On Wednesday, the New York Rangers announced that the organization will buyout the contract of defenseman and alternate captain, Dan Girardi. The 33-year old Welland, Ontario-native went undrafted in 2003 after becoming draft-eligible but was signed by the Rangers in the summer of 2006 after a successful year with the Rangers’ AHL-affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. Girardi then appeared in 34 games with New York, as well as ten playoff games in the spring of 2007 to cap off his rookie campaign.
Girardi spent ten more seasons in a Rangers sweater. He played in 330 consecutive games, beginning from his call-up in 2007 until January 2011 where he was sidelined for a short time with a rib injury. Appearing in 788 games total for the Rangers, he amassed 46 goals and 184 assists (230 points total).
But Rangers fans will remember Girardi best for his overall defensive play. Girardi is a fearless defender, getting in the way of 1,650 shots and laying the body 1,762 times. He led the NHL in 2010-11 in blocked shots with 236. In 2011-12, his superb defensive play earned him a spot at the NHL All-star Game, an event typically reserved for high-powered offensive-minded skaters, regardless of position.
He was an integral piece to the Rangers’ defensive corps. and a significant reason for the success in reaching the playoffs and advancing several rounds in the last few years. The Rangers have made the playoffs in ten of the 11 seasons that Girardi has played on Broadway. Girardi has helped lead the Blueshirts to a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014 as well as three Eastern Conference Finals series. He served as one of the Rangers’ alternate captains for the past seasons.
The last couple of seasons have unfortunately seen a decline in the quality of play for Girardi. He was a half a step behind the play. The wear and tear on his body had finally caught up to him. He had never missed more than two games in the regular season before missing eight in 2015-16 and 19 games last season.
Had the Rangers not expressed their intention to buyout Girardi, he would have been signed through the 2019-20 season with a salary cap hit of $5.5 million. As a result of the buyout, however, the Rangers will incur a cap hit of $2,611,111 for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, $3,611,111 hit for the 2019-20 season, and a $1,111,111 hit for the succeeding three seasons ending after the 2022-23 season.
Whereas, in the not so distant past Dan Girardi was considered to be irreplaceable, the nature of the business has given no choice to the Rangers’ front office. The Rangers need to move one or more of several big contracts this summer in order to stay competitive in the salary cap era of the NHL. The move will give significant breathing room to Rangers’ General Manager Jeff Gorton in anticipation of the Vegas Expansion Draft, the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, and Free Agency this summer. With fellow Rangers’ blueline right Kevin Klein rumored to be contemplating retirement, Jeff Gorton will be able to sign more youth and keep the Rangers as Stanley Cup contenders going forward.
As far as Girardi’s next move, no word has surfaced regarding the possibility of retirement just yet. So, a young team looking to add a veteran presence as a middle- or third-pair defenseman could surely benefit from Girardi’s presence. I would not be surprised if the Toronto Maple Leafs make a strong consideration for him.
Thank you, Dan, for all the memories on Broadway!