Barring an overnight breakthrough in contract talks, restricted free-agent center Derek Stepan, the Rangers' leading scorer last season, will not report to training camp Wednesday.
Stepan's agent, Matt Oates, said Tuesday that without a deal, Stepan would not be present for the medicals and testings, or the on-ice sessions that begin Thursday. The Rangers said Tuesday that Stepan's status hadn't changed.
Stepan had 18 goals and 44 points in 48 games last season and emerged as the team's No. 1 center, but the Rangers are offering the 23-year-old a two-year deal, known as a "bridge contract," which they have done several times for players coming off an entry-level deal. Stepan has no arbitration rights, made $875,000 last season, and is seeking a significant increase in a longer-term deal.
The Rangers, who have 14 forwards and eight defensemen under contract, have very little wiggle room, with about $2.1 million left under the salary cap. They could add more space through waivers, trades or putting either Ryan Callahan or Carl Hagelin, each coming off shoulder surgery and expected to be sidelined for at least the first week of the season, on long-term injured reserve, which provides temporary cap relief.
But without Callahan and Hagelin, the Rangers would have to add at least one forward for the start of the season.
If Stepan holds out, he would be the second Ranger since 2009 to miss the start of camp. Brandon Dubinsky skipped a week before agreeing to a two-year, $3.7-million pact.
The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Rangers, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.