Derek Stepan misses first day

Updated: September 11, 2013, 2:42 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Locked in a contract stalemate with the Rangers, center Derek Stepan missed the first day of training camp Wednesday.

All players were to report to the team's training facility for mandatory physicals, but Stepan, as expected, did not show.

Stepan's agent, Matt Oates, confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com that the 23-year-old restricted free agent will not report to camp without a contract.

It is believed that the sides remain far apart, with the cap-strapped Rangers looking to give Stepan a modest, two-year bridge deal and the player's camp seeking significantly more.

New coach Alain Vigneault, who was hired this summer following the dismissal of John Tortorella, said he's not concerned.

"Not at all," Vigneault said. "They're not on the ice yet. I've talked to Derek a couple times throughout the summer. He knows that contracts aren't a part of my responsibility and that I'm going to take him with open arms when he gets here."

"I know he wants to be here and I know management wants him to be here also, so hopefully something will get done. If it doesn't, again, it's like the two injured guys [Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin] with opportunities for other people."

Though the Rangers technically don't begin formal on-ice sessions until Thursday, Stepan is now the Rangers' first holdout since Brandon Dubinsky, who missed part of training camp in 2009 before signing a two-year, $3.7 million deal.

Though Stepan does not have the arbitration rights of fellow young core member Ryan McDonagh, who inked a six-year, $28.2 million contract in July, he has reason to be looking for a significant payday.

Since bursting onto the scene with a hat trick in his NHL debut in October 2010, Stepan has been a consistent performer for the Rangers. After posting 45 points as a rookie and 51 in his sophomore campaign, Stepan led the Rangers in scoring during the lockout-shortened 2013 season with 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists in 48 games) and often played as the team's first-line pivot.

The Rangers, however, have reason to be prudent. Even though the $2.18 million in available cap space includes captain Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin on the roster -- both players are recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and will likely miss time -- the team may need to consider carrying depth at the forward position until one or both players return.

Stepan, a strong candidate for the 2014 U.S. Olympic team, is among the last of a few top unsigned restricted free agents waiting for a resolution before camps begin.

"It would be better if he would be here, there's no doubt about that. You've got a whole new staff, some new teammates, you want everybody to start together and work together to build that foundation so that we're all striving for the same goals," Vigneault said.

"That being said though, this is a situation that's not within my control. It's a little bit within his control, but it's not within mine. Like I told him over the phone, I look forward to being his coach. I look forward to working with him, and when he gets here, it'll be fine."

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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