26-Year-Old Center – New York Rangers
Derek Stepan Contract Information:
Signed a six-year, $39 million extension with the Rangers in July 2015 that will run through the end of the 2020-21 season.
Stepan scored a pair of goals and added a power-play assist in Tuesday's 7-6 home defeat against Dallas.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
A broken leg delayed the start of Stepan's 2014-15 campaign, but once he got back into the swing of things, it was like he never left. Though his point total fell slightly from the year before because of the missed time, he would have easily set a career high if he'd been healthy. The Rangers signed him to a six-year, $39 million contract extension in July, so he'll be centering their finest wingers into his early 30s. With a fully healthy season, Stepan could clear 20 goals for the second time while reaching 60 points for the first time, and he's a good bet to accompany that with a fantastic plus/minus for a Rangers team that promises to be very good again.
After posting a nearly point-per-game (44 in 48 games) pace in the lockout shortened season of 2012-13, the teamís projected first-line center was a hold out in training camp last year. Stepan, who eventually signed a two-year contract worth just over $6 million dollars, proved to be worth the wait. Although the 23-year-old slumped on occasion, 57 points in 82 games is certainly worthy of a mid-round beard scratch to most owners in most formats, especially with Stepan set to be a restricted free-agent again at yearís end. Perhaps even more important to fantasy owners, as exemplified in the playoffs when the Minnesota native missed just one game due to a broken jaw, Stepan is as dependable as anyone in the NHL, having played all 294 eligible regular season games since he arrived in the league in 2010-11.
It's fair to say Stepanís star not only rose in the lockout shortened campaign of 2012-13, but his fantasy expectations going into this new season will be at a fevered pace. Stepan led the Rangers in scoring (18 goals, 26 assists) last season, and added four goals, one assist for a plus-4 in 12 playoff games last spring. Most important to the chronically health challenged Rangers is Stepan's durability. He has played in 212 consecutive regular season games since putting on Rangers jersey in 2010-11. Although the Rangers are continuing extension talks with their forward, there is no rush to resign him before the start of camp.
Stepan stepped up his play during his sophomore season in 2011-12, finishing the year with 51 points (17 goals, 34 assists) to go along with a healthy plus-14 rating and 16 points on the power play. The 22-year-old winger should see plenty of time on the Blueshirts' second line and will have every opportunity to take his game to the next level with Marian Gaborik likely missing the first two months of the season. Stepan is gaining attention from fantasy leaguers, and may very well represent one of the best sleeper values among forwards in 2012-13. Be prepared to draft him earlier than usual in keeper leagues if he's available; Stepan is one of the Rangers' top young talents.
Stepan had an impressive rookie season, placing sixth in rookie scoring with 21 goals and 24 assists. Despite an opening night hat trick, he struggled the first 20 games of the season before settling in and steadily improving throughout the year. If Stepan can follow up his first season with a strong sophomore year, he could break the 50-point mark and push Artem Anisimov for second-line center time.
If preseason is any indication, 2010-11 will be a good year for the 20-year-old rookie. He appeared as a first-line center during preseason, playing alongside Marion Gaborik and Alexander Frolov. At this point, itís looking like Stepan will be skating in Madison Square Garden. When that happens, heíll be one of the top-5 rookies in the league this year. 20 goals and 60 points are reasonable expectations.
Stepan is a major talent, but the Rangers have a number of older, more developed center ahead of him on the organizational depth chart. He isn't going to be an option for the Rangers for a few years.
Stepan had 91 points in 54 games this past season for the famous Shattuck-St. Mary's high school program in Minnesota. Stepan is 6-0, but he has to get much bigger than the 170 pounds he is currently listed at in order to make it at the NHL level.