The New York Rangers are almost done locking up all of their restricted free agents, as Derick Brassard and John Moore are expected to either sign or go to arbitration at some point this week. After those two are signed, however, there is still much work to be done for GM Glen Sather. The No. 1 priority for Sather should be signing Derek Stepan to a long-term extension.
Stepan, who turned 24 in June, has been the Rangers’ most consistent forward over the past two seasons. In the lockout shortened season in 2013, Stepan recorded 44 points in 48 games and developed into the teams No. 1 center. After he held out in the preseason last year, Stepan got off to a slow start, but still finished with a respectable 57 points while playing in all 82 games. He also had a great playoff run, finishing second on the team in points and assists.
Not only has Stepan produced well with points over the past few years, he also has great advanced statistics. He is always among the best on the team in corsi and fenwick percentages while posting a high PDO over the past couple of seasons. For those who don’t know, PDO adds the save percentage and shooting percentage for a player when they are on the ice. Stepan is a player who possesses solid fancy stats and passes the eye test for those old-school fans.
Many fans and analysts have argued that Stepan is not a clear cut No. 1 center, but is just a step below being one. Whether you believe Stepan is a No. 1 center or not, he is the best center on the Rangers roster by far right now. No. 1 centers don’t grow on trees and if the Rangers were to lose Stepan, it would hurt them for years to come. Quite frankly, they don’t have any other options to replace Stepan if he were to leave next summer.
The Rangers are usually smart when it comes to taking care of their homegrown talent. Stepan is part of the future core that includes Ryan McDonagh and Carl Hagelin. That is why a Stepan extension should be No. 1 on the Rangers’ list of priorities.