Stepan, a veteran of 11 seasons and 759 NHL games, will now head to his fourth team in the NHL. After previous stints with the New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes, and Ottawa Senators, the veteran center attempts to win his first Stanley Cup Championship at age 31 this season. He’s struggled with injuries and declining play in recent seasons, scoring just six points in 20 games in his only season with Ottawa last year. It also marked the lowest ice-time average of his career at 15:04 per night.
Even with a refreshed roster, Stepan likely won’t see any more usage than that with Carolina, who looks to take the next step towards becoming a contender next season. It’ll be a harder sell without defenseman Dougie Hamilton in the fold, but they’re a still a deep team that should be competitive all year long. Stepan likely slots in immediately as the team’s fourth-line center, serving behind Sebastian Aho, Vincent Trocheck, and Jordan Staal. If he can’t rebound offensively this season, or if he faces additional injury issues, it could be his last in the NHL.