Derek Stepan trying to 'stay focused' amid trade speculation
Stepan's name has been in the rumor mill as of late. Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

One player whose name has been in the rumor mill as of late is Senators center Derek Stepan amid reports that Ottawa is trying to move him.  However, general manager Pierre Dorion was quick to clarify on TSN 1200 that the veteran hasn’t asked for a deal:

"No, he hasn’t indicated anything along that line to us.  We can tell with our conversations that I’ve had with him that I think it’s only human that … when you only see your newborn for a day or two that it can be difficult on any type of human being."

Meanwhile, Stepan himself was recently asked about his situation, and while he acknowledged to reporters, including Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch, that the prospect of being away from his family for the entire season is far from ideal, he was looking forward to this opportunity with the Sens:

"I’m doing to the best I can to stay focused on Ottawa Senators’ hockey. That’s really all I can control right now is focusing on helping this group the way I wanted to and the way I planned to when I first got traded here.

"I believed that I was going to be able to come in and make a bigger impact right away with my play. No training camp and the situation just kind of piled up. I knew it was going to be difficult, and when it happened, I knew the hockey part was going to be a lot of fun.

"But, the more difficult part would be the family stuff, and so I was aware of it. As I continue to battle through this thing, I’ve got to keep my head going forward and stay focused in on a game at a time. I know it’s cliche and you guys probably hate it, but that’s all I can really do right now."

The 30-year-old was surprisingly acquired by Ottawa for a second-round pick just after Christmas from Arizona in a deal that gave the Coyotes some much-needed salary-cap relief.  While Stepan was hoping to make that bigger impact, it hasn’t quite materialized yet.  He has just a single goal with three assists in 14 games this season, and his ice time has actually dipped by more than two minutes per night to just 15:31 per contests.

Nonetheless, the veteran would be a desirable addition to the bottom-six group of a contending team, but the salary cap will certainly affect things.  He has a $6.5M AAV (even though just a prorated $2M is owed in salary with his signing bonus already paid), which most teams can’t afford.  Even if the Senators retained the maximum 50 percent, they’d still likely need to take a contract back to facilitate a move.  Although the Senators certainly appear to be trying to do Stepan a favor by moving him back to the United States where he can be reunited with his family, it’s one that may have to take a while to accomplish.

This article first appeared on Pro Hockey Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

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