With Glen Sather unable to attend, Rangers Assistant General Manager Jeff Gorton represented the team at today's press conference dedicated to the two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium that the team will participate in. Per WFAN's Sean Hartnett, Gorton spoke about Derek Stepan, who remains unsigned. From the article:
“'We fully expect we’re going to get something done by the time we’re in camp,' Gorton said. 'We plan on talking to him soon — in the next few days.'
Gorton hinted that a two-year bridge contract is a likely solution.
'Derek’s at a spot in his career where he’s coming out of his entry-level contract,' Gorton said. 'We just have to find something. We’ve done it in the past with some of these guys and we’re just trying to do the same things. Obviously, he’s a big part of our team and we want to get him signed as soon as possible.'”
Of course, signing Stepan to a long-term deal is preferable. However, the realities of the salary cap make it virtually impossible to get every player signed to a perfect contract. The Rangers control Stepan's rights until 2017 so there is no pressure to lock him up long-term right now. At this point, a moderately cheap, two-year deal works best for both sides. It allows the Rangers to fit Stepan without having to make big changes while Stepan still gets a raise short-term and won't have to wait long to get the long-term contract he seeks and deserves. There was never much doubt that Stepan would remain a Ranger and there certainly isn't any now. At this point, the biggest concern is whether Stepan is signed in time for training camp; Gorton seems to think he will be.
Gorton also spoke about Henrik Lundqvist, who is still under contract for this upcoming season but is certainly a priority. Lundqvist is set to become a free agent next summer but Gorton doesn't think the two sides will have much trouble agreeing a contract.
“'Henrik wants to be here, and we want Henrik,' Gorton said. 'At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get a deal. I think we’ll get one done.'”
There is plenty of time to get a contract done and management has a few more pressing issues – Stepan included – that need to be addressed more immediately. Still, one would like to see the two sides reach an agreement sooner rather than later if only so we can stop talking about it and can quell the Chicken Little's who are paranoid about him leaving.
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