VANCOUVER -- Derek Stepan is coming back to the New York Rangers after the two sides agreed Thursday on a two-year contract reportedly worth $6.15 million. The 23-year-old center said in a conference call that the offer from the Rangers was made on Monday and that he accepted the terms on Wednesday after missing much of new coach Alain Vigneault’s first training camp.
"There's no question in my mind I didn't want [talks] to go that long," Stepan said. "I don't think either side expected it to go that long. Tough year, cap went down quite a bit, it's unfortunate. At the same time, both sides handled it as best we could."
Stepan, who led the team with 26 assists, 44 points and a plus-25 rating in 48 games, will fly from Minnesota to New York tonight, undergo medical testing Friday, skate on his own Saturday and practice with the team Sunday. He will not, however, be returning to the same Rangers team he finished with last season. How long it takes him to catch up to teammates adjusting to Vigneault’s system could determine how long it takes for New York to truly get back the player that led the team in scoring last season.
"I have been trying to get scoops to see where everything is at, where everyone is at, what was going on, just to keep myself in it mentally," Stepan said. "A lot of good things were said [by teammates], so I'm just super excited to get there."
Stepan has not missed a game in three seasons with the Rangers, a record that was at risk as the restricted free agent sat out training camp during contract negotiations. He has 140 points on 56 goals and 84 assists in 212 games, but all came for coach John Tortorella, who is now behind the Vancouver Canucks bench.
Teammate Brad Richards cautioned there will be an adjustment under Vigneault.
"There’s a lot of different tendencies and details that we are still trying to hammer down right now, so it’s definitely new and different," Richards said.
Vigneault was just happy to have the team’s leading scorer at his disposal.
"Very happy," said Vigneault. "They've been working at this for some time now and he’s one of our top players. Contract negotiations I have nothing to do with, so I am going to welcome him with open arms."
As for Stepan, he harbors no hard feelings about the business side of the game.
"There's no bitterness," Stepan said. "At a young age in my career I got to see the business side of it, and it doesn't go as smoothly as you think sometimes. I'm just glad we came to an agreement where we got something done in time [before the regular season]."