CHICAGO — In a stunning trade that altered the Rangers’ depth down the middle and in the net and created salary-cap space for more moves, general manager Jeff Gorton shipped No. 1 center Derek Stepan and backup goaltender Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes for the No. 7 pick in Friday night’s amateur draft and 21-year-old defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.
“I heard the rumors,” Stepan said. “I kinda had a feeling . . . I wasn’t completely blindsided by it. Any time you get traded in this business, especially when you’re in an organization for seven years, you go into shock.”
Gorton had been gauging the market for Stepan, 27, who has scored from 53 to 57 points in each of the last four seasons. The issue was his salary-cap charge of $6.5 million for the next four seasons and a no-move clause due to kick in in July, which made him a bargaining chip. The Blueshirts now have about $20 million in salary-cap room.
“The more I’ve been in the league, the less I’m surprised,” Stepan said. “It’s been my home. I’m surely gonna miss it, but I understand it’s not personal, it’s business . . . We’ve had some really good teams, been really close. The Rangers continue to try to find ways to get over the hump.”
Gorton, who previously bought out the final three seasons on defenseman Dan Girardi’s contract, acknowledged the mix between economics and loyalty.
“We have money now. We didn’t have it this morning,” Gorton said. “My phone rings a little more often. Derek, in particular, has been a good Ranger for a long time, drafted and developed here. That’s a hard call to make.”
Gorton also was reluctant to surrender Raanta, 28, who was 16-8-2 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .922 save percentage last season. “They [Arizona] insisted on Raanta,’’ Gorton said. “He was definitely not a throw-in. For us to make this work, to get into the [draft’s] top 10, he had to be part of it.”
Raanta, who wants a chance to be a No. 1 goaltender, said he “was expecting something to happen. It’s a super-big challenge for me, but I feel like I’m ready. Last year, I kind of felt my game was . . . finding the right way and my confidence was getting better and better. I felt like I was giving the team a chance to win every night.”
With the seventh pick — the highest for the Rangers since 2004, when goalie Al Montoya was selected at No. 6 — the Blueshirts took center Lias Andersson, 18, who played for HV71 in the Swedish league, which won the league championship. He could play for Frolunda, Henrik Lundqvist’s former club, or the AHL next season.
DeAngelo, a righthander from Sewell Township in southern New Jersey, was the 19th overall pick by Tampa Bay in 2014 and was 5-9-14 in 39 games for Arizona in 2016-17. He has two more seasons on a contract with a cap charge of $863,333 per year.
“Anthony is a player we’ve liked. He’s a puck-moving, right-handed defenseman who can run a power play,” Gorton said. “We were asking for him. I know there are some questions about Anthony and his past and we looked into every scenario, talked to a lot of people, have done a lot of work regarding him and his maturity. We are really comfortable with our player development and coaching staff and our team that we can really help him and get the most out of him.”
Last January, DeAngelo was suspended for three games for trying to break linesman David Brisbois’ hold on his jersey in a game against the Flames. In 2014, the Ontario Hockey League suspended him twice for using “homophobic, racist and sexist language” when playing for Sarnia. The second was for eight games. He later was ejected from a game for abuse of officials.
With only Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes experienced in the middle, the Rangers will need another center, plus a defenseman and an experienced second goaltender. “I think there’s a big market out there right now, and in free agency, there’s some names that we like,” Gorton said. ‘We’ll consider everything. We have the luxury of having some assets.”
Derek Stepan’s career totals for his seven seasons with the Rangers: