Over the course of a couple of days, the Rangers have gotten everyone re-signed except for Derek Stepan. A day after re-signing Emerson Etem and Oscar Lindberg, they signed restricted free agents Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller. Former first round pick Dylan McIlrath also re-signed for one year $600,000.
In essence, new GM Jeff Gorton was able to save as much money as possible. Fast agreed to a two-year deal at $950,000 per season and Miller signed his one-year $874,000 qualifying offer. Daily News reporter Pat Leonard tweeted out the information on both.
With just enough wiggle room, they shouldn’t have any problem fitting Stepan in. With approximately $8 million left, Gorton can now turn his attention to getting the team’s number one center signed to a long-term contract. Considering that the Ducks doled out an average of $6.875 million for 30-year old center Ryan Kesler, Stepan’s price range is set. It could be anywhere between $6.5 to $7.5 million. That all depends on whether the two sides can reach agreement before the July 27 arbitration date.
Let’s not forget that Stepan is two years away from unrestricted free agency. Obviously, they don’t want to let an arbitrator award another bridge deal. Clearly one of their best players, the Rangers must lock him up and buy up free agent years. Assuming it gets done, it should be a six-year contract with a seventh year option along with the standard no-movement clause. A big investment for sure. But what other alternative is there? At 25, Stepan continues to improve and is one of the locker room leaders. A smart two-way playmaking pivot, he’s a big part of the present and future.
Having a top three of Stepan, Derick Brassard and either Miller or Kevin Hayes should keep the Blueshirts a serious Stanley Cup contender. If Lindberg makes the team and becomes a reliable fourth line center, it’ll solidify the center position with Dominic Moore unlikely to return once his contract expires the following summer. Center prospect Adam Tambellini is also part of the future and already signed an entry level deal. Only 20, there’s no reason to rush the big scorer. His estimated arrival probably isn’t until 2017.
As long as they do the right thing, the Rangers should be set at center. They also could be much deeper at the position. A positive outlook for the future.