Unless you've been living under a rock all summer, you've likely been on pins and needles constantly refreshing the NY Rangers Blog, twitter, or various message boards every 10 seconds at your home or office waiting on the news of Derek Stepan and the Rangers agreeing to terms on his next contract. It has become a bit concerning now that we are entering Day 3 of training camp with Stepan still unsigned, despite signs to the contrary just a few weeks ago.
I've come up with an idea that makes sense for both sides that will get Stepan signed, sealed and delivered well before the Rangers and the Devils face off in the first preseason game on Monday.
The primary reason Stepan and the Rangers are at a stalemate is because Stepan isn't arbitration eligible and is at the mercy of Glen Sather's below market value contract offers. I disagree with the notion that the Rangers current cap issues are hindering talks more so than they would be if the Rangers were hypothetically $10 million under the cap. If that was the case and if Sather was THAT concerned, more would've been done to clear space besides waiving Arron Asham and Darroll Powe and buying out Brad Richards would've been a reality especially with the abundance of centers already in the lineup; the signing of UFA Dominic Moore and the emergence of prospect Oscar Lindberg among them.
In the best interests of the Rangers and the current cap situation as well as Stepan's long term financial security for himself, I wonder if both parties would be interested in a one year "bridge contract" at less than market value rather than the two years that has been tossed about. Here's why….
First and foremost, Sather likely wants to see Stepan come close to his .91 PPG in 2013 that cemented him as the Rangers' top line center before handing out that long term, Dubinsky-esque (with perhaps more $$$) contract.
Second, with the salary cap projected to increase back to pre-lockout levels going into 2014-15, coupled in with the fact that nearly the entire Rangers roster as it stands right now need new contracts after this season, Stepan would be wise to want to throw his hat into that ring. Why would Stepan want to play in 2015 at below market value because Sather is trying to sign him for cheap now. Doesn't make sense.
Finally, Stepan would have arbitration rights next summer if he signs a one deal for this season. Stepan was on pace for 75 points last year if the schedule ran 82 games. If he's able to come close to that in this "bridge" year on a one year deal, Stepan would have all the leverage in the world when it comes to negotiating that big contract he's looking for next summer.
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