Latest on Derek Stepan’s contract negotiations with the New York Rangers, while the Buffalo Sabres target free-agent defenseman Johnny Oduya. 

No progress in contract talks between Derek Stepan and the Rangers.

No progress in contract talks between center Derek Stepan and the New York Rangers.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports July 27 is the date for New York Rangers center Derek Stepan’s arbitration hearing in Toronto. Brooks claims Rangers management and Stepan’s agent haven’t even quite reached the stage of preliminary talks, as the Blueshirts haven’t made an opening offer yet. It could take a six-year, $39 million opening bid to things rolling. Brooks claims there’s no evidence the Rangers are considering trading Stepan before his arbitration hearing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It would certainly be shocking if the Rangers traded Stepan before his July 27th arbitration hearing. If his case goes to arbitration, it’ll be interesting to see how much he gets on a two-year deal. This could be gamesmanship on the Rangers’ part. Then again, perhaps both sides believe they have plenty of time to hammer out an agreement before then.

I doubt the Blueshirts will trade away Stepan or walk away from an arbitration award as that would leave a huge hole at center. Then again, I didn’t believe the Bruins and Blackhawks could be swayed by fear of an offer sheet into trading Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Saad.

If they do trade Stepan, it’ll have to be to teams that can afford to pay him over $6.5-million per season on a long-term deal with assets to help the Rangers rebuild. Presently, there’s not many teams that fit the description. Many of those sitting well below the cap ceiling are under self-imposed ceilings. This will be worth watching over the next couple of weeks. 

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington reports the Buffalo Sabres still need “another quality left-shot blueliner” and could pursue UFA defenseman Johnny Oduya. There’s rumors the Sabres made a big offer on July 1 to the 33-year-old Oduya, whose preference is to return with the Chicago Blackhawks. Their limited cap space and addition of Trevor Daley in the recent Patrick Sharp trade could prevent that. Harrington speculates Buffalo or Boston could be Oduya’s likely landing spots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Having dealt Daley to Chicago, the Dallas Stars could also be a destination for Oduya. The Blackhawks must re-sign Marcus Kruger and perhaps add an affordable seventh defenseman. Unless they shed more salary first, I can’t see them having room for Kruger and Oduya, leaving the Sabres, Bruins and Stars as perhaps his only choices.