Derek Stepan can be a centre solution in Montreal, for the right price

The Rangers centre is apparently on the market. Could he be a key piece in the Habs’ lineup?

With the Stanley Cup handed out, and the buyout window open, teams are beginning to make their final preparations for the expansion draft. One such team is the New York Rangers, who recently bought out the remainder of Dan Girardi’s albatross of a contract.

That’s not the only major piece of business they may be involved with either, as Derek Stepan is rumoured to be on the block.

Stepan has been a key piece of the Rangers’ offence the past few years, topping 40 points in every professional season he’s had. He’s also under contract at a $6.5 million AAV for the next four seasons, with a no-trade clause in the first two years, and a modified clause in the final two. Trading for him is not likely to come cheap, but acquiring good NHL players is never meant to be easy.

Going into this potential trade frenzy, Montreal has two major pieces that are rumored to be available for the right price. Both Nathan Beaulieu, and Alex Galchenyuk could fit into a trade to the Big Apple, however only one of these trades leaves Montreal in a better position going forward.

Option A: Nathan Beaulieu

The first option Bergevin has in front of him is to build a deal around RFA defenceman Nathan Beaulieu, and a combination of a first-round pick and prospects. The Rangers defence currently consists of a rapidly declining Marc Staal along with Nick Holden, Steven Kampfer, Ryan McDonagh, and Brady Skjei. Technically Kevin Klein has one year left, but seems to be set on a move to Europe this off-season.

Outside of McDonagh and Skjei, the defensive core of the Rangers is either in decline or is AHL in quality in the case of Kampfer and Holden.

Enter Beaulieu who is only just beginning to scratch the surface on what his potential can be as an NHL defender. It’s feasible that he could slide right into New York’s top four with ease, and be an immediate upgrade on most of their current options at this point in his career.

With that being said, Marc Bergevin would have to pull some major tricks to have it be a one-for-one deal, so it’s likely that a first-round pick, either this year’s or 2018’s, would also be in play. Montreal also has an excess of wingers that could be used to sweeten the pot even further for the Rangers.

Of course there’s the fact the Rangers goaltending pipeline risks a major disruption if Antti Raanta is chosen by Vegas in the expansion draft, so dangling one of the many goaltending prospects could be the way to go for Bergevin.

Option B: Alex Galchenyuk

The second, and much less desirable, option for Bergevin is to make a straight swap for Stepan involving Alex Galchenyuk. The general manager has previously stated that he sees Galchenyuk’s future on the wing for right now, but Stepan has played as a pivot for his entire career. Factor in the additional experience that Stepan has and it’s offers a picture on why Bergevin would be interested in him.

This trade, despite being far more plausible, is at best a lateral move for the Canadiens, as they ship out easily their best centre for a player who is older, and possibly more expensive.

Trading for Derek Stepan has the chance to either pay massive dividends for the Habs, or it could blow up catastrophically. If Bergevin manages to swing a deal to acquire Stepan, while also keeping Galchenyuk, he’ll have given his forward core a much needed boost down the middle. However, moving out a young, productive player for someone older to take their place isn’t the best way to build a team.

If Bergevin can pull this deal off properly he’ll have set his team up for a real shot at the Stanley Cup, but with one misstep he could set them back just as much.

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