As the offseason wears on, us and Matt Josephs of Blue Line Station (Twitter: 11Matt_Josephs8) will be running a tournament for the Best Ranger since the 2005 lockout. Today’s matchup is #1 Marc Staal against #4 Derek Stepan. The winner will face the #2 Brandon Dubinsky/#3 Michael Nylander winner in the Alain Vigneault bracket finals.
Marc Staal (acquired – 2005 draft, 1st round)
The Rangers traded up in the 2005 draft, surrendering their 1st round pick (#16 – Alex Bourret) and 2nd round pick (#41 – Ondrej Pavelec) to Atlanta for the #12 pick, which they used on Staal. Staal broke in with the Rangers during his first professional season, and by his second season had proved himself worthy of top-pairing minutes. Not a noted scorer, Staal has primarily been a shutdown defenseman, putting up 24-73-97 in 388 games. Staal played almost every game of the season for his first three years, before a concussion sidelined him for the majority of the 2011-2012 season. A freak eye injury sidelined him for half of the 2013 season as well.
When healthy, Staal is a top-two defenseman on a team that is competing for a Stanley Cup. When 75%, he’s still a top-four defenseman.
Derek Stepan (acquired – 2008 draft, 2nd round)
Stepan emerged as the Rangers top center this past season, scoring at almost a point per game in the lockout shortened season. His 18-26-44 line led the team in scoring, which says a lot considering this was a roster with Rick Nash. He was the team leader in assists, points, and was second to Nash in goals. His NHL totals in three years are pretty solid at 56-84-140 in 212 games. For those keeping track, 212 games is three full seasons without missing a single game.
Stepan is currently unsigned (at the writing of this post on Saturday), but there will be a deal in place before the season starts.
So who do you think is the better Ranger, Staal or Stepan? Vote thumbs up for the higher seed (Staal), or thumbs down for the lower seed (Stepan). Voting ends at midnight tonight.