The Rangers and Derek Stepan remain about $500,000 apart per year on a two-year bridge contract according to Darren Dreger – TSN. The 23 year old Minnesota native has no leverage other than to hold out, and he has so far missed the first ten days of camp and two preseason games.
For their part, the Rangers find themselves in a bit of a Cap bind, with around $2.1M of room left, though the could clear more by sending Darroll Powe and Arron Asham down to the AHL as has been rumored.
Dreger reports that there’s a distinct chance the impasse drags into the regular season opener, at which point how the team performs on the ice, may very well dictate who gets the upper hand in the negotiations. A fast start by New York, and they’ll feel less pressure to get things moving, a slow start and Stepan will have the upper hand.
The Rangers appear pretty deep at center, with Derick Brassard picking up where he left off from last year’s playoffs, Brad Richards looking to prove something, and rookie Oscar Lindberg making a positive impression. Throw in Brian Boyle, a returning Dominic Moore and J.T. Miller, and the Rangers have many options in Stepan’s absence.