Dion Phaneuf. Yes, I said it. The Rangers have a huge question mark in an area – defense – which on paper at least, they have had good depth. Michael Del Zotto is likely, barring a stunning turnaround, on his way out of New York in the summer (at the latest). Marc Staal’s long term future is full of doubt due to injury. That leaves –on paper– two key cogs: Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. McDonagh is a stud, he’s a future, perennial Norris candidate if he gets some support; unfortunately Dan Girardi is no longer the guy to provide it.
Girardi’s game appears in decline, and yet he’ll still get paid handsomely in the summer, based on past achievements. His play this year has been underwhelming (on a team that, in his defense, has collectively underwhelmed) and he hasn’t been the same consistent presence we grew to appreciate, for the last two years. That’s a long time, playing under his normal assumed levels, to commit to a long term future at a big financial cost.
Enter Dion Phaneuf. He’s not popular in New York for obvious reasons (Mike Sauer, Sean Avery, etc) but he’s an instant upgrade on Girardi and one that may be available in the summer if his current contract situation in Toronto isn’t resolved. He’s nasty, he plays big minutes, he’s a natural leader, he can contribute offensively, and clearly has no issue handling a big market environment. He will be expensive (hey, it’s free agency) but he costs no assets, and at this stage you’d rather risk your lot on Phaneuf than Girardi.
It may be time to move on from the Dan Girardi era. Throw in Marc Staal’s long term future questions, and there’s an opportunity to get a legitimate top pair blueliner to add to/compliment McDonagh. It shouldn’t matter that he shoots left, he’s a necessary addition. The Rangers need to be nastier; they need a complete player like Phaneuf. With a rising cap, the Rangers can afford to spend big on one of the few marquee talents that may be available this summer. The Rangers need Phaneuf and if he plays like he can, people will forget his past controversies. Time for an upgrade, time for a change.