The New York Rangers made a move on Wednesday afternoon — they shipped young defenseman Michael Del Zotto to the Nashville Predators for steady defenseman Kevin Klein. This isn’t a blockbuster move, but it has a lot of meaning to it. The one person it might affect the most is defenseman Dan Girardi.
Girardi is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and he will definitely be looking for a pay raise. Right now, Girardi is making $3.4 million a year; he will definitely looking to up that to around $4.5 million on the open market this offseason. Girardi logs minutes better than most defenseman in the NHL. He has played seven full seasons in the NHL and in every single one of those seasons, he has posted more than 21 minutes a game. He has also been in the top 20 in blocked shots since the 2008-09 season and during that span, has led the league twice. Girardi is also a right-handed shot, something that the current trade market is lacking. Teams like the Boston Bruins, the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks have been some of the teams that could be interested in Girardi’s services. Earlier in the season, it was rumored that the Edmonton Oilers were inquiring about Giardi and were even willing to offer former No. 1 pick Nail Yakupov for him.
Now, you might be asking yourself, how does the Del Zotto trade affect Girardi? For starters, Klein is a steady, stay at home, right-handed defenseman who is inked through 2018 with a favorable $3 million cap hit. Klein was acquired for a couple of reasons, but the main one was so he could slide into Girardi’s role if the Rangers trade him before the deadline.
One of the other reasons the Rangers might be willing to trade Girardi is because of the development of Anton Stralman. Stralman has become much like Girardi, except he doesn’t block as many shots. He is a couple of years younger and also an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Rangers could be willing to move Girardi and re-sign Stralman to take his role. Then, they could call up Dylan McIlrath and have him be on the third defense, pairing with Klein being on the second pair.
The Rangers could be going through some major roster overhauls within the next six months. Most of the Rangers’ homegrown talent could be gone by the summer or even sooner. Girardi could very well be playing his last games in a Rangers uniform. This trade could mean that the Rangers are ready to start seriously listening to offers for their 29-year-old defenseman.