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Carolina Hurricanes Offseason Grades: Derek Stepan

While the Carolina Hurricanes season ended in disappointment, the team had a lot to be proud of. Now in the offseason, tough decisions will be made, and management will work to put the team in a place to succeed next season. In the meantime, we will take a look back at individual players’ seasons and see how they did. For the Carolina Hurricanes offseason grades, today we look at Derek Stepan.

Carolina Hurricanes Offseason Grade: Derek Stepan

Another veteran depth forward with a history of successful play, Derek Stepan found his way to the Carolina Hurricanes by signing a one-year deal before the 2021-22 season. He previously spent time with the New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes and Ottawa Senators. At the end of the 2021-22 season, Carolina signed him to a professional tryout contract. Stepan performed well enough to turn that tryout into a one-year contract. Sort of like Paul Stastny, Stepan showed that even at an older age he can still play in a depth role and be a veteran leader on the team.

Derek Stepan’s Regular Season

Stepan is ways away from his 50-point seasons with the Rangers but provided other assets to the team. In a depth role for Carolina, he scored five goals with six assists in 73 games played this season. Stepan was able to play in 15 more games this season than last but had a decrease in his points from 19 to 11. He is versatile and can play centre or on the wing and kill penalties. His faceoff percentage was 54.27% which put him in the upper tier for Carolina.

As far as offensive generation and production, Stepan unfortunately did not provide too much. He took 178 shot attempts with only 98 shots on goal. Additionally, his unblocked shot attempts were largely comprised of low danger attempts. His 29 hits and 21 blocked shots were not earth shattering defensive numbers either. However, his 24 takeaways compared to 10 giveaways was one of the best differences on the team. As a low cost, versatile forward he did mostly what the team expected of him. He stepped in when needed and helped the team’s fourth-line. Maybe the team wanted a little more offensive production out of him, but the expectations for Stepan were really that of a depth forward with some intangible leadership.

Derek Stepan’s Playoffs

Stepan played in 11 playoff games for Carolina this year. Over that span he only had one assist and, even though it’s a sort of flawed stat, was a -4. His faceoff percentage stayed above 50% but Carolina did utilize him as heavily in the centre role. None of Stepan’s advanced or more nuanced stats really provided much more than how he played in the regular season and in some ways took a dip too.

Overall, in the playoffs, Stepan was fairly quiet. He had no on-ice high danger shot attempts against but still was a -4. While Carolina’s depth scoring showed strong in the Second Round against the New Jersey Devils, Stepan remained quiet. He still provided that intangible veteran leadership and was ready to do what was asked of him, but ultimately provided little more than a number 12/13 forward in the playoffs.

The Verdict

Derek Stepan is a likeable player who continues working hard to play out the later years of his career. He carries himself on and off the ice as a respected veteran. Even Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour commented last season how Stepan handled being inserted and removed constantly from the lineup as well as anyone he had ever seen. As a role model for the younger players on the team, Stepan seemed to be the perfect fit.

Unfortunately, Stepan’s on ice play, while not a liability, was not really much more than what is expected of a fourth-line forward in and out of the lineup. He beat the odds and turned his tryout into a permanent contract. But after that, he was not able to really help the team but so much on the stat sheet. I have liked seeing Stepan in Carolina and wish him nothing but the best, but it is unlikely that Carolina brings him back and instead opts for youth or other free agent options.

Grade: C

Main Photo: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports


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