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Derek Stepan and Rangers agree on long-term deal hours before arbitration hearing

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NEW YORK — The New York Rangers and center Derek Stepan avoided salary arbitration, agreeing on a six-year contract.

General manager Jeff Gorton announced the deal Monday, hours before a contract arbitration hearing for the 25-year-old Stepan was to be held in Toronto.

Stepan said the two sides have been close to agreement in recent days, but there was no guarantee that it would get done before the arbitration. He said there was "no bad blood" during the talks.

"These things take a lot of time," Stepan said on a conference call. "We're talking, essentially for me, a life-changing contract so we wanted to make sure both sides were happy with the direction that talks were going."

Stepan said the contract was six years in length, adding there was a no-trade clause for the third and fourth years of the deal.

There were several reports it was worth $39 million.

A restricted free agent, Stepan had 16 goals and 39 assists in 68 games as the Rangers posted the NHL's best regular-season record. He also had five goals and seven assists in 19 postseason games, tallying the game-winning goal in overtime in Game 7 against Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinal.

Stepan was one of two NHL players who ranked tied for fifth or higher on his respective team in all of the following categories in 2014-15: assists, points, game-winning goals, plus/minus rating, shots on goal, power play goals, power play assists, power play points, short-handed goals, short-handed assists, and short-handed points.

The other was Jonathan Toews of the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.

Stepan established career highs in assists per game (0.57), plus/minus rating (plus 26), short-handed goals (two), and short-handed points (five), and tied a career high in short-handed assists (three) this past season. He tied for the NHL lead in short-handed assists and tied for second in the NHL in short-handed points.

Stepan has skated in 362 games over five seasons, all with the Rangers, registering 89 goals and 163 assists, with a plus-85 rating. He has 15 goals and 26 assists in 80 playoff games.

A second-round draft pick in 2008, Stepan skated with Team USA in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

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