I was recently feeling confident that New York Rangers‘ restricted free agent center Derek Stepan, who is currently holding out of training camp because he wants a long-term deal, would be more likely to change his mind and accept a two year deal.
Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs was also a restricted free agent who wanted a long term deal but ended up taking a twp year bridge deal worth $2.9 million per year. This gave me hope that maybe Stepan would do the same.
Well, now I am not so confident. Why is that, you ask?
Earlier today, restricted free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues got his wish and received a long-term deal with the Blues. Pietrangelo and the Blues agreed to a seven year deal worth $45.5 million total, and a yearly cap hit of about $6.5 million. Yikes.
Once again I am concerned, as Stepan and his agent will use Pietrangelo’s new contract against Rangers GM Glen Sather, who wants to give him a contract almost exactly like Kadri’s.
However, there is still hope of Stepan taking the two year bridge deal Sather is offering him, because of the fact that Stepan has very limited options.
Since Stepan has no arbitration rights and since no team has signed him to an offer sheet, he has pretty much no leverage. His only options are to accept Sather’s contract or sit out the season.
Stepan has to understand that if he accepts a two year deal and plays at a top tier level for the next two seasons, he can receive an even bigger pay day over the next five, six or even seven years after the next two.
In my opinion, with the little wiggle room Stepan has in these negotiations, he and his agent would be foolish not to take Sather’s two year deal.