People are starting to murmur that the New York Rangers and Derek Stepan have hit a snag in their contract negotiations. But there are still plenty of reasons why Ranger fans should not worry about this deal getting done.
The 23-year-old Stepan and the Rangers have not said anything in public about their negotiations to bring the talented center back to New York. Stepan is coming off a career year where he elevated his play, becoming the Rangers’ No. 1 center. Not only did he become the best center on the team, but he improved in every part of his game. He can now play in any situation there is.
Stepan is a restricted free agent this offseason. He is the Rangers’ only restricted free agent who is not eligible for salary arbitration. For people who are wondering if I am speaking English at home, that is a good thing for the Rangers. My thinking is that the Rangers wanted to lock up the players who were eligible for arbitration to eliminate the risk of losing them. This might make the Stepan negotiation longer, but it still means they want to sign him.
Another reason people should not worry is that Stepan admitted that he wants to be a Ranger for life. While that is sometimes just talk, I believe Stepan is a player who relishes the bright lights and wants to play in the mecca for years to come. The Rangers are most likely going to offer him a bridge deal like they have in the past. This will probably be a two- to three-year deal that will allow the Rangers to clear some cap space in order for them to sign their kids long term. They have done this with Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Brandon Dubinsky and most recently, Carl Hagelin.
The Rangers and Stepan will come to terms on a deal sooner than later, I can almost guarantee it. It is only a matter of time before Stepan is locked up for a couple of years.