When young Derek Stepan was skating for prestigious Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault, Minnesota, I bet he dreamed of being a professional hockey player one day, don't you? And when his success there moved him on to college as a Wisconsin Badger, don't you think he dreamed of being drafted one day soon? Maybe for his hometown Minnesota Wild, or maybe even an Original Six franchise, like the nearby Chicago Blackhawks. Maybe he even hoped, against the odds, to be picked up by the Original Six team that once drafted his father, Brad Stepan. Do you think he imagined what it would be like to compete against other 20-year-olds, to try to crack the lineup of the 80-year-old franchise and play professional hockey under the jumbotron in the world's most famous arena?
And then he was, like his father before him, drafted by the New York Rangers. He finally had his opportunity to be an NHL center, playing the game at the highest level. And he performed well at camp, and he had his chance to really play - all his life, I bet, had led up to that moment in a way. Do you think he talked to his family and friends about it? Do you think he said stuff like "all my dreams are coming true" or "this is what I've always wanted"? Do you think he said "I hope I can do everything I can to get this team to lift the Stanley Cup"? Or maybe just "this is an opportunity for me to be the best I can possibly be at the thing I love most"?
Do you think that, at any point, any of that was followed up with "unless my team is having salary cap issues, but my agent thinks I can squeeze an extra few hundred thousand bucks a year out of them - then I'm staying home no matter what"?
At what point do you become the kind of person who, when offered 3 million dollars a year for the next 2 years to play hockey at the NHL level on the team you've had so much success with, says "I won't take a penny less than 3.5 million" and just cold refuses to report? The kind of person who believes, so strongly, that he deserves three and a half million dollars a year that he would rather just stay home and forsake the NHL, his team, and his own personal development than accept three million and play?
And what's the endgame? Root against the Rangers for a while? Hope they're so bad that management decides that it needs you; that the extra half a million against the cap is worth it? That they come running back and apologize to you, paying you more despite their need to re-sign actual unrestricted free agents like Dan Girardi, Ryan Callahan, and Henrik Lundqvist less than one year from now? Walk back into the locker room as your new teammates' savior? And what do you do if the Rangers find success without you? Return sheepishly in mid-October to a room full of Rangers and coaches who wonder why you thought this holdout was worth you spending the next month or two half a step behind, catching up to a new system that everyone else started working on in early September?
What is in your head, child, as you watch on MSG as the coaches help develop offensive talent in players like Kreider and Fast, Brassard and Pouliot? Because unless it's "I do not need that coaching help or that team chemistry as much as I need an extra 500K on top of my 3 million dollar offer," then you are not acting in accordance with your brain. Nut up, sign a piece of paper, and get on a plane to Banff full of contrition, you goddamn dingleberry.