With the signing of Alex Barre-Boulet, the Lightning were inching closer to the 50-contract limit with a few more restricted free agents left to deal with. Given that Stephens wasn’t likely to get much playing time now that Barre-Boulet and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare are under contract, a trade to his old manager in Detroit makes sense. It was Yzerman controlling the Lightning when Stephens was selected 33rd overall in 2015.
Now 24, Stephens was a semi-regular presence in the Lightning lineup in 2019-20, playing 38 games during the regular season. He also suited up for seven postseason games, coming in and out of the lineup whenever necessary. He even played 24 minutes in the epic five-overtime game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, a career-high that will likely go unbroken for a while.
The benefit here for Stephens is obvious. He goes from an organization that is loaded with players like him, fighting for ice time, to one that needs all the NHL talent it can get. The young forward will have a chance to really establish himself in Detroit as they slowly rebuild through the draft. A player like Stephens is worth that sixth-round pick for Yzerman, even if all he gets is a couple of seasons while the rebuild continues. The Red Wings have plenty of picks to spare, and Stephens already has several years of minor league development invested in him.