The contract stalemate between the New York Rangers and Derek Stepan took a nasty turn Monday night when Rangers general manager Glen Sather criticized the young center in a televised interview and expressed his frustration with the unsigned restricted free agent.
"I hope he starts to get a little wiser about this decision," Sather said in the taped interview with MSG Network, which aired during the second intermission of Monday night's preseason game against the Calgary Flames.
Sather said the team has made a fair offer to Stepan and warned that every day of training camp missed would "hurt" the 23-year-old pivot. Stepan has missed training camp while he awaits resolution on his contract situation.
Sather also exerted pressure on Stepan's camp by voicing his displeasure with the advice he has been given in rejecting his qualifying offer as well as the team's most recent offer -- a two-year deal. Sather told ESPNNewYork.com last week that while Stepan was prepared to accept a "gap" or "bridge" deal, the two sides remain too far apart on salary.
"It's unfortunate that Derek has decided to listen to his agent," Sather said.
Though Stepan has now missed almost two weeks of camp, Sather did sound hopeful that the impasse wouldn't drag on much longer.
"I don't think Derek is gonna let this thing linger too long," Sather said. "I don't think he's big enough of a fool [to sit out a year]."
Stepan, who led the team in scoring with 18 goals and 44 points last season, was expected to compete with veteran Brad Richards for the slot at first-line center, where he played most of last season.