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Derek Stepan Contract: The Fallout Will Answer A Lot Of Questions About Jeff Gorton

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Derek Stepan is going to be on Broadway next year, because the Rangers most likely can't be competitive without him.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago I took a deeper dive into what Jeff Gorton might bring to the table as a replacement for Glen Sather. After a smart and effective July 1st, my first impression of Gorton was a really good one.

As the Derek Stepan contract negotiations have gotten into full swing -- well, from a media side at least since there's been no talk about the negotiations from either camp actually, you know, negotiating -- more and more information is being thrown into the atmosphere. Originally this story was going to be a warning about what you take from that information, but now the subject has changed.

In his awesome 30 Thoughts column (although this time around it's his "final 44 thoughts of the year") Elliotte Friedman wrote the following:

28. Derek Stepan can't use Ryan O'Reilly's contract as an arbitration comparable, because it takes effect when the Sabre becomes unrestricted. UFA deals cannot be used in those hearings for RFAs. But the Rangers know it is absolutely a factor in any long-term negotiation. I've heard they've been asked about Kevin Klein, but don't want to go that route. He's signed for three more years at a very reasonable $2.9 million — not easy to replace at that cost. In a perfect world, they'd want to take one more run with this group, but Stepan's number probably determines that. I don't think they want to move Keith Yandle, but what if they're really stuck?

There's a disclaimer I want to throw out there before I go any further. Friedman is one of the best of the best out there in the national NHL coverage. He's not some rumor-spewing, click-bait author begging for eyeballs. He's a great writer who works off real stuff and often times speculates from what he's heard.

I believe the above is exactly that. Friedman might have heard a rumor the Rangers were unwilling to move Klein -- which I've already argued would be a major mistake -- and asked the question about Yandle just to speculate. He did the same thing when the Rick Nash trade rumors were floating around earlier in the offseason and nothing came of it.

That's all speculation, but this is not: We're going to figure out a lot about Gorton from these Stepan negotiations.

If the Rangers need to extend themselves beyond their comfort zone to bring Stepan in than so be it. I still don't really see how Stepan can get more than $7-million annually, but I think the Rangers expected to close this around $6-million. Either way, Stepan is going to get paid. And that's fine.

It's the residual effects that are going to make or break this situation. The answer for how to fit Stepan is pretty easy.

First of all, either find a suitor for Tanner Glass (take back a pick or prospect so you don't get any return salary) and if there aren't any then bury him in the minors to save roughly $900K. If that's not enough then move Klein and save even more money -- if there is no salary return, it would be a savings of $2.9-million.

The ideology of moving Yandle to save money is so insane I don't even know how to respond to it. Yandle makes less money than Klein and is one of the better puck moving defenseman in the league. The Rangers just moved their best prospect, a 1st round pick and a serviceable defenseman for him. If you drop that player to save money it's a mismanagement of assets on a level that should earn an instant firing without any questions. You can't play the game that was and be successful. It would be like chopping off your foot before a race.

The Rangers have a real opportunity to improve their roster here. Oscar Lindberg and Ryan Bourque are cheap, already in house replacements for Glass on the fourth line. They're also considerable upgrades at the position. The Rangers defensive corps could use a little tuning up, but Dan Girardi still has a no trade clause so I can't see him being moved.

Gorton needs to control what he can control. Moving Yandle to fit Stepan (and keeping Klein and Glass in the process) would be a catastrophic disaster. Successfully navigating through these negotiations will be a very good sign.

There is no gray area, though. Gorton is either going to do this right or it's going to be very, very bad.

We'll have our answer soon enough.