Derek Stepan gets 2-year deal

Updated: September 26, 2013, 6:05 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

The contract stalemate between the New York Rangers and restricted free agent Derek Stepan has come to an end.

The 23-year-old center, who had not been in training camp while awaiting a resolution, agreed to terms on a two-year deal Thursday. The deal is worth $6.15 million -- $2.3 million this season and $3.85 million in 2014-15.

Stepan was reportedly seeking a two-year deal worth approximately $7 million.

"There's no question in my mind that I didn't want it to go that long," Stepan said of the negotiations while on a conference call Thursday afternoon. "I don't think either side expected it to go that long."

Despite contentious moments throughout the dispute -- general manager Glen Sather criticized Stepan on television Monday night and said he needed to be "wiser" about the decision -- Stepan said he tried not to take any of it personally. He insisted there were no hard feelings between him and the organization.

"There's no bitterness. At a young age, I got to see the business side of it. It doesn't go as smoothly as you think sometimes," Stepan said. "It's how it works."

Stepan conceded that the salary cap constraints did have an impact on the course of negotiations -- the Rangers have little maneuverability, especially considering the decision not to buy out Brad Richards this past summer and the need to sign franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist within the next 10 months -- but said it worked out, nonetheless.

"It's a tough year; the cap went down quite a bit. New York was a in a tight spot to begin with," Stepan said. "It was an unfortunate situation, but both sides handled it as best we could."

With Stepan locked up for the next two years -- the team's standard "bridge" deal awarded to players coming off entry-level contracts -- the Rangers have assured they will have the young pivot in the lineup opening night, Oct. 3 against the Phoenix Coyotes.

The possibility of being without their probable first-line center, where he played most of last season, was a daunting one considering the team will likely be without captain Ryan Callahan and top-six forward Carl Hagelin, both of whom are coming off shoulder surgery this summer.

Stepan, who will travel to New York on Thursday and rejoin the team when it gets back from a West Coast trip Sunday, led the Rangers in scoring last season with 18 goals and 26 assists in 48 games.

He admitted he would likely be a little behind his teammates because of the time he missed during camp, but said he skated back home in Minnesota and also with the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team in Madison to maintain his conditioning.

"I don't think I'm too far off," he said.

Stepan was also asked whether he worried that missing part of the season could impact his potential spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

"It's hard to sit here and tell you that it didn't have any weight on the decision," Stepan said. "But first and foremost, I was looking to get myself to get in the New York jersey."

Katie Strang covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for ESPNNewYork.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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