It looks like Derek Stepan will not be returning to Wisconsin after all. Just a few months after being named Captain of the Badgers, it is being reported that the Rangers and Stepan are closing in on a deal that will make Stepan a pro, thus leaving the University of Wisconsin. In a recent interview, General Manager Glen Sather noted that they are going to try very hard to sign Stepan before the season started, and it at least appears that this will get done relatively soon.
What this means for Stepan’s teammate, and highly touted prospect Ryan McDonagh, we don’t know. It is safe to assume that Stepan turning pro will leave the Badgers hard pressed to repeat their success next year. With Sather’s determination to get both Badgers signed, McDonagh may follow suit sooner rather than later.
Update 4:30pm: As per Larry Brooks, Derek Stepan has officially signed with the Rangers. The deal is an entry-level deal, three years at $875,000 base salary. Stepan’s bonuses will also count against his cap hit, so the $875,000 is not his complete cap hit.
Expect Stepan to play a full season in the AHL, unless he makes a great impression at camp.
Update 4:45pm: Stepan probably won’t make the Rangers outright,
and is too young to play in the AHL, so expect him to play in Canadian juniors (reportedly the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL) for a year. It’s a little bit odd that the Rangers pushed to sign him since he won’t be playing in the AHL. I guess they are thinking he can make the team, which I personally don’t feel he can. But hey, what do I know? Wow I was wrong. Stepan can play in the AHL, as the minimum age is 20, and that only applies to those who were drafted out of Juniors, which Stepan wasn’t.