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January 9, 2014 | 7:34pm ET
Dealing Girardi might be right move
By Patrick Kearns, TheFourthPeriod.com

NEW YORK, NY -- For years, Dan Girardi, the undrafted free agent signing that renewed faith in the New York Rangers scouting system, has been a defensive stalwart and an anchor on the Broadway blueline.

But is it time to cut ties with the shutdown defenseman as age inevitably takes it toll on Girardi?

Always playing a blue-collar style, there's no flash with Girardi. He has never been a top offensive contributor, reaching a career-high in points with 31 in 2010-11, despite seeing plenty of usage on the powerplay.

In fact, last season, according to Extra Skater, Girardi was on the ice for approximately 40 percent of the team's powerplay time.

Now, taking into consideration the Rangers' powerplays in the past couple of years don't typically having a red-flashing light fairy tale ending, he is not entirely to blame for the lack of offensive production on the powerplay.

Another thing to take into consideration is the health of Girardi. Throughout the years, the mainstay on the blueline has missed very little time. Even when not fully healthy, Girardi seems to be starting every single game. That tends to break down the body, especially when you average over 20 minutes a night.

So, will Dan Girardi be that defensive presence for a long, sustained period of time? Chances are, as he trends into his 30s, he will start to decline, as most professional athletes do.

Girardi will likely command a rather large contract at the end of the season when he hits unrestricted free agency. And while Brad Richards' rich contract will likely be off the books and the salary cap will be going up next season, Girardi's pay increase might tighten the belt on the Rangers salary cap situation just a little bit too much. The raise for Henrik Lundqvist kicks in next season, Ryan Callahan will likely command a sizeable raise and Derek Stepan only signed a stopgap deal, plus there will be holes to fill via free agency.

But can the Rangers replace Girardi's minutes if the defenseman departs?

Surely, Ryan McDonagh, who will represent the United States at the upcoming Olympic games, cannot play 45 minutes a night with a rotating cast of characters flanking him.

Over the past two seasons, Girardi has consistently paired up against the top players of opposing teams, averaging, according to Extra Skater, a third of his starts in the defensive zone this season. He's swallowed big minutes, all while playing almost 60 percent of the team's shorthanded time.

It all hinges on the health of Marc Staal, who has, to say the least, had a stretch of bad injury luck. From a concussion inducing hit delivered by none other than his brother, to taking a puck to the eye changing his vision forever, Staal has missed significant time. When healthy, he's one of the best defenseman on the team, but a lack of steady routine has hurt his game in recent years. If Staal is not healthy and playing up to the level he is capable of, Girardi should remain a Ranger. If he is, trading Girardi may be one of the best decisions Glen Sather can make. That of course, depends on the package.

It's been reported, by The Fourth Period, that a team like the Anaheim Ducks are interested in Girardi. The package needs to be just right for the Rangers, who need to acquire young, cost controlled assets. A playoff contending team won't be trading away a top-line star player for Girardi, but acquiring a solid young player and a couple top prospects is not out of the realm of possibility, especially if the team thinks they can re-sign Girardi.

The answer will be clear in just a couple of months as the trade deadline approaches, but for the Rangers, if they are not in a playoff spot come spring, they need to seriously consider trading Girardi.

Patrick Kearns is the New York Correspondent and a Columnist for The Fourth Period.


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