It’s Trade Week here around these parts, so we’re proposing trades the Columbus Blue Jackets should make to better the organization ahead of an uncertain 2019-20. Here’s our proposal today:
Alexander Wennberg to Arizona for Derek Stepan
First, let’s break this down by the numbers:
Alexander Wennberg (CBJ)
Contract: $4.9 million cap hit through 2022-2023
Games played in 2018-19: 75
Time on ice: 15:05
Penalty Minutes: 12
Corsi For (even strength): 50.8%
Corsica WAR: -0.29
Derek Stepan (ARI)
Contract: $6.5 million cap hit through 2020-2021
Games played in 2018-19: 72
Time on ice: 19:16
Penalty Minutes: 14
Corsi For (even strength): 50.3%
Corsica WAR: 1.29
By the numbers, Derek Stepan was an objectively better player than Alex Wennberg in 2018-19. He scored more and made a more meaningful contribution while on the ice in terms of 5v5 shots and goals for. It’s no secret that Wennberg struggled last season, seeing only four games in the playoffs and making some possibly cryptic comments about playing for other coaches at the IIHF World Championships (where he starred in a rejuvenated sample size).
Wennberg’s better than he showed last year, but will the CBJ see an improvement in 2019-20? It’s hard to imagine Wennberg would score fewer goals than his career-low of two, but his production has fallen in both seasons since 2016-17. He’s also signed to a contract that sees him paid $4.9 million for the next four seasons. Wennberg will turn 25 during training camp and it might be the time to move this albatross-adjacent deal while there’s still some value on it.
Stepan had a down year in 2018-19, breaking a streak of five straight seasons scoring at least 50 points. At 29 years old, he’s likely past his physical peak as well. Still, his 35 points would’ve tied him for ninth on the CBJ with Nick Foligno, and he occupied a leadership role in Arizona with an “A” on his sweater.
John Tortorella helped develop Stepan in New York, from his time as a rookie through three years before Torts’s firing. Stepan knows what Torts expects, and Tortorella gets a guy who’s been around the league and—as he is so fond of saying—“knows how to be a pro.” Stepan’s also durable, playing an average of 77 games over the last four seasons (though he missed time last year with a lower body injury).
Arizona’s about to find itself in a cap crunch. CapFriendly pegs their projected cap space at $178,099 after the addition of Phil Kessel a few weeks ago. Entry level contracts for young stars Clayton Keller and Christian Fischer expire after the upcoming season, and surging forward Vinnie Hinostroza becomes arbitration eligible as well. In short, they’re going to need every spare dollar they can get. Yes, Wennberg’s contract runs for two years longer than Stepan’s, but at a savings of $1.6 million per season, the Coyotes get some immediate cap relief and receive a player who very well could star in their system. Conversely, the Jackets have a Scrooge McDuck-sized amount of cap room, and Stepan’s contract comes off the books after 2020-21.
Right now, in a vacuum, Alex Wennberg is the better talent. He’s younger with better vision and a better shot (when he shoots). Stepan’s no slouch, though. He doesn’t take penalties, contributes to special teams and plays responsibly on defense. Arizona gets a former first-round pick with enormous upside who could use a change of scenery and jump-start a moribund offense, and Columbus gets a proven vet to reunite with his old coach and provide a steady hand at center. Maybe throw in a pick from the CBJ side, and call this trade into the league.
What do you think?
Wennberg for Stepan is a:
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