Though GM Pierre Dorion recently stated that the Ottawa Senators’ lineup was probably set for 2021, there has been a late addition to the party.
The team announced late Saturday night that they had acquired centre Derek Stepan from the Arizona Coyotes, in exchange for a second-round pick in 2021. The selection originally came from the Columbus Blue Jackets, in the Ryan Dzingel/Anthony Duclair trade.
Though the 30 year-old Stepan has enjoyed both regular season and playoff success over his career, he is coming off of a down year, posting 28 points in 70 games with the Coyotes. He also tallied a goal and four assists in nine playoff contests.
Drafted 51st overall by the New York Rangers in 2008, the Hastings, MN native has one year remaining on his $6.5M deal.
In a statement issued by the team, Dorion said of Stepan, “Derek’s acquisition provides us with important stability at centre heading into the season. He plays a 200-foot game and has proven to be a reliable special teams’ player throughout his career.”
“His addition to our lineup will also represent a valuable leadership presence within our group.”
In 739 NHL games split between the Rangers and Coyotes, Stepan has 167 goals and 312 to his name, to go with 54 points in 106 playoff games. He was a member of the Ranger squad that made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014.
The move makes sense for the Senators in that their centre core is a staggeringly young one. Stepan provides an insurance mechanism, with the ability to play up in the lineup in the event that Josh Norris and/or Logan Brown need more AHL seasoning. They also have two other second-rounders in the 2021 draft.
The argument could be made that a second is a high price to pay, but Stepan also holds bounce-back potential that would make him an appetizing deadline flip candidate.
Where Stepan will slot in the Ottawa lineup likely depends on the younger players around him. Based on the performances of Ottawa’s youthful centres, fans could see him anywhere from the top line to the fourth line. One does have to wonder, though, where exactly Artem Anisimov fits in, with Chris Tierney and Colin White also established as NHL vets, to say nothing of Filip Chlapik, and even Nick Paul who got looks up the middle last season.
Tim Stuetzle could, of course, also see action at centre.
With camp set to get underway soon, it’s only a matter of time before we get to see how these new-look Senators take shape.