Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images
Before you go grab your pitchforks, hear me out. Derek Stepan had an amazing season in which he tallied 57 points in 82 games. He has one more year left on his contract and will be a restricted free agent at age 25 next season. While he is the Rangers' best young center, he is also their most valuable.
He has progressed nicely as a player, but he hasn't been able to be a consistent or dominant offensive center, and that's something the Blueshirts need.
The Rangers are in a win-now mode, and they were exploited at center offensively during the Cup Final. Stepan hasn't shown he can be the true offensive No. 1 center the Rangers need, and that is why the Blueshirts should consider offering him an deal for a true No. 1 center with offensive prowess.
This is not to say they should needlessly trade him, but if they have a shot they should move him for someone who can put them over the top this year. Stepan could surely become that guy, but if a great opportunity presents itself—say Jason Spezza—they should pursue it.
That would allow the Blueshirts to re-sign Derick Brassard and his linemates for the second line, and JT Miller could slot in as the No. 3 center.
It may not be a popular move, but it is one worth making. Stepan is a great two-way center, but the Blueshirts need a legitimate No. 1 center who can make a difference and impose his will on the opposition.
Stepan does a ton of things well, but they need an elite No. 1 center in the worst way, so they should package him in a deal for one if the opportunity presents itself.