Derek Stepan has signed on to remain a Blueshirt for the next six seasons.
After reports had surfaced over the weekend that Stepan and the New York Rangers were roughly $2 million apart on salary demands – Stepan wanted $7.25 million, the Rangers were coming in around $5.2 million – GM Jeff Gorton and Stepan’s party got together and hammered out a brand new contract for the 25-year-old pivot.
According to ESPN’s Katie Strang, Stepan’s new deal carries a cap hit of $6.5 million per season, which makes it a $39 million deal. While pricy, it’s fair value for Stepan and helps the Rangers solidify their one-two rotation at center with Stepan and Derick Brassard locked up for the next four seasons.
Since breaking into the league in 2010-11, Stepan has produced at a high rate for the Rangers. In his rookie campaign, Stepan notched 21 goals and 45 points. While the goal total remains the highest of his career, he eclipsed the 50-point plateau in three of his next four seasons. Were it not for the 2012-13 season being shortened by a lockout, Stepan may have easily had a 60-point season under his belt, too.
While he’s yet to show he can be a league-leading scorer, he’s been effective at both ends of the ice and is the type of two-way pivot that most teams in the league would covet were he to hit the open market. In 2014-15, he did everything for the Rangers, including killing penalties and logging power play minutes. Of Stepan’s 16 goals in this past season, five came on special teams – three with the extra man and two while shorthanded. That’s not to mention that he mustered three game-winning goals in the regular season.
During the post-season, Stepan turned up his game, scoring five goals and 12 points in 19 outings, including the series-winning overtime tally in Game 7 of the second round against the Washington Capitals.
When it comes to advanced statistics, there are about 20 players who closely resemble the numbers Stepan has been able to post over the past two seasons. Since the beginning of the 2013 campaign, Stepan has a goals for percentage (goals for divided by goals against while Stepan is on ice) of 62 percent, a shot attempts for percentage of 50.1 percent and has scored 18 goals and 67 points at 5-on-5.
Some of the closest comparables to Stepan’s statistics include Rangers teammate Rick Nash, San Jose’s Joe Pavelski and Montreal’s Max Pacioretty. Those slightly ahead of Stepan include Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, all of who have at least three years more NHL experience than the Rangers pivot.
Stepan’s new deal gives the Rangers less than $450,000 to work with under the salary cap for the 2015-16 season, according to General Fanager. However, that doesn’t really put the Rangers in a cap bind.
Next offseason, each of Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller and Emerson Etem will become restricted free agents and garner a pay hike for the 2016-17 campaign. While that appears to have the Rangers in an unfavorable position, it should be noted that Keith Yandle’s $2.625 million deal and Dan Boyle’s $4.5 million contract will come off the books. In addition, Dominic Moore and Viktor Stalberg will head for unrestricted free agency, which gives the Rangers an additional $2.6 million. All told, the Blueshirts have more than $10 million coming off the cap in 2016-17, which should be enough to lock up their four restricted free agents. And that’s without including a potential increase to the salary cap next season.
For both the Rangers and Stepan, the deal is a great one. It locks up the Rangers’ young star center, allows them some cap flexibility this upcoming season and it should help keep New York in contention – at least for the post-season – for years to come.