Stepan files for arbitration, Rangers will hope to avoid it

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Derek Stepan filed for arbitration on Sunday, and the 25-year-old may end up being overpaid if the situation reaches an arbitrator. 

It’s no surprise that Stepan filed for arbitration, after all, 22 others did the same thing this past Sunday. What has people around the Rangers worried, is the absurd deal that Ryan O’Reilly got from the Buffalo Sabres.

Larry Brooks of The New York Post, explains that Stepan is a better player than O’Reilly, and he is likely to get a big reward if this gets to the arbitrator.

Allan Muir of SI clarified this further when he wrote:

[su_quote cite=”Allan Muir” url=”http://www.si.com/nhl/2015/07/06/nhl-salary-arbitration-cases-likely-outcomes-derek-stepan-braden-holtby”]A source tells SI.com that the seven-year, $52.5 million extension handed to him last week by the Sabres is inadmissible in arbitration (because it covers his Group 3 years), but O’Reilly’s current deal, which will pay him $6.2 million next season, can be used as a comparable. And because Stepan’s numbers are superior to O’Reilly’s in nearly every category, it’s easy to imagine an arbitrator granting Stepan an award of at least $7 million.[/su_quote]

So, while O’Reilly’s new deal can’t be used his old one can. And by the looks of it, should it go to arbitration an award of $7M is very likely. To this effect the Rangers will want to avoid arbitration and lock up Stepan to a longterm deal of at least 5 years. The odds are in their favor as only 3 players in the last 23 years have gone that far (thanks Pam Murray of the Ottawa Metro).

O’Reilly is coming off a year where he posted 55 points in 82 games and that landed him a seven-year deal worth an average of $7.5 million per season. Stepan posted 55 points in 68 games and has better career numbers, so it isn’t out of the question for the center to get an award in the same area.

Getting It Done

The Rangers have to find a way to get this thing done, as Stepan has earned his keep with this team. The fact is, on most nights Stepan is this club’s top center, and he still has plenty of good hockey left in him. So it’s not as if the Rangers are paying a guy on his way out a boat load of money. According to Sportac.com the Rangers have a little over $10 million in cap space, so they have the room to get something done.

One thing the Rangers have going for them is the fact that they can offer Stepan term to take down his cap hit. For example, an eight-year deal worth upwards of $6.5 million may be more appealing than a two-year deal worth more than $7.5 million.

I think these two sides find common ground sooner rather than later. The Rangers let Martin St. Louis walk this off-season, and traded Carl Hagelin to be able to keep some space open, so you have to think they knew they were going to end up giving Stepan a hefty new deal.