By keeping Brad Richards in the fold, the New York Rangers basically decided to stay out of the free agent market this summer. They also made retaining some key players of their own that much tougher.
The most important name still unsigned is Derek Stepan, who is a restricted free agent without salary arbitration rights. The New York Post reports that the 23-year-old and his team haven’t made progress in their discussions lately. In fact, the haggling could even stretch out into September (possibly even training camp).
The Rangers also face the prospect of Mats Zuccarello going to arbitration. The Post reports that the 26-year-old forward wants between $1.5 and $2 million while the Rangers are offering “considerably less than that.” With just 67 NHL games under his belt, the 26-year-old winger could represent an interesting case if he gets to that process.
While IR slotting might buy GM Glen Sather a little more breathing room, Cap Geek estimates that the Rangers have about $3.3 million in cap space right now.
One could argue that Stepan deserves that much alone after scoring 44 points in 48 games in 2013 and becoming either the team’s No. 1 center or 1a/1b with Richards.
With new CBA rules prohibiting a team from walking away from any arbitration award under $3.5 million, Sather might need to make a trade or two before the offseason is over for all of this to work.