Quick note before we begin. Today is obviously 9/11, and on the old website's format we used to be able to throw up a fanshot in remembrance and have it sit. We can't really do that here. You don't need me to remind you about anything on this subject, so this really just stands as a quick blurb to say that all the staff here at Blueshirt Banter are thinking about the victims and their families and also taking a moment to thank every single service member who represents this fantastic country.
There's a saying that goes like this: Don't hate the player hate the game. In the case of the New York Rangers' stalemate with center Derek Stepan the saying should be, "Don't hate the player or the team, hate the business."
Training camp opens today for the Rangers, and Stepan will be an ominous no show. The center has yet to agree to a new contract with the Rangers, and on Tuesday his agent (making the first public statements of the negotiation from either side) told the media Stepan would not be attending training camp without a contract.
And suddenly the very quiet, almost hidden negotiations between the Rangers and Stepan have taken the spotlight. This has drawn a lot of ire from the Rangers fanbase; some at Glen Sather and some at Stepan himself.
Which brings be back to my point: Don't hate the player or the team, hate the business.
It's very easy for you or I to look at the money the two sides are disagreeing about and get angry. I mean let's be honest, when millionaires fight over money it makes us look at our own paychecks and wonder where all the zeros are. "You're fighting over how much? You realize I would work for a tenth of your salary and be dancing all the way to the bank, right?"
But sports doesn't work that way. It never has, it never will and it honestly shouldn't. It's rare when a player takes a step back and says, "I'll take less money for the good of the team." It happens, but not all the time.
Here's the problem: Stepan has every right to be angry about what the New York Rangers are doing to him. Want to know the other issue? The New York Rangers have every right to do what they're doing to Stepan, too.
This is the business side of sports.
For Sather, the decision to negotiate a bridge deal with Stepan is simple. It's an organizational policy with very, very few exceptions. For Stepan, one of those exceptions happened this summer to a teammate after Stepan had a true breakout year himself.
Had Sather been able to negotiate a bridge deal with Ryan McDonagh I guarantee you Stepan's already signed on the dotted line and is setting his alarm to get to the first training camp of the year on time this morning. But that didn't happen. And while Carl Hagelin didn't mind signing one, it's different for Stepan.
To be fair, McDonagh's been far more consistent through the first three years of his professional career. But Stepan had a massive season last year. It was fun to watch and a big part of the reason why the Rangers had any success. And while hockey teams don't pay for how fun a player is to watch, they absolutely pay for his contributions to a team's success.
In Stepan's case the Rangers are using the business against him. Sather is pretty much telling him, "This is the only time in your career you'll have no leverage, and I intend to use it against you." And why shouldn't he? You know that Stepan will have no issue using his career numbers (and free agency offers) to turn his numbers up when he has all the leverage and the team has almost none.
It's an endless struggle until one side caves -- which will happen sooner rather than later. Unfortunately for Stepan, Sather has the high ground here and he's going to see this through to the end. Which he should. While Stepan is paid on his stats and ability to help the team win, Sather is paid on his ability to handle situations like this and get the best deal for the organization.
That doesn't mean Stepan has to accept it willingly.
But it also doesn't mean you should be mad at either side. This is a business after all.
Get made at that instead.