Rangers Made Right Move With Stepan Trade

Lias Andersson’s trade demand does not bode well for his future with the New York Rangers. General manager Jeff Gorton traded Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta from the Rangers to the Arizona Coyotes following the 2016-17 season. In return, the Rangers received Tony DeAngelo and the No. 7 overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft, then used the draft pick to select Andersson.

Here’s a look at how all of the players involved in the trade have faired since then.

Antti Raanta

Raanta excelled in his role as backup goalie for Henrik Lundqvist with the Rangers. He won 27 of his 44 starts with the team and posted a .921 save percentage (SV%) over his two seasons. He became the primary goalie for the Coyotes in his first season after the trade. He played well but battled injuries. He finished with a stellar .930 SV% and 2.24 goals-against average (GAA), but the Coyotes struggled offensively and failed to make the playoffs.

Antti Raanta Arizona Coyotes
Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta (Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

Raanta couldn’t stay healthy last season and only played in 12 games. Darcy Kuemper, who stepped up in Raanta’s absence last season has remained the team’s starter this season. Raanta has had a decent season so far, with a .913 SV% in 17 games. While he hasn’t turned into the Coyotes’ franchise goalie, he is still a good backup, as long as he stays healthy.

Derek Stepan

Stepan was the top center for the Rangers during their playoff runs and came through in big moments for the team, most memorably his overtime goal in Game 7 against the Washington Capitals in 2015. He signed a contract for $39.5 million over six seasons after the 2014-15 season. While he is known as a great defensive center, he has never had more than 57 points or 22 goals in a season. He also struggled in the 2016-17 postseason — he had two goals and four assists, including an empty-net goal, and was minus-3 in 12 games.

Derek Stepan Coyotes
Derek Stepan, Arizona Coyotes, Oct. 30, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Stepan’s offensive production has steadily declined since being traded to the Coyotes. He had 56 points in his first season with them, then 35 last season and has just 12 points in 41 games this season. He continues to be among the team’s leaders in ice time, averaging 18:18 per game, but he isn’t producing offensively. He could miss time after taking a big hit last game. He has been placed in concussion protocol.

The Coyotes have not made the playoffs since acquiring Stepan, but are in position to do so this season. Stepping up in the playoffs would help make up for his offensive struggles this season and last season. Right now, his production is disappointing based on his contract, which is in effect for one more season.

Lias Andersson

The Rangers used their highest draft pick since 2004, and their first selection in the first round since 2012, to draft Andersson No. 7 overall in the 2017 NHL Draft. He was considered one of the most NHL-ready players in the draft, despite having a lower ceiling offensively than most other top prospects.

Lias Andersson New York Rangers
Lias Andersson, New York Rangers, Nov. 23, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s safe to say things have not gone as planned for the Rangers with Andersson. He has bounced back and forth between the NHL and American Hockey League (AHL). He has just three goals and six assists and is minus-20 in 66 games with the Rangers. He struggled to find a role with the Rangers, and didn’t excel in his time in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack either. In 74 games with the Wolf Pack, he had 15 goals and 24 assists but was minus-33.

Andersson is still only 21 years old and has shown a few flashes of his potential, but instead of continuing to play for Hartford, he demanded a trade and left the team. It remains unclear whether the Rangers will trade him immediately, as his trade value is very low right now. It would be helpful for him to go back to Hartford because playing well there would raise his trade value. So far, neither side has budged and it’s tough to imagine a happy ending for the Rangers in this scenario.

Tony DeAngelo

DeAngelo was picked in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning and was then traded to the Coyotes. He was labeled an offensive defenseman with attitude issues, and had been suspended for poor conduct, while playing in the Ontario Hockey League in 2014. DeAngelo was only 21 years old at the time of his trade.

Tony DeAngelo Rangers
Tony DeAngelo, New York Rangers, Sept. 26, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

DeAngelo’s first season with the Rangers did not go as planned. He struggled on both ends of the ice, spent time as a healthy scratch, and his season ended early when he crashed into the boards and suffered a sprained ankle. He finished with no goals, 8 assists and was minus-18 in 32 games.

DeAngelo came into his own last season, improving drastically at both ends of the ice. He earned head coach David Quinn’s trust with improved decision-making, as well as better positioning in the defensive zone. He finished with 4 goals, 26 assists and was plus-6 on a team that was outscored by 45 goals last season. He also brought toughness to the team, never shying away from physical play and consistently sticking up for himself and his teammates. He dropped the gloves three times, including a one-punch knock down of Kyle Okposo.

DeAngelo built off of his breakout season and has continued to improve this season. He’s avoided taking silly penalties and has been a force offensively. He already has 8 goals, 20 assists and is is plus-3 this season in 38 games. He’s shown quickness, vision, and the ability to make crisp passes out of the defensive zone to start the rush, He’s also shown a knack for delivering under pressure and has two overtime goals already this season. He’s 24 years old and has proven that he’s a player the Rangers can build around.

For the Rangers

While it hurt to lose Stepan’s leadership, the Rangers saved crucial money by shedding his salary. His offensive struggles would have lowered his trade value had the Rangers kept him. Losing Raanta hasn’t hurt the Rangers because Alexandar Georgiev has been an excellent backup to Henrik Lundqvist and is setting himself up for a duel with prospect Igor Shestyorkin to see who will become the team’s starter after Lundqvist.

Jeff Gorton
BUFFALO, NY – JUNE 25: Jeff Gorton during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

DeAngelo has improved each season since being traded to the Rangers and is putting up huge offensive numbers. Right now he is the best player in the trade.

Andersson has yet to prove himself but he is only 21 years old; the same age DeAngelo was when he was traded to the Rangers. Since Andersson can’t force the Rangers to trade him, there’s a possibility he will return to Hartford. While it’s unfair to expect him to improve as quickly and dramatically as DeAngelo has, he can still become an effective NHL player. Despite Andersson’s trade demand, the trade that brought he and DeAngelo to the Rangers has been a successful one for the team thus far.