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Rangers, Stepan agree to terms on six-year contract

by Brian Compton / NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Derek Stepan wanted to remain with the New York Rangers long-term. The Rangers felt the same way.

On the morning they were scheduled for an arbitration hearing, the Rangers and Stepan on Monday agreed to terms on a six-year contract. Financial terms were not released, but the Daily News reported it to be worth $39 million, an average annual value of $6.5 million.

"It's a great feeling," Stepan said. "I can't be more excited to be a part of a team that I absolutely love. I love the city of New York, I'm grateful for the fans, grateful for the management there. Me and my wife are extremely happy to be there for the next six years."

Stepan, 25, had 16 goals, 55 points, 22 penalty minutes and was plus-26 in 68 regular-season games for the Rangers last season. He had five goals, 12 points, 10 penalty minutes and was minus-1 in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

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Stepan scored the winning goal in overtime of Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals, but did not have a point in the last four games of the Eastern Conference Final, which the Rangers lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. New York was shut out at home in Game 5 and Game 7.

"Derek is a player we know real well, and to see what he's done in this league, the success he's had, the leadership qualities he has, this is one of the guys we want to build around," Gorton told BlueshirtsUnited.com.

The Rangers were $6.1 million under the NHL salary cap of $71.4 million, according to war-on-ice.com. This is New York's first offseason under general manager Jeff Gorton, who replaced Glen Sather on July 1.

"It went all the way to the door [for a hearing], but I think Jeff did a great job," Stepan said. "There wasn't any bad blood through the whole thing. It always seemed that we were close and it was just a matter of just getting over one hump here, one hump there. It went the way I expected it to. It went the way I wanted it to. Hats off to him and to my agent for doing it the way they did."

In five NHL seasons, all with the Rangers, Stepan has 89 goals, 252 points, 94 penalty minutes and is plus-85. He has 15 goals, 41 points and is minus-5 in 80 playoff games.

"Derek does a little bit of everything and everyone here is confident with him moving forward," Gorton said. "He kills penalties and plays on the power play, plays 5-on-5, 4-on-4, 4-on-3, up a goal, down a goal. He's always out there. That's an asset for a coach to have a player like that."

"You also want players who can play big in the big moments on the biggest stage, and there is no bigger stage than New York City," Gorton said. "Derek has proven he can do that."

Stepan did not have a contract and missed the beginning of training camp in 2013, but signed a two-year contract worth $6.15 million one week before the regular season. He said negotiations weren't as tense this time around.

"I think for the most part both sides were pretty close to begin with," Stepan said. "These things just take time, setting up everything. I think both sides are very happy and very comfortable with where the deal is at. The last time, we were a little further apart to begin with. I think both sides knew where this was going to end up. It was a lot easier and a lot smoother, that's for sure."

Stepan, an alternate captain who plays against the opposition's top center on a nightly basis, won't have to worry about his contract again for a long time. He can focus solely on helping the Rangers win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1994.

"I'm grateful," said Stepan, who was New York's second-round pick (No. 51) at the 2008 NHL Draft and made his Rangers debut two years later. "I came into the League and I was given an opportunity to be a part of an Original Six team, an organization that has treated me extremely well, and now I get to go into my next six years with them. I think we have an exciting group of guys and we have a group of guys that want to take that next step. I think we have a great group of guys. I think that's where it really starts; how close our teams have been in the last four or five years has a lot to do with the group of guys we have in the room. We've got a competitive group and there's nothing but exciting things to come for us moving forward.

"To be able to be a part of this for the next six years, trying to find a way to take that next step in our team's goals and finding that extra hump, it's really cool and it's a special feeling to be a part of it."

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