Rumors

Rumor Roundup: Could Stepan’s contract force Rangers into trades?

Lyle Richardson
By:

Derek Stepan (Al Bello/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

Rumors

Rumor Roundup: Could Stepan’s contract force Rangers into trades?

Lyle Richardson
By:

New York Rangers center Derek Stepan appears headed for salary arbitration and that could have repurcussions on the future for the Blueshirts. If Stepan gets a big money deal, he could put the Rangers under a salary cap crunch that could result in trades. One possibility is the trade of defenseman Keith Yandle. Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers could be looking to get rid of a blueliner of their own.

New York Rangers center Derek Stepan was among over 20 NHL players who filed for salary arbitration on Monday. That's raising concerns in the New York media over whether the Blueshirts can afford to re-sign him.

The New York Post's Larry Brooks suggests the Buffalo Sabres' recent signing of center Ryan O'Reilly to a long-term contract worth $7.5-million per season ruined any hope the Rangers had of re-signing Stepan to a deal between $6.2 million to $6.5 million. Ryan Kennedy, however, points out O'Reilly's contract has no bearing on Stepan, as in the eyes of arbitration, their status is different.

Brooks, however, is right to worry that the 25-year-old Stepan could receive a two-year arbiter-awarded contract worth over $7-million annually. He and Kennedy note Stepan played some of the hardest minutes on the Rangers last season, ranking among their leading scorers. He was also their most dangerous penalty killer.

Stepan's asking price could force the cap-strapped Rangers to consider trading him. If so, they'll have to wait until after his arbitration hearing. As per the collective bargaining agreement, players awaiting salary arbitration cannot be dealt.

The Rangers could swing a rare “sign-and-trade” deal, inking Stepan to a $7 million-plus contract and immediately ship him to another team. They could also retain him and move out one or two other players to free up cap space.

Brooks suggests defenseman Keith Yandle as a trade candidate. He cites the 28-year-old blueliner's $2.625-million cap hit (the Arizona Coyotes carry the other half), plus it's unlikely the Rangers will re-sign him before his eligibility next summer for UFA status. Brooks doubts the Rangers will shop left winger Rick Nash.

CBS New York's Sean Hartnett also mused over possible Rangers' trade candidates in the wake of an expensive new deal for Stepan. If they opt to retain Stepan, Hartnett suggests finding takers for defenseman Kevin Klein ($2.9 million) or Tanner Glass ($1.45 million).

OILERS TALKING BUYOUT?

The Edmonton Oilers decision to take defenseman Justin Schultz to arbitration could provide them with another window to buy out a contract. That prompted speculation over which current Oilers could become buyout candidates.

David Staples of the Edmonton Journal cites Oilers broadcaster Bob Stauffer suggesting defenseman Nikita Nikitin as a possibility. Nikitin, 29, has a year remaining on his contract worth $4.5 million. Even by offering to absorb part of his salary via trade, he could prove a tough sell this summer.

The Oilers recent acquisition of goaltender Anders Nilsson from Chicago casts into doubt backup Ben Scriven's future in Edmonton. Staples colleague Jonathan Willis notes TSN's Ryan Rishaug speculating the 28-year-old netminder could receive a buyout. However, Scrivens is earning $2.3 million for 2015-16, which Willis notes is below the eligible limit ($2.75 million) stipulated in the CBA.

Willis speculates trading Scrivens seems the more likely scenario. That might have to wait until training camp, as the Oilers could envision he and Nilsson competing for the backup role.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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Rumor Roundup: Could Stepan’s contract force Rangers into trades?