points per game. He posted 44 points in 48 games, including 18 goals and 26 assists. Had it been a full season, he would have easily blown his previous career highs out of the water.
Stepan is the total package as a no. 1 center. He’s capable of putting up 70 or so points, is an asset on the power play, and is a capable player at both ends of the ice. His skill at the faceoff dot leaves something to be desired, but that has improved in his brief time in the league.
The Panthers would be wise to at least attempt to acquire him, which would probably have tocome via offer sheet. There’s an obvious risk there, and it’s unlikely the Rangers will to part with him, but he’s a chance absolutely worth taking for the Panthers.