Derek Stepan Contract: Vigneault Says All The Right Things, But Absence Still A Concern

Nick Laham

Stepan shouldn't be blamed for his absence, but it's going to turn into an issue if it lasts.

On Wednesday I published an article on why you shouldn't be upset at Derek Stepan or Glen Sather for the stalemate between the two sides that's lead to Stepan missing the first day of New York Rangers training camp.

And while I maintain that thought process, there is no doubt Stepan missing any period of on ice activity at training camp might become an issue the longer it drags on.

The Rangers are going through something of a climate change within the organization. The entire coaching staff is new. The team's methods, ideologies and fundamentals are new. The way the team runs its offense will be new. Power play strategies will be new. Zone breakouts will be kind of the same, but some of the fundamentals might chance. Everything is going to be a little different.

The next two weeks are the prime opportunity for Vigneault to display all those changes to the to the team. And the longer Stepan isn't there, well, the less he'll know when he does get there.

The issue with that?

Stepan was the Rangers most consistent offensive force last year. He's going to be a major part of the offense this year. He needs to know the things the coaching staff is going over during training camp. Preseason games are a great way to apply those new ideologies. Stepan would be at a significant disadvantage if he missed the majority of them.

Vigneault has said all the right things about Stepan not being at camp. Let's take a look at some of the comments below (from Andrew Gross):

On if he's concerned with restricted free agent center Derek Stepan remaining unsigned and not reporting today: "Not at all. They're not on the ice yet. I've talked to Derek a couple of times throughout the summer, he knows contracts aren't part of my responsibility and I'm going to take him with open arms when he gets here. He wants to be here, and I know management wants him to be here also. Hopefully something will get done. If it doesn't, it's like the injured guys, it's opportunities for others."

On if Stepan missing the start of training camp could be a detriment to him learning the new system: "It would be better if he would be here, there's no doubt in that. We've got a whole new staff, there's some new teammates, you want everybody to start together and work together to build that foundation, we're all striving for the same goals. That being said, this is a situation that is not within my control, it's a little bit within his control but it's not within mine. Like I told him over the phone, I look forward to being with his coach, I look forward to working with him and when he gets here he'll be fine."

The undertones are there. It's clear Vigneault agrees the more time Stepan misses the longer it will be before he acclimates himself to the team's new mentality. That's not to say he won't be OK, for a player like Stepan the new system is a welcomed change, but it's still some more uncertainty that's not really needed.

I'm sure the two sides are buckling down trying to come up with numbers that work for both sides. We talked about this a lot during the lockout, but deals like this tend to come together in the final moments. Those moments are here now. Let's see what happens.

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