Columnist: O’Reilly deal could be costly for Rangers with Stepan

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Derek Stepan might lack a little in the way of negotiating power as a restricted free agent, but the New York Post’s Larry Brooks believes that he recently received a big boost in leverage.

In Brooks’ mind, the big seven-year, $52 million deal ($7.5 million cap hit) Ryan O’Reilly signed with the Buffalo Sabres will leave the New York Rangers in a “cap vise” thanks to its comparables regarding Stepan:

A number than starts with a “7” for Stepan is all but untenable for the Rangers as they are constructed. An award that’s closer to starting with an “8” than a “7” would place the ’15-16 Blueshirts’ roster in a cap vise. Beyond that, an arbitration award almost certainly starts the clock ticking on Stepan’s Broadway expiration date two years hence.

As Brooks notes, it’s plausible that Stepan, 25, may indeed file for salary arbitration by today’s deadline.

Even if this doomsday scenario gets downgraded to things being really tight, Brooks has a point about possible domino effects for the Rangers. General Fanager pegs the Rangers’ cap space at about $10.2 million, so anything in the $7 million range would start to make things uncomfortable, especially since New York still has other RFAs to consider in J.T. Miller, Emerson Etem and Jesper Fast.

Could that force the team’s hand in trading someone like Keith Yandle? Might the Rangers need to make more like the Chicago Blackhawks and move Stepan’s rights instead?

Yes, this speculation could turn out to be excessive worrying, especially if Stepan decided to take a slight “hometown discount” to stay on a contending team/help keep his team in contention.

Even so, if Stepan’s reps use O’Reilly’s extension as a measuring stick, the Rangers might indeed be sweating it.