For the Rangers this summer, there are pitches and there are pitches.
Dan Girardi will be throwing a ceremonial one before the Yankees-Tigers game in the Bronx Friday night, and assistant general manager Jeff Gorton is warming up for more contract discussions with center Derek Stepan and goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Girardi's mound appearance is a promotional prelude to the first outdoor games at Yankee Stadium, which will feature the Rangers against the Devils on Jan. 26 and against the Islanders on Jan. 29. "It'll be quite an atmosphere," said the blueliner, who suggested that playing New Jersey first "might help a little bit" by adjusting to the ice and the venue before facing off with the Islanders. "It'll be good to get that first one under the belt."
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, rehabbing from shoulder surgery, won't be throwing checks for a while, but he also attended Thursday's curtain-raiser at the ballpark. Callahan, expected to miss some regular-season games, began skating a week ago. "Come training camp [which opens Sept. 11], I can be shooting and skating," he said. "The big thing with the shoulder is contact."
On the business side, Stepan, 23, is a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. The Rangers also are restricted, with only about $3 million left under the reduced $64.3-million salary cap. Stepan, the team's leading scorer and No. 1 center last season, is due a substantial raise.
"I don't expect it to be done tomorrow, but we fully expect that we're going to get something done by the time we're in camp," Gorton said, adding that the Rangers prefer not to use the 10-percent cap overage allowed in the summer. "He's one of our core guys . . . I expect to be talking to them in the next few days."
Lundqvist, currently in Sweden, has one more year on his deal, and both sides plan a long-term extension. "Henrik wants to be here and we want Henrik," Gorton said. "At the end of the day, it shouldn't be too difficult to get a deal."