Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/10/13
Barring an unexpected seismic shift in contract talks that have gone nowhere all summer between the Rangers and Derek Stepan the unsigned 24-year-old restricted free agent center will not report tomorrow for his physical on the first day of training camp. Thus Stepan who has remained at his home in Wisconsin even as the Blueshirts have been holding organized albeit informal workouts and scrimmages at the club’s practice rink over the last week would become the second Ranger in the hard-cap era to miss time because of a contract dispute. Brandon Dubinsky missed eight days in 2009. Stepan is believed seeking a five- or six-year deal in the neighborhood of $5 million per while the Rangers are believed offering a two-year contract worth between $2.75-and-$3 million a year. Stepan’s request is not at all outlandish given his work the first three seasons of his career during which he clearly outperformed an extremely club-friendly Entry Level contract worth $875000 per year. The fact is Stepan a 2008 second-round (51st overall) draft selection who emerged as the Rangers’ first-line center in 2011-12 and 2012-13 was eighth in scoring in the NHL among players 23 or younger over the last three years with 140 points (56 goals 84 assists). That’s more than Matt Duchene (138) Evander Kane (133) Jeff Skinner (131) and Sam Gagner (127). But it is also a fact Stepan who did not have arbitration rights coming out of Entry Level has no systemic negotiating leverage in this negotiation with the Rangers beyond withholding his services — unless that is he is able to attract a Group II offer sheet that would prove debilitating to the cap-squeezed Blueshirts. The Rangers have about $3 million of space with which to sign Stepan but that would increase if Carl Hagelin ($2.25 million) and/or Ryan Callahan ($4.275 million) are placed on the Long Term Injury list that would render them ineligible for the season’s first 10 games.
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