Dan Girardi has had an atrocious start to the season but yet is one of the key players the Rangers will have to rely on to turn their difficult start around. While plus/minus is not a particularly accurate statistic, his minus 7 rating is a bad indicator and Girardi’s decision making, positioning and overall game thus far have been far from his usually consistent and reliable standards.
The Rangers have appeared all at sea in their own zone so far this season but a quick turnaround from Dan Girardi and in net, Henrik Lundqvist would see fortunes quickly reversed. Perhaps no two players can individually aid the team more, immediately. With both All Stars in poor form the Rangers have required help in other areas and have failed to receive it (goodbye Martin Biron).
Girardi should be motivated. With Girardi approaching unrestricted free agency, a bad season from the veteran blueliner – and subsequently the Rangers overall – could see the long term marriage come to a separation next summer. Prior to this season Girardi stood to command a significant raise on his current $3.4m salary (3.325 cap). Defenders that can play twenty five minutes a game, play physically and chip in twenty to thirty points a year can command quite the financial return on the open market.
The problem for Girardi is that he has been trending downwards. Brilliant two to three years ago, so-so last year and terrible so far this year Girardi needs to turn his play around for his own future as well as for the Rangers hopes of a good year. While no one is expecting Dylan McIlrath, Brady Skjei, Conor Allen or even a current younger roster guy like John Moore to fill Girardi’s shoes in the short term, a bad year all round from Girardi and the Rangers may see the team look to get some fresh legs and save some dollars on the blueline.
No Rangers defenseman has covered themselves in glory this season but Ryan McDonagh is in for the long haul, Marc Staal has a higher ceiling and Michael Del Zotto has more offensive ability so if anyone would be jettisoned in the summer Girardi, given his contract status and age, seems like a logical conclusion. It’s a huge season for the Rangers and Dan Girardi, but its a critical one for the player himself.