In the end, Derek Stepan wanted to be a New York Ranger, and the Rangers wanted Stepan to be their top line center.
So it was just a matter of how both sides reached an accord, which they did Monday as the team announced Stepan had signed a six-year deal worth $39 million.
The average annual value of the deal is $6.5 million. Stepan will earn $8 million the next two seasons, $7 million in 2017-18, $6 million in 2018-19 and $5 million in the last two seasons of the pact.
Stepan noted that he is “pretty sure” the contract calls for a no-trade clause for the third and fourth years. He can also submit a list of “15 teams” that he cannot be traded to in the last two years of the contract.
“For the most part, both sides were pretty close to begin with,” Stepan said in a conference call. “These things do take time, setting up everything. Both sides are very happy and very comfortable with where the deal was at.
“Both sides knew when this was going to end and knew where this was going to end up.”
The 25-year old is coming off a 2014-15 campaign in which he recorded 55 points (16 goals and 39 assists) in 68 regular season games, and 12 points (five goals and seven assists) in 19 playoff games. In his career, Stepan has an averaged 0.69 points in 362 regular season games and 0.51 points in 80 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
“I came into the league and I was given an opportunity to be part of an Original Six team, an organization that has treated me extremely well,” Stepan said. “Now I get to go into my next six years with them. I think we have an exciting group of guys and we have a group of guys that want to take that next step, and that was our main goal right from the beginning.
“This is where we want to be.”
A restricted free agent, Stepan had filed for salary arbitration as was his right under the collective bargaining agreement. According to a tweet from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman Saturday, Stepan had submitted a proposal to the arbiter for a $7.25 million contract and the Rangers countered with a $5.2 million deal.
“It was there if we needed to, but it looked like there was a deal in play in the last three or four days,” Stepan said. “I think both sides didn’t want to really go through [arbitration] and figured that there was a good number and a good deal right on the table.
“Both sides knew that this area was the number. It’s the right number for me. As I watched teammates get signed and free agents get signed, this is the area we thought we were going to be in and they had the space for it the whole time. I was never really nervous. [Rangers general manager] Jeff [Gorton] did a phenomenal job of structuring a team the way he wants to. He knew where it was going to end up and we knew where it was going to end up.”
By re-signing Stepan, the Rangers have committed to a core that has reached the Eastern Conference Final three times in the last four seasons, including a run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.
“We’ve got a competitive group and there’s nothing but exciting things to come for us moving forward,” Stepan said. “To be able to be a part of this for the next six years and try to find a way to take that next step in our team’s goals, it’s really cool and it’s a special feeling to be a part of it.”