Talks are ongoing between Rangers GM Glen Sather and unsigned RFA Derek Stepan, but the two sides still aren’t close to a deal.
On Thursday, the second straight day Stepan wasn’t at training camp, Sather told ESPN New York that Stepan was open to the idea of a two-year bridge deal, but that the two sides are “too far apart” on money.
It’s not surprising Stepan’s been offered the bridge deal — a short-term contract many young players sign once their entry-level deal expires.
New York stood firm on one during negotiations with Michael Del Zotto (which he ultimately signed) and the bridge contract has been popping up more and more lately, a byproduct of the reduced salary cap.
Stepan, though, is in a bit of a different situation.
At 23, he’s already played three full seasons (or two-and-a-half, depending on how you classify the shortened season) and 37 playoff games.
He led the Rangers in scoring last year and projects to be the club’s No. 1 center this season, barring a miraculous bounce-back from Brad Richards.
As such, Stepan could be looking for a long-term deal like the ones signed by Cody Hodgson (six years, $25.5 million) or Adam Henrique (six years, $24 million) — or, fellow Rangers teammate Ryan McDonagh.
Good luck getting that out of Sather, though.
“I am not going to give a long-term contract at this stage and he is a good player, a smart player, a good team guy,” Sather said of Stepan earlier this summer. “There is certainly nothing wrong with him, but you need to wait a little while before you get the big bucks.”