As US Olympic orientation camp kicked off, Steve Zipay of Newsday caught up with Derek Stepan to discuss contract negotiations.
“I don’t think either side expects me not to be (at training camp). These things take time. Both sides are working at finding the right number and a fair deal for both sides,” Stepan said.
Ryan McDonagh chimed in about Stepan shortly after, and reassured fans by saying the first-line center would be at camp.
“He’ll be there. It’s a unique situation for him, but ultimately, he’ll be a Ranger,” McDonagh stated.
When GM Glen Sather was asked about the Stepan contract, he explained that the team is not going to give him a long-term deal quite yet.
“Derek is in one of those positions where he’s coming off an entry level contract. What we’ve done historically with all the players we’ve signed is we’ve put them into that gap contract where they have two years, then after the first year you negotiate an extension of that contract,” Sather said.
If Stepan can put up similar numbers this year as he did last, he could be in for a big-time extension. The 23-year old had 44 points in 48 games, good for best on the Rangers and 21st best in the league. It certainly will help Stepan that the Devils’ Adam Henrique signed a 6-year, $24 million deal on Monday. Stepan is a much more established player than Henrique, who contributed just 16 points in 42 games last season.
In other team news, Brad Richards took a bit of a shot back at John Tortorella earlier this week. Tortorella felt that some players on the Rangers threw him under the bus during their exit interviews. Tortorella seemingly questioned the players’ manhood and wished the players had just approached him with their issues. When asked about the coaching change to Alain Vigneault, Richards appeared giddy.
“I’m excited to have a different voice and a coach with a different view of how we should play that’s more focused on offense. It suits me and I think it suits everybody more on the whole team, to be honest,” he said.
These comments definitely come at a surprise to me, as I thought Richards was one of Tortorella’s go-to-guys on the Rangers (even with the playoff benching). Ever since the pair won the Cup with the Lightning in 2004, they have appeared to be close. I guess not that close. Richards went on to address his struggles last season.
“I know I can play the game. Sometimes I might have to defend myself a little bit to people who think I can’t play anymore. I’m very motivated. Last season kept me very hungry all summer,” Richards said.
I, for one, am excited to see what Richards brings to the team this season. The combination of the new, offensive-minded Vigneault and Richards’ struggles last season have him more motivated than ever. I predict he is in for his best season yet with the Blueshirts.
Training camp beings September 13th…