Welp, you knew at some point the Derek Stepan/Rangers contract negotiations might start to get ugly and yesterday I think we caught our first glimpse as Glen Sather said this to Larry Brooks at the New York Post…
“We all like Derek and want him here, but I’ve told him that his agent is being unrealistic. We’re just not close at this point.
“When you look at the CBA, without (arbitration) rights, he’s going to get a ‘gap’ deal. That’s the way it is. It’s silly for him to miss camp at his age.”
…if last year's CBA talks taught us anything, it's never a good sign when negotiations start to play out in the press.
…and while Stepan probably deserves a long term deal, when you don't have leverage you take the best offer.
Meanwhile, a day after saying he'd welcome Stepan back with open arms, Alain Vigneault seemed a little more agitated when talking about his #1 center's absence from camp (via Daily News)…
"I work with the guys that are here. He’s not here. That’s it. We’ll work with who’s available to us.”
…is it me or does that sound a little like Torts talking about Dubinsky during his holdout?
And of course Stepan's agent couldn't sit on his hands, so he decided to respond in the media…
“Derek has put himself in a category with all those guys coming out of Entry Level who received long-term contracts,’’ Matt Oates said to Brooks. “He’s earned that, but we have never said that we wouldn’t explore a short-term deal, either. We’re just looking for a deal that will reflect his performance.
“I think it’s beneficial for the Rangers to lock him up long-term, but if that’s not possible at this time, we’re certainly willing to engage management on a short-term deal in order to get this done and get Derek on the ice.”
Oates adds that Stepan hasn't even explored the possibility of an offer sheet.
…well played by Stepan's agent. While Sather attempts to paint the RFA center as the typical greedy athlete, Oates comes right back over the top by framing the Rangers GM as the stubborn one, while stating his client is more than willing to compromise and is just looking for fair market value. Very smart move as it seems like most of the Rangers fan base has been siding with Sather so far. Bravo.
…a silver lining is at least we now know that Stepan is open to the possibility of a bridge deal.
…tough contract negotiations always get worse before they get better, so I'm still confident something gets done before the season starts. Listen, if the NHL and NHLPA can come up with an agreement, anyone can.