In case you missed it this morning, the Rangers re-signed their single most important RFA, locking up Ryan McDonagh to a six-year deal at a cap hit of $4.7 million per season. In doing so, the Rangers got a bargain on McDonagh, who is now signed until he is 30 years old, locking up three all important UFA years at a very reasonable price. With him on board, the next step for the Rangers is to lock up their #1 center: Derek Stepan.
In June, I looked at Stepan’s pending contract and compared his current career path to that of Claude Giroux. The comparison isn’t made at their current NHL level/production, but where they both were at this point in their careers. Without re-hashing the entire post (if you haven’t read it yet, you should), their career paths are shockingly similar. This isn’t to say Stepan should get Giroux’s absurd $66.2 million over eight years, but it is to say that Stepan should look to get Giroux’s second contract – three years at around $3.75 million per year.
Although Stepan is rumored to be a candidate for an offer sheet, I’m not all that concerned. Teams are well aware of the cap situation for the Rangers ($6.5 million left to spend), but the Rangers don’t need to get to that number until the season starts. For now, they can spend 10% over the $64.3 million cap ceiling, giving them an extra $6 million to work with this summer. This doesn’t include the potential for Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin to start the season on LTIR due to their respective shoulder injuries.
The other piece to consider here is RFA compensation. Remember that compensation is done by taking AAV of the deal over five years, not over the life of the deal. In the hypothetical world that Stepan signs an eight-year, $40 million offer sheet ($5 million cap hit), the compensation is calculated by taking that $40 million and dividing it into five years ($8 million). The compensation for that: Two firsts, a second, and a third. Steep price for Stepan.
That said, the Rangers would be doing themselves –and the fans– a favor by locking up Stepan quickly. The more time that passes, the more time that we have to worry about a potential offer sheet. It’s been a long, long time since someone has attempted to poach a New York RFA, and while the salary cap keeps the Rangers from throwing absurd money at RFAs, it doesn’t stop them from getting revenge responsibly for years to come. It’s one of the benefits of having more money than half of Europe.
Stepan is the most important piece left this summer, and Slats knows this. Their first priority was McDonagh, since he was much more vulnerable to an offer sheet. With the stud defenseman locked up, we should expect Stepan to be locked up very soon.