The word began trickling out this morning that Stepan and the Rangers were close (and you may recall that I wrote here last week that I believed a deal would get done in the final days of this trip out West), and pretty soon, it became official: two years, $6.15 million, good for both sides. Stepan, 23, the team's No. 1 center, gets a nice raise and won't miss the season opener in Phoenix.
Stepan will leave tonight from Minnesota, undergo a physical and fitness testing in New York and practice Sunday when the team returns from the fianl preseason tilt against the Kings in Las Vegas.
"We got offered a deal on Monday, one that we felt was about the closest one where’d we’d probably end up at," he said on a conference call a little while ago. "It took us a couple days to gather ourselves, I talked to my family, by Wednesday night we gave the Rangers a call to make sure we got it done by today....The urgency came from the fact that I was ready to play and I think New York was really ready to have this be done with...I don’t think I’m too far off (in conditioning), there’s going to need to be some times where I need to catch up a little bit."
More from No. 21, who recently has been skating three days a week at the University of Wisconsin with the college team.
"It’s hard to sit here and tell you it (the chance to play on Team USA in the Olympics) didn’t have any weight or effect on my decision, that being said, first and foremost was getting myself in a New York jersey. We wanted to make sure we got ourselves a deal that’s fair and was fair for New York as well."
"It’s a tough year, the cap went down quite a bit, New York was in a tight spot to begin with, it’s an unfortunate situation but at the same time I think both sides handled it as best we could, we just tried to get through it without too big of a damage by either side".
"There’s no bitterness. At a young age in my career, I got to see this business side of it. It doesn’t go as smoothly as you think. I had people around me tell me ‘Make sure you don’t take it personally. This is how it works’…We came to an agreement where we were able to get something done in time."
But he was antsy: "I didn’t expect it to go this long. When you’re sitting at home and the team is working you want to know what’s going on, and I had Ryan (McDonagh) in there, I talked to a lot of guys, trying to see where everyone was at. I would ask about systems and some of the games and how they went, we discussed what the coach is looking for and a lot of good things were being said, so I’m just super excited to get there."