Report: Stepan ‘unlikely’ to be with Rangers for season opener

14 Comments

It appears Derek Stepan’s contract dispute with the Rangers will spill into the regular season.

Stepan, New York’s leading scorer last year, is “unlikely” to be on the team’s roster when it opens in Phoenix on Oct. 3, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Here’s more, from the latest installment of the Dreger report:

Sources say that Stepan remains locked on a bridge deal that would pay him $3.5 million per year, while New York would happily sign off on a two-year agreement at $3 million per.

Doesn’t sound like much, but cap teams like the Rangers are crunching every dollar to comply.

While the Rangers see a great future in Stepan, they also like their depth up the middle with Brad Richards, Derick Brassard, Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore.

It’s not surprising to learn long-term contracts are off the table and only a bridge deal is in play.

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.

Toronto forward Nazem Kadri signed one — a two-year, $5.8 million deal — as did Phoenix’s Mikkel Boedker (two years, $5.1 million) and Washington’s Marcus Johansson (two years, $4 million).

The big difference with Stepan, though, is that he’s looking for $7 million guaranteed.

Of course, Stepan is in a different situation than his fellow RFAs.

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 also projects to be New York’s No. 1 center this year, regardless of how much the club likes its depth down the middle.