The Ottawa Senators will have a number of young players on their roster next season and Derek Stepan could be the ideal veteran to add to the group.
With an abundance of cap space and draft picks, the Ottawa Senators are undoubtedly in the best position to build for a bright future in the entire NHL and teams around the league will certainly answer the phone if they come calling.
At the time of writing, the Senators project to have just over $39.5 million in cap space next season with a plethora of roster spots available due to the significant number of free agents they have, including a number of veterans that will be unlikely to return.
The 2020/21 season is expected to see a number of young players make the step up from the AHL and they could do with adding some veteran leadership to be a role model and guiding light for the youngsters trying to find their way in the NHL.
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One such player that could be the ideal addition to the roster would be Arizona Coyotes centre Derek Stepan, who is entering the final year of his contract in the desert.
The 30-year-old currently carries a $6.5 million cap hit but becomes a UFA after the 2020/21 season, but the real value comes from his actual earnings, particularly if the Coyotes are willing to take a bit of a hit to help offload him from the books.
The Coyotes are at the opposite end of the spectrum to the Senators, with virtually no cap space to work with and in desperate need to offload contracts to help clear up the space they desperately need.
Stepan will earn $5 million in real money next season, but he carries a signing bonus of $3 million – something that owner Eugene Melnyk won’t likely be willing to take on in a trade.
The Coyotes, desperate to clear space, may be willing to eat the signing bonus if the return in a trade is significant enough, allowing the Senators to acquire a veteran with strong leadership traits costing just $2 million in actual monetary terms.
Stepan’s cap hit compared to his production in the desert will undoubtedly cause people to raise eyebrows, seeing the former New York Ranger register just 35 and 28 points respectively over the past two seasons.
There’s no doubt that Stepan would be able to return to his former self, a regular 50+ points producer, if he played under D.J. Smith‘s system, with the Coyotes’ dour dump and chase approach under Rick Tocchet seeing them struggle consistently with offence across the board, even former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall couldn’t put up decent numbers in the desert.
Stepan was a consistent offensive threat throughout his career until playing under Tocchet’s defensive-heavy system the past two seasons and a change of scenary and a new scheme would see him get back to being the player he once was.
He only recently turned 30, so there’s plenty of hockey still left in the tank and Stepan could be the ideal player to take prospects under his wing and help guide them through stepping up into the big league.
When at his best, Stepan scores between 15 and 20 goals a season and would contribute a lot to the developing Ottawa Senators, who have a really bright future ahead of them.