Vegas Golden Knights: Grading the Chandler Stephenson trade

Not content with achieving a first last night, the Vegas Golden Knights also pulled the trigger on a trade for Washington Capitals forward Chandler Stephenson.

While on their way to winning three consecutive games for the first time this year after beating the New York Rangers 4-1 at MSG, the Vegas Golden Knights sent a fifth round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft to the Capitals for Stephenson.

Stephenson is a gritty bottom six center who boasts raw speed and is also an elite penalty killer, while he has averaged 11:40 minutes of ice time per game this year and he’s won 51.1 percent of his draws in the faceoff circle.

He can slot in as the fourth line center and he can also play on the wing, giving the Golden Knights some much-needed forward depth.

Stephenson’s arrival means that, while Cody Eakin is out week-to-week with an upper-body injury, the Knights can keep William Carrier on the third line while maintaining some speed on the bottom line.

Granted, Stephenson isn’t a productive scorer and he’s probably not even going to give you 20 points, but he is one of the best penalty killers in the NHL and he knows what it takes to win having lifted the Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2017-18.

He’s also considered a glue guy in the locker room who is loved by his teammates, which means that Stephenson should slot seamlessly into the culture that has been so carefully cultivated by the Golden Knights.

Carrying a cap hit of just $1,050,000 on his current contract which expires in the off-season, Stephenson is a low-cost, low risk acquisition for the Golden Knights and he will give the coaching staff another option on the penalty kill.

He’s also extremely reliable in his own zone and in 24 games for Washington this season he has averaged 11:50 minutes of ice time per game with 12 blocked shots, 17 hits and 12 takeaways.

Again, Stephenson isn’t a player who will put up 30-40 goals and he only contributed four points (three goals, one assist) for the Capitals this season, but the Knights haven’t traded for the 25-year-old for his scoring prowess (or lack thereof).

Anyway, Stephenson’s raw speed will make him a dangerous weapon on the PK which could lead to a plethora of shorthanded chances, and you can rely on the 5’11” forward to battle hard along the boards and in the corners.

Another caveat at play here is the fact that by acquiring Stephenson, the Golden Knights now have enough depth to be able to potentially shed Cody Eakin’s $3,850,000 contract off the books in order to clear cap space for a bigger move down the line.

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 11: Chandler Stephenson #18 of the Washington Capitals wears a camouflage jersey during warmups in honor of Veterans Day before a game against the Arizona Coyotes at Capital One Arena on November 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Knights need a puck-moving defenseman and some more secondary scoring help, so by shedding Eakin’s contract they would have the cap space to be able to make some sort of move at the Trade Deadline.

And, following the emergence of Cody Glass, they could anoint the rookie as their new third line center, plug Stephenson in as the fourth line center and that would leave them with Tomas Nosek and Nicolas Roy as cover.

Plus, unlike Roy, Chandler Stephenson is a proven performer in the National Hockey League and he’ll bring considerable speed to that fourth line.

Grade B-

We’ll grade this trade highly because the move was a cap dump by the Washington Capitals who needed to free up cap space in order to activate veteran Carl Hagelin off long-term injured reserve, while the Vegas Golden Knights are getting a pending RFA with just a $1,050,000 cap hit.

Stephenson is a more than capable fourth-line center who excels in the faceoff circle and is an elite penalty killer, while his speed will be a significant weapon on both special teams and at 5-on-5.

He’s only 25 and is considered a real glue guy in the locker room, so this trade makes perfect sense for the Golden Knights.

And, the only reason we have graded this as a B- for now is the fact that I believe this trade will lead to some bigger trades for the Vegas Golden Knights between now and the Trade Deadline on Feb, 24, so I’m not putting all of my chips into the middle of the table just yet.

But, overall, this is a solid trade for the Golden Knights and it will be interesting to see just how they use Chandler Stephenson for the rest of the year, starting tonight against the New Jersey Devils.