Derek Stepan open to short-term contract with Rangers

Jared Wickerham

Derek Stepan is open to a short-term contract with the New York Rangers, but term apparently isn't the biggest issue in negotiations.

Restricted free agent forward Derek Stepan is open to a short-term contract with the New York Rangers, according to his agent as told to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.

Matt Oates, Stepan's representative, explained to Brooks that Stepan is deserving of a long-term deal but is willing to take a shorter deal in order to get back to work, via the New York Post:

"Derek has put himself in a category with all those guys coming out of Entry Level who received long-term contracts,'' he said. "He's earned that, but we have never said that we wouldn't explore a short-term deal, either. We're just looking for a deal that will reflect his performance.

"I think it's beneficial for the Rangers to lock him up long-term, but if that's not possible at this time, we're certainly willing to engage management on a short-term deal in order to get this done and get Derek on the ice."

Brooks writes that the Rangers are believed to have offered Stepan a two-year deal worth somewhere between $2.5 million and $2.7 million per season.

The 23-year-old forward is coming off a team-leading 44 point season (18 goals and 26 assists) in 2013 while averaging 20:55 of ice-time (2:49 average on the power play and 2:06 on the penalty kill) over the span of 48 games. In addition, Stepan has registered 140 points (56 goals and 84 assists) in 212 career regular season games.

Considering that production, he and his representatives believe he should be paid accordingly. That apparently is where negotiations are hitting a snag, as thhe two sides aren't disagreeing on term, but rather compensation.

The Rangers believe Stepan's demands are unreasonable, according to manager Glen Sather.

"We all like Derek and want him here, but I've told him that his agent is being unrealistic. We're just not close at this point.

"When you look at the CBA, without (arbitration) rights, he's going to get a ‘gap' deal. That's the way it is. It's silly for him to miss camp at his age."

Stepan doesn't have arbitration rights, which significantly diminishes his leverage in negotiations. The Rangers presently have just over $2.1 million in cap space, according to CapGeek.com.

While the two sides might not be close, Oates states that dialogue is ongoing and amicable.

"We're talking. There's dialogue. There's no animosity," Oates said. "Derek isn't asking for anything he hasn't earned. He just wants a fair deal and is willing to talk about a short-term contract if that's what it takes."

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