It’s official, after some pre-Christmas rumours, the Arizona Coyotes have traded veteran center Derek Stepan to the Ottawa Senators.
In exchange for the 30-year-old, the Coyotes receive a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
The pick in question originally belonged to the Columbus Blue Jackets and was initially sent to the Senators along with former Coyotes Anthony Duclair back in February 2019.
Added a second-rounder in next year’s draft is a sensible move by GM Bill Armstrong, with the team previously having just one pick (also a second rounder) in the first three rounds, thanks to the NHL’s punishment for illegal pre-draft testing.
This ensures the Coyotes have two picks earlier in the draft to help add to a fairly depleted prospect pool, especially after the Taylor Hall trade last year.
In addition, Stepan’s contract will be taken on in full by the Senators, meaning that the Coyotes have offloaded $6.5 million of cap, allowing them far more freedom moving forward.
This potentially gives the team a chance to add a veteran free agent, such as goalscorer Mike Hoffman, another veteran center such as Derick Brassard or a younger, more promising forward such as Andreas Anthanasiou.
During his tenure with the Arizona Coyotes, Stepan was a model leader and someone well liked by players, coaches and fans alike, but his offensive production, which had been his primary benefit, was unable to survive under head coach Rick Tocchet.
After registering 56 points (14 goals, 42 assists) in his debut season in the desert, his totals dropped in each of the following years down to just 28 last season.
In total, Stepan registered 119 points (39 goals, 80 assists) in 224 regular season appearances for the Coyotes.
Under the Senators’ high-offensive style, Stepan is likely to regain his offensive touch and put up numbers closer to what he had consistently throughout his career, where his single-season totals never dropped below 44 until his second year in Arizona.
The loss of a popular player is difficult for any team, but this move is a smart hockey decision that alleviates cap space and adds a valuable draft pick to a bare cupboard that needs refilling, making plenty of sense for the Coyotes.
Stepan’s deal expires after this current season, so to get a second round pick for a player on an expiring deal is an exceptional move and one that can help the team in more ways than one with training camp just a week away now.