Manhattan, NY, United States (4E Sports) – Restricted free agent Derek Stepan has signed a two-year deal worth $6.15 million with the New York Rangers, ending a stalemate that forced him to miss most of training camp.
The 23-year-old center will earn $2.3 million this season and $3.85 million in 2014-15. Stepan was reportedly seeking a two-year deal worth approximately $7 million.
Stepan, who will travel to New York Thursday and rejoin the team when it gets back from a West Coast trip Sunday, led the Rangers in scoring last season with 18 goals and 26 assists in 48 games.
“There’s no question in my mind that I didn’t want it to go that long,” Stepan said of the negotiations. “I don’t think either side expected it to go that long.”
Stepan also said there was no bad blood between him and the organization despite the long negotiation.
“There’s no bitterness. At a young age, I got to see the business side of it. It doesn’t go as smoothly as you think sometimes,” Stepan said. “It’s how it works.”
With Stepan locked up for the next two years — the team’s standard “bridge” deal awarded to players coming off entry-level contracts — the Rangers have assured they will have the young pivot in the lineup opening night, Oct. 3 against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Stepan admitted he would likely be a little behind his teammates because of the time he missed during camp, but said he skated back home in Minnesota and also with the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team in Madison to maintain his conditioning.
“I don’t think I’m too far off,” he said.
Stepan was also asked whether he worried that missing part of the season could impact his potential spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
“It’s hard to sit here and tell you that it didn’t have any weight on the decision,” Stepan said. “But first and foremost, I was looking to get myself to get in the New York jersey.”