May 27, 2013, 12:58 PM EST
This offseason promises to be an intriguing one in the Big Apple.
While most of the talk around the Rangers at the moment involves the contractual future of Brad Richards, another key development looms — negotiations for a trio of key restricted free agents: Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Carl Hagelin.
All spent last season as huge contributors on incredibly cheap deals. Stepan and Hagelin each made $875,000 while McDonagh played on a $1.3 million cap hit, all stemming from their entry-level deals.
(Of note, Hagelin and McDonagh have arbitration rights. Stepan doesn’t.)
On the surface, the Rangers appear to be in good shape for negotiations. They currently sit $13.5 million under the adjusted $64.3 million cap ceiling for 2013-14, with 18 players under contract.
Stepan has already pledged his allegiance to the Blueshirts, saying he wants to be in New York for the long haul and end his career there.
The question, though, is how he, Hagelin and McDonagh will split up the pie.
Prior to this season, the case could’ve been made that McDonagh was the club’s clear-cut No. 1 priority. But after Stepan’s stellar 2013 campaign — he led the team in regular-season scoring (44 points) and playoff goals (four) — it’s suddenly not as clear cut.
Throw in the Brad Richards situation, and Stepan — a center — suddenly becomes a vital part of New York’s future.
And this isn’t forgetting about Hagelin, who scored 24 points in 48 games during the regular season and finished third on the team in scoring during the postseason.
One thing’s for certain, though — Stepan has clearly made an impact on this team.
Just ask Derick Brassard.
“Even though he’s younger than me,” Brassard told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen, “he’s one of the guys I look up to.”
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