Philly Sports Live

What We Learned: How much is Derek Stepan really worth? (Puck Daddy)

(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it)   Last week in this space, the subject of what Ryan O’Reilly is worth was discussed at length , and in the end the conclusion was that, by the end of that hefty deal, Buffalo would likely have gotten more or less full value from the contract. And this contract is important, straight away, in determining the value of Derek Stepan, who now has an arbitration date scheduled with the Rangers and currently looks for all the world like he’s going to get there without a new contract having been signed. It’s fair to say that this would be a disaster for the Rangers. In a best-case scenario, New York gets him on what they hope is short money for one or two years before he hits unrestricted free agency. In a worst-case scenario, he gets pissed off and feels like he really ought to test the market when that one or two years is up. The obvious thing here is that locking him up long-term is an imperative. While he’s hardly an elite center in this league, he is a clear No. 1, so the fact that they haven’t even offered him a reasonable, lengthy contract borders on negligence. Further, the fact that the player may be asking for as little as $6 million, depending upon whom you believe, makes the situation flatly bizarre. If the ask is a $6 million AAV for anything more than four or five years, why is this deal not already signed? Most GMs in this league would climb an erupting volcano to get a player like that locked down at that price point. On some level, though, you have to accede that Jeff Gorton just took this job and therefore probably has a lot of stuff to figure out. But on another, that should be a slam dunk. This is especially true because Stepan is coming off one of those great “bridge” deals that is supposed to lead to an amicable, lengthy extension that leaves both sides satisfied. Stepan is coming off the best two seasons of his career — as most players will at 23 and 24 as they move toward the peak of their productive years — and he was asked to take less money then to make more money now. He did his part, so why haven’t the Rangers? Currently*, 13 centers in this league make more than $7 million annually, and if the question is whether Stepan is currently one of the 14 best centers in the league (i.e. if he should join that group), the answer is maybe. But another 10 are in the range from $6-6.875 million, and the upper end of that feels like a comfortable group for Stepan right now, who just turned 25.