Blockbuster Trade Shakes Up Rangers Roster

By: Leo Scaglione Jr., Pinch-Hitting For the Maven

In their chase to win their first Stanley Cup since 1994, the Rangers dealt each of their first-round selections in the past four National Hockey League drafts to acquire proven talent.

This year was the exception, as the club added a second first-round pick and the seventh overall selection just hours before the 2017 NHL draft was to commence when they made a deal with the Arizona Coyotes.

The cost, though, was one of the team’s top performers over the last seven seasons and the Blueshirts’ dependable backup to Henrik Lundqvist for the last two years: Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta, respectively.

The Rangers also acquired 21-year-old right-handed defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, who hails from Sewell, New Jersey, in the deal.

Stepan, who was drafted 51st overall in 2008 by New York, made his NHL debut in the 2010-11 season opener in Buffalo against the Sabres, and what a debut it was: The raw rookie became the first player in Rangers’ history to record a hat-trick in his inaugural big-league game.

That was only the start for Stepan, who totaled 360 points (128 goals, 232 assists) in 515 regular-season games, and another 49 points (19 goals, 30 assists) in 97 Stanley Cup playoff matches, during which he always seemed to find another gear.

Exhibit A: In Game 6 of the Rangers’ opening series against the host Senators in 2012, with the Sens holding a 3-2 series edge, Stepan stepped up and delivered a one-goal, two-assist performance, factoring in every goal as New York won, 3-2, to force a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden, which they won 2-1, with Stepan picking up a helper on the game’s first goal. By the way, those were Stepan’s first career playoff points.

Exhibits B and C: After the Rangers fell behind three games to one in the second round against the Capitals in the 2015 postseason, Stepan notched a trio of helpers over the next two games to help the club force a winner-take-all at The Garden. In that Game 7, Stepan sealed the series when he wristed a rebound past goaltender Braden Holtby, 11:24 into overtime.

There was never a doubt about Stepan’s clutch ability, and, perhaps more important, there was never a question about his heart and hunger, and he will be missed.

As for Raanta, he stole the show on Broadway many a night when he spelled The King in the crease. In his two seasons with the Rangers, Raanta started 44 regular-season games, appeared in 55, and posted a 27-14-4 record with five shutouts, a 2.25 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. He also appeared in three contests in the 2016 playoffs.

DeAngelo, a former first-round pick (19th overall) of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014, will be heading into his third professional season. He spent all of the 2015-16 campaign with the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, totaling 43 points (6 goals, 37 assists) in 69 matches, before being dealt to Arizona at last year’s draft.

Like Stepan, DeAngelo had an impact in his NHL debut, when he scored his first NHL goal in Colorado against the Avalanche on Nov. 8, 2016. The 5-11, 183-pound blueliner split the season with the Coyotes and the Tucson Roadrunners, an affiliate of Arizona.

With the Coyotes, DeAngelo recorded 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists in 39 games. He ranked second among NHL rookie defensemen in goals per game (0.13) and tied for fifth among NHL rookie defensemen (min. 10 games played) in points per game (0.36).

With the Roadrunners, DeAngelo notched 16 points (3 goals, 13 assists) in 25 contests.

Before entering the professional ranks, DeAngelo enjoyed a successful four-year career in the Ontario Hockey League with the Sarnia Sting and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. In 236 OHL matches, he totaled 241 points (55-186—241), and in his final campaign in 2014-15 he was named Canadian Hockey League Defenseman of the Year after establishing career-highs in goals (25), assists (64) and points (89), all of which were tops among CHL blueliners, in 55 games. In 23 OHL playoff games, he totaled 20 points (2-18—20).

His next task will be claiming a spot on the Broadway blue line, starting this fall, and early indications favor his chances.

“He can do a lot of things that we need,” Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said.

But before then, the Rangers, who also own the 21st overall selection in this year’s draft, have a task of their own: Sustain their place in the upper echelon of the NHL, despite losing two important components of the team.

And it all starts with the seventh overall selection. A welcome change to past drafts.