Ever since holding out of training camp because of an unnecessarily long contract negotiation process due largely to stubbornness, New York Rangers center Derek Stepan has not performed up to par this 2013-14 NHL season. Stepan is the biggest reason why the Rangers’ offense still struggles to consistently produce goals even under a new offensive-minded head coach in Alain Vigneault.
Missing training camp is always a killer for any player, especially when your team has gone through a coaching change resulting in an entirely new coaching staff. But in Stepan’s case it was self-inflicted and not due to any injury. Stepan sat out of training camp this season because he thought he deserved a long-term deal with the Rangers. Unfortunately for Stepan, that was a less than intelligent decision since he was a restricted free agent with zero leverage in this situation between he and Rangers GM Glen Sather.
Stepan would eventually cave to Sather’s offer and signed a new two-year deal with the Rangers. But since he came to his senses so late, his first hockey action with the team was on opening night. Stepan holding out for no reason hurt him even more by signing a deal so late that he was unable to achieve any practice time with his teammates and learn Vigneault’s offensive system.
Stepan put himself in a situation to fail from the get-go, and boy is he regretting it. A lowly 10 goals and 30 assists through 63 games from a supposed No. 1 center is just unacceptable.
Stepan is one of the main reasons why this Rangers’ offense has not performed the way Vigneault would have liked this season. Hopefully in two years Stepan thinks twice about asking for a long-term deal, because he has shown this season that Sather was right about him.