The New York Rangers have had a relatively quiet offseason to this point. They didn’t do much in free agency, meaning they’re going to be relying on bounce back seasons from a few players (Brad Richards, Chris Kreider) and a change behind the bench in order to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 season.
But there still is one very important piece of business for the Blueshirts to deal with this summer. They’ve had several restricted free agents to deal with, including Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan. McDonagh has long been taken care of, but Stepan is still without a contract.
We don’t know if the talks between the Rangers and Stepan are simply progressing at a snail’s pace, or if they really have hit a wall in the negotiations. Either way, there’s probably at least some reason for the organization to be concerned that he’s still without a contract at this point.
Stepan represents a key offensive piece for the Rangers. He’s gone from role player to offensive centerpiece, and will likely man the top line for the Blueshirts in 2013-14. His 44 points during the regular season may not have been his highest total of his career, but his 0.92 points per game was easily the highest scoring rate of his career.
Being that he’s such an important part of the Rangers, should there be concern over the fact that he’s still without a contract? Probably not at this point. The threat of an offer sheet is always out there, but that might make things even easier for the Rangers in these negotiations.
As a restricted free agent, Stepan is susceptible to an offer sheet from another team. One would have to imagine that the Rangers would match it if an offer sheet came before a new contract for him. Either way, all roads point to the Rangers bringing him back. However, they are limited on cap space.
They’re not in dire financial straits, but they likely couldn’t afford to the type of deal that Stepan is going to receive. They’ll have to clear some money to do so, which could be part of the holdup in bringing him back. Either way, though, at this point, there doesn’t seem to be too large a reason for concern over the future of Derek Stepan in New York.