The Rangers have a lot of work to do this offseason. In addition to addressing the glaring holes in the lineup, they need to do everything they can to re-sign their core RFAs (Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan). Of the three core RFAs, who are all about to receive their second NHL contracts, only Stepan is not eligible for arbitration. It’s unfortunate for Stepan, as he finished the season as the Rangers leading scorer. He loses a lot of leverage without arbitration.
Estimating Stepan’s contract is tough. The Rangers haven’t had to re-up a player on their second deal the season after he led the team in scoring. In fact, the closest situation the Rangers have had to the Stepan situation is Brandon Dubinsky’s second contract, and the only similarity there is that neither player is/was arbitration eligible. For this, we need to go to other organizations to determine market value. We don’t need to go far to estimate the Stepan contract. Philadelphia had a very similar situation with Claude Giroux after the 2010-2011 season.
Giroux came to mind immediately because we’ve written about his second contract before. Currently Giroux is on a three-year, $11.25 million deal, which is a $3.75 million cap hit. The young center was coming off his entry-level deal and led his team in scoring. Giroux was not arbitration eligible, and the cap ceiling for the upcoming 2011-2012 season was $64.3 million. Not only are the outside factors almost identical, the scoring pace for the two players is almost identical (games played in parenthesis):
|1st year||2nd year||3rd year|
|Giroux||27 (42)||47 (82)||76 (82)|
|Stepan||45 (82)||51 (82)||44 (48)|
It’s a bit scary how similar these situations are. Both players are within five points for each year on their ELC. Both players had since earned the top line center spot in their third year. Both players are core members of their respective clubs for many, many years. I can bet you my life savings that Stepan’s agent is looking at the Giroux deal and using it as a benchmark.
This is usually the part of the post where I go ahead and use other factors and players to get a better estimate of a player’s worth. However, that’s not really necessary with the Stepan/Giroux contract comparison. The cap ceiling is the same. The point totals are virtually identical. Neither had arbitration rights. Both led the team in scoring. Both are the top center. It’s all in black and white.
Stepan’s contract, in my eyes, is the easiest contract to estimate. The terms may differ –Slats rarely gives out more than two-year bridge contracts, with the lone exception being Marc Staal– but we should be in the ballpark of approximately $3.75 million. Given Slats’ prior history with second contracts, let’s place a safe bet on Stepan getting two or three years at a cap hit of $3.5 million to $4 million.