By any objective measure the $7 million over two years Derek Stepan is attempting to get from the Rangers is below market value.

The problem for Stepan is that as a Group II free agent without arbitration rights he belongs to the only class of NHL players that essentially is excluded from the market and that operates without comparables against which to measure.

Compounding the problem is that as a Ranger Stepan belongs to one of the few teams in the NHL that uses the leverage it owns under the collective bargaining agreement when negotiating with these Group II’s.

So Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ seven-year $42M extension with Edmonton — with still one season remaining on his Entry Level deal — may as well not exist as it applies to Stepan’s case just the way all those similar previous second contract extensions given to people such as Jeff Skinner Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall may as well not exist.

And so here we are closer to the Oct. 3 start of the season in Phoenix than the Sept. 11 start of training camp without an end in sight to the impasse between Stepan and the Rangers who have offered their presumptive first-line center just under $6M for two seasons and are believed willing to go to approximately $6.4M in order to get the deal done.

By the way “holdout” is such a pejorative term. Stepan simply doesn’t have a contract. If he is “holding out” for a better offer so too are the Rangers.

Absent an offer sheet that does not appear forthcoming all of the negotiating leverage is on the side of the team. That’s the way the CBA intends it. If Stepan does not sign by Dec. 1 he is ineligible to play this season per the CBA. Time isn’t necessarily on his side.

Furthermore if the dispute bleeds into the season it could have an impact on Stepan’s candidacy for the U.S. Olympic team and don’t for a moment think that both the athlete and Rangers’ general manager Glen Sather aren’t aware of that clock ticking.