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Derek Stepan’s arbitration hearing set for July 27th

Bobby Bevilacqua

derek stepan profile 4-24

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

The last news in the Derek Stepan saga has been released, with his arbitration hearing now officially set for July 27th.

This is how it works. Stepan and his agent will say what they think is a fair price, and Jeff Gorton and the Rangers will counter with an offer of their own. Both sides will present why they think their price is fair, and an independent arbitrator will decide what his contract will be. The deals are usually one to two years in length.

If Stepan winds up going to arbitration, it isn’t ideal for the Rangers, but there are some positives. I’d be extremely surprised if the arbitrator granted Stepan a deal worth more than $6.5 million per year. That means that the Rangers could fit him under the cap for the one or two year deal that is allotted.

However, it would only be a one or two year deal, which is not what the Rangers would like. Stepan is just 25 years old, and it would be really great if both sides could agree on a long term contract that would lock him up until his early 30s.

However, there was some surprising news that came out this week, with a few sources saying that the Rangers have not even offered Stepan a long term contract. Depending on who you believe, his starting points for negotiation is at $8 million.

Here’s the thing. Nobody really knows anything. Last year, the Rangers announced a bunch of RFA signings out of left field, without any media outlets reporting that a contract was near. The Rangers organization is very good at keeping these negotiations secret. Nobody really knows what Stepan is asking for, nobody knows if negotiations have started, and that’s good. The less outside influence, the better.

derek stepan puck handling 12-21

Stepan is a versatile player that is strong in both zones, and the Rangers would suffer without his influence in the lineup. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

If Stepan agrees to a deal around $6.5 million, Gorton should sign it in a hearbeat. GM’s around the league would crawl up an erupting volcano to sign a player of his caliber. No, Stepan is not the best center in the league, and he shoudn’t make more than Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Nicklas Backstrom, but that’s the case in the league in this age (and why there will probably be another lockout).

But it’s not often that a team has the chance to lock up a young center, who is yet to enter his prime, to a long term contract. Stepan had 55 points in just 68 games this season, with another 12 points in the playoffs. He’s excellent in both zones, plays on the penalty kill and power play, and anchors either the top line or the second line, depending on pairings.

Stepan is very valuable to the Rangers, and I think they would really struggle without him. But they can’t sign Stepan to a deal that will handcuff them, and make it very hard to sign Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes next year. It needs to work for both sides. The Rangers would be smart to come to terms with Stepan before arbitration, and hopefully for less than $7 million.

Derek Stepan also has a decision to make. Will he go the route of Ryan Callahan, and demand a ludicrous contract that would handcuff the Rangers, or will he go the route of Mats Zuccarello, and sign a deal that’s fair for both sides.

derek stepan second goal celebration 3-22

Will Stepan be the “villain” or the “hero” in contract negotiations. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

What are your thoughts? Leave your comments on the Stepan saga in the comments below, on what you think he’s worth, if the Rangers could do without him, or anything else that crosses your mind. I always encourage interaction on my Twitter @The_RangerZone or on The Ranger Zone Facebook page.

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Posted on July 14, 2015, in Rangers Updates and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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