Derek Stepan and the Rangers avoided arbitration on Monday when the two sides reached a six-year deal worth $39 million. After it was reported that Stepan was seeking $7.2 million through arbitration, the Rangers came back with an offer of $5.2 million. So what did the two sides do? They met in the middle and the rest is history.
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) July 27, 2015
With every piece now in place and just over $400K remaining in cap space, the Rangers can finish out the summer and head toward next season knowing that they do not need to make any more moves if they don’t want to.
While getting all 23 skaters under contract was no easy feat, General Manager Jeff Gorton was able to make it happen, even if the Stepan deal did come down to the wire. But not only did he get it done, he was able to solidify a deal with his number one center that is good and fair for both sides, and will benefit both Stepan and the organization down the road.
For Stepan, this is his first big NHL contract. At 25-years-old, the University of Wisconsin product has been on a steady trend upward and has gotten better each season he’s played for the Rangers.
Stepan has also moved up the Rangers’ depth chart, ultimately becoming the team’s number one center almost interchangeably with teammate Derick Brassard. He’s demonstrated his ability to produce offensively, something that has continually increased with time as he now has a PPG average of .787 since the start of the lockout shortened season of 2013, and he’s proven that he can score some of the biggest goals at the biggest moments.
While it’s hard to categorize Stepan as an elite number one center, as his faceoff numbers are unquestionably sub-par, everything else about him has him deserving of this new, fair contract.
From the standpoint of the Rangers as an organization, this should also be seen as a positive move. Not only does Stepan bring both tangibles and intangibles to the table, he also solidifies them down the middle at least through 2019.
With Brassard under contract for the next four seasons with an AAV of $5 million, the Rangers now have a strong duo of centers for a total of $11.5 million per year.
Then look at Jonathan Toews, whom the Blackhawks pay an average salary of $10.5 million per year, and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, whom the Penguins pay a combined $18.2 million per year, and it’s almost as if the Rangers scored Stepan and Brassard through a Black Friday deal.
Of course that’s insinuating that Stepan and Brassard are akin to Crosby and Malkin, but you get the point. Two very good centermen for that price is not too shabby.
When it comes down to it, with Stepan’s brand new shiny contract, the Rangers have done more than just come to an agreement, they’ve solidified a big part of their future. Not only that, but they’ve done it without shelling out an arm and a leg, and they’ve maintained a healthy working relationship with Stepan and his agent by avoiding arbitration.
This Stepan deal is good for him, and it’s good for the Rangers. What seemed far-fetched just weeks ago has come to fruition. Stepan in blue for the foreseeable future is big positive for the Broadway Blueshirts.
Telling Blueshirtsunited.com on Monday following the announcement of the deal, Stepan stated, “I can’t be any more excited to be part of a team that I absolutely love. I love the city of New York. I’m grateful for the fans, grateful for the management there, and my wife and I are extremely happy to be there for the next six years.”
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.