The Carolina Hurricanes announced today they’ve inked veteran center Derek Stepan to a one-year, $1.35 million contract for 2021-22. The Hurricanes made the deal official themselves Saturday afternoon.
Welcome to Carolina, Derek!
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) July 31, 2021
Carolina Hurricanes Announce Derek Stepan Contract
Stepan enters the 2021-22 season after some injury issues over the past few seasons that have severely impacted his offensive performance. Once a solid bet for 50-60 points per year, Stepan’s produced under 30 during both the past two seasons, including just six last year. Over a career of 759 NHL games, Stepan’s registered 168 goals and 317 assists for 485 points. Stepan is still a decent play driving forward at this point in his career, but a lack of finishing ability over the past few years has cost him a lot of offensive production.
What This Means Moving Forward
Stepan will look to reclaim past performance this year with Carolina. A combination of injuries and declining finishing ability at age 31 don’t bode well for the longevity of Stepan’s career. With this contract, though, both Stepan and Carolina are betting on some sort of bounceback here.
He could be more valuable in even more limited minutes. If Stepan does in fact stay at centre, it’s unlikely he’d play anything above fourth-line minutes. He’ll be stuck on the depth chart behind Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck, and Jordan Staal. He’ll likely form a fourth line centring Jordan Martinook and Josh Leivo. Martinook re-signed with the team after briefly testing the open market, while Leivo joins the squad after a year with the Calgary Flames.
Carolina hopes that Stepan can add to a core that’s gaining more playoff experience every season. While their roster will return next season looking a lot differently, they hope Stepan can add another veteran presence in the room. The contract is fair value for a player in his situation, and he still could indeed have something to offer to the Canes.