Derek Stepan Contract: Have The Two Sides Hit A Snag?

Bruce Bennett

According to Larry Brooks the New York Rangers and Derek Stepan have hit a snag in their negotiations.

There is no progress regarding talks with Derek Stepan, sources report. Stepan, the club's first-line center, is a Group II free agent without arbitration rights. Absent pressure points (or an unexpected offer sheet), negotiations with Stepan could well go into September and perhaps bleed into training camp.

Now, Brooks doesn't exactly say the two sides have hit a snag, but insinuating that talks might bleed into training camp probably means the two sides have a gap to close. My guess, if things do drag on that long, would be that the Rangers are, in fact, trying to give Stepan a "bridge" deal rather than locking him up longer term like the team did with Ryan McDonagh.

Look, Glen Sather has set a strong precedent for players coming off their entry level contracts. It happened to Carl Hagelin, Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto. You can probably throw Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and John Moore on that list for players who will get the same treatment when their ELC is over as well. So it's not like Stepan would be alone if Sather tried to do that to him.

That's not to say it's gone over well. Dubinsky went through a volatile holdout over the offered bridge deal, although he ended up accepting it in the end. Marc Staal also went through a holdout (although not as bad as Dubinsky's) and Sather ended up breaking the trend for him.

Stepan is probably closer to Staal than Dubinsky. He nearly had a point per game last year and has risen through the ranks to become the team's top line center. He has more leverage than most of the players on that list above, so it would make sense for Sather to break the trend for him.

Will he? That's the question. The current holdup might be because the Rangers are focusing on the arbitration bound Mats Zuccarello. Or it might be because the two sides aren't seeing eye to eye. We'll find out more as things go on, but the Rangers don't want this to drag on.

Neither do the fans.

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