The New York Rangers inked a six-year $39 million deal with Derek Stepan, adding another name to the roster of players locked up to long-term deals.
Negotiations over this deal were looming for quite some time and original consensus on the deal is positive for both parties. This move continues a second straight busy offseason that has helped shape the future and core of the team going forward.
From the long-term discount deal for Mats Zuccarello to the Carl Hagelin trade, the in-house building paired with trades and signings have come together to form a unit that will likely be the face and base of the Blueshirts going forward.
With several players yet to be locked up, here is a look at the Rangers core for the next few years:
The Rangers leading scorer this year and likely for the next few years has expanded his game to include among the best back-checking in the league. Playoff performances have been underwhelming in his first two years but it is no doubt a huge advantage to have one of the best scorers in the NHL locked up through 2018-19.
The reason for this article and one of the homegrown talents that the Rangers drafted, signing Stepan to a big deal was a no brainer. At only 25 years old he has two 50-point seasons and is only getting better. He will need to work on his faceoff game but nonetheless is a top line center now and going forward.
The center piece of the Gaborik Trade, Brassard has been a consistent center among the most productive pairings each season. His best has been in the playoffs where he has a knack for finishing in big moments. Brassard locks up two top-line centers for the next four seasons.
Inch for inch Zuccarello may be the most valuable player in all of New York. The 5-foot-7 undrafted winger has come out of nowhere to become a vital piece of the puzzle for the Rangers. Pairing with Brassard you can put anyone from Benoit Pouiliot to Rick Nash on the other wing and the line will be successful. Zuccarello took a deal that many viewed as a hometown discount last offseason and is locked up through 2018-19.
The 28th captain in the history of the Rangers, McDonagh was the spoils to the victor of the most lopsided trade in recent NHL history. He is among the top blueliners in the league and will wear blue for at least the next four seasons.
Girardi is the other half of the top unit for the Rangers. He has been among the team leaders in minutes, blocked shots and other hard working stats for several years at this point and shows no signs of slowing down. Tied for the oldest player on this list with Nash shows some concerns of his value at the end of this deal but since going undrafted it has been a bad idea to bet against Girardi who is locked up through 2019-2020.
Serving as assistant captain, Staal has been targeted as a franchise defenseman since the Rangers used the 12th overall pick on him in 2005. These predictions and high hopes have come to fruition producing a bedrock defensive D-man who is not afraid to get involved in the offense at the right time. Staal will play his home games at The Garden through the 2019-2020 season.
When the Rangers traded Michael Del Zotto for Kevin Klein it seemed like trading upside for a known commodity. No one could have predicted that Klein represented both of those attributes. remaining consistent with his defensive contribution, Klein has turned up his defensive output and turned into a strong scoring defenseman who rounds out the top two pairing for the Rangers which is among the leagues best.
Calling Henrik Lundqvist the spinal stem of this team is no exaggeration. Anyone who has read my writing before or for that matter any Rangers writing whatsoever about this team knows that they live and die by the Swede in the net. The best goalie in hockey will remain a Ranger through 2019-20.
Others to Sign (Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider):
The core seems to be nearly set with the exception of two young stars in the making. When the Rangers traded Carl Hagelin it was to save money on what would have been a big contract after this year. That money they saved is destined for Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider. The two sub 25 year olds are already integral parts of the team but add in unlimited upside and they become two must signs young studs who will round out the Rangers core of six forwards and four defenseman. Two top lines and a world class goalie will be integral to this teams future. The final pieces will be plug ins which have been important pieces for most championship teams.