I received one question this week in the mailbag, and it was a doozy, so this entire post is dedicated to it. As always, email me if you have any questions, and I’ll be sure to address each one.
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BrooklynVic asks: Why did the Rangers keep Dan Girardi over Anton Stralman? How could our valuation of Stralman been so undervalued considering how he is playing now?
BV, this is a loaded question, to which we can break it down into several parts. Addressing the first part is the easy part: Keeping Girardi over Stralman had a lot to do with perceived value versus market value, and the writing was on the wall when Stralman rejected the Rangers offer of three years, $9 million. The Rangers valued him at $4 million, which is what Larry Brooks reported. That was $500,000 less than what he got from Tampa Bay over five years. The Rangers didn’t want to go that long or that high.
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Can the Rangers rely on Dan Girardi? Photo: McIsaac/Getty
With a few exceptions the Rangers have been abysmal in their own end for almost the entire season. Whether it’s been the disruptions to the line up caused by the myriad of injuries or ‘a lack of desperation’ (says Rick Nash) or execution on any particular game night, it doesn’t matter. The Rangers have not been good enough.
The Rangers play a bad Flyers team Wednesday night. However they play a team that is loaded with offensive talent and given the Rangers’ struggles in their own end it is a game the Rangers could easily lose – particularly in their current state.
Consider the Rangers most senior blueliners for a moment. Dan Girardi is being paid like an elite defenseman. Marc Staal is expecting to be paid like an elite defenseman. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle are being paid handsomely and even Kevin Klein is being paid better than most. Yet the Rangers defense has been appalling.
It’s unfair to expect miracles from a Matt Hunwick or Mike Kostka. Even less can be reasonably expected of Conor Allen and Dylan McIlrath. However, a significant portion of the blame needs to lie at the feet of Girardi and Staal. Their play causes significant concern moving forward.
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Through the first seven games of the season, the Rangers have tread water with a 4-3 record. Considering the injuries to Derek Stepan and Dan Boyle, that’s what most had hoped for. These are two significant injuries that compound the issue of significant roster turnover from last year. Those that have been with the club for a while need to be the anchors that hold the ship steady, and right now, the top three of Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal have been underwhelming.
The three of them combined have just five assists for the season. Defensive scoring is critical for successful teams, and while I don’t expect this to be an on-going problem throughout the year, it has been a problem nonetheless. While offense is an issue, the more alarming issue is the defensive meltdowns that led to three straight losses where the team allowed 17 goals. Evan Sporer at Blueshirt Banter wrote a good piece about shot quality, and how the Rangers defense was allowing quality shots. I’m not going to re-hash it here, but you should check it out, it’s a brilliant post.
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After last night’s game, both Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein were both in need of stitches. Girardi took a shot off the ankle that needed to be stitched up, and Klein took a puck to the chin. Klein returned to the ice today for practice, while Girardi did not. Girardi is day-to-day, and there’s a chance he could miss tomorrow’s game against the New Jersey Devils. However, Girardi is made from robot parts, so I expect him to play.
The Rangers have formally announced that Ryan McDonagh will be the 27th captain in New York Rangers history. The Rangers were without a captain following the trade of Ryan Callahan and the buyout of (more or less) acting captain Brad Richards. Naming McDonagh captain was the worst kept secret in the organization, as it was widely expected this summer.
Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Martin St. Louis, and Derek Stepan will be the alternate captains.
Thank you Bob Gainey, Scott Gomez, and all those involved in the Gomez for McDonagh swap.
Prior to the start of the 2013-2014 season, few could have imagined that the Rangers would trade their heart and soul captain, Ryan Callahan, at the March 5 trade deadline. But such is life in the salary cap world – GM Glen Sather determined a contract number he wouldn’t exceed for both Callahan and defenseman Dan Girardi. Girardi proved willing to negotiate within Sather’s limits, Callahan did not, and he was stunningly traded for Martin St. Louis.
Why bring this up now? Because just as with last fall, the Rangers are about to open camp with a few mega contracts looming on the horizon. New York has a bit more financial wiggle room this time around, especially with the salary cap ceiling likely to increase, but there are still tough decisions to be made. So what lies ahead?
Who will be the captain? – Not all of the major personnel decisions are financial – who will be the next face of the Rangers is as important a decision as any. The logical candidates – Girardi, St. Louis, Marc Staal and Ryan McDonagh – all come with questions. Girardi’s play dipped dramatically in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs after he signed a six-year, $33 million contract, so it could be a risky move to give the 30-year-old blueliner this honor without knowing if he can maintain his previous level of play. St. Louis has just one year remaining on his contract and is 39 years old, so while he might be the perfect veteran leader right now, that could represent flawed short-term thinking. Like St. Louis, Staal has just one year left on his deal and faces an uncertain future with the organization. That all leads to McDonagh, who’s certainly the unanimous choice among fans. It would be a major shock if he didn’t receive the C, but that’s also a lot to throw onto a 25-year-old who’s still blossoming as a player.
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Dan Girardi – What a roller coaster year Girardi just completed. He looked totally lost at the beginning of the season (like several Blueshirts), but quickly turned around his game and played like his old self during the second-half. Management was convinced that Girardi’s early-season hiccups were an anomaly and rewarded him with a six-year, $33 million contract, essentially choosing Girardi over captain Ryan Callahan. But Girardi again looked like a liability once the playoffs started, culminating in his train wreck performance (mixed with a healthy share of bad luck) during the Stanley Cup Final that left many fans calling for a trade. Girardi had no more than a dislocated finger during the playoffs, so his pylon-like play should raise eyebrows given the substantial financial commitment New York made to him just a few months prior. Nevertheless, Girardi has been a tremendous player for the Rangers during his eight-year career, and, just as Brad Richards did at the start of this year, Girardi seems likely to bounce-back from this most recent embarrassment in a big way. Grade: B-
Anton Stralman – For almost his entire tenure in blue, Stralman was the most underappreciated player on the team. But thanks to his particularly stellar play during the postseason and some gushing comments from talking heads and bloggers alike, Stralman is now viewed as a must-keep player by many fans. Advanced metrics make Stralman look like a true stud, but he’s been a very good second-pairing defender, not necessarily a $5 million a year blueliner. Stralman contributes next to nothing offensively – though some argue that his possession metrics suggest he was a victim of bad luck and believe Stralman actually does far more to help the attack than his point total indicates. Stralman has certainly emerged as a very good defender, but he seems like a guy that was underrated for so long, he’s now overrated. Grade: A-
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Today was breakup day for the Rangers, and there were some interesting quotes from some of the players, and not all were good.
Dan Girardi suffered a broken pinkie in Game Two against the Kings, per Andrew Gross. I thought he was hurt, but I thought he was more banged up.
Anton Stralman said that his family and security are his primary concerns, per Seth Rothman. That sounds like someone who is looking for a big deal, and it may not come from the Rangers. As for Brian Boyle, Rothman also quoted Boyle saying he would like more responsibility. Boyle’s role with the Rangers will continue to be the same, if he stays. Losing one or both of these guys would be a big blow to the Rangers.
Per Larry Brooks, Cam Talbot suffered a broken hand during warmups of Game Six against Montreal. Talbot, who relieved Hank in Game Five of the same series, did not participate in warmups or practices following the Eastern Conference Final. There were rumors that he was hurt during Game Five, which wouldn’t have been surprising considering it was his first action in two months. It is assumed he will be good to go by next season.
One final note: Thomas Spelling, the Rangers 5th round pick in 2012, is now an unrestricted free agent. The Rangers decided to pass on signing him by the June 1 deadline. This isn’t really surprising news, as he bounced around the Euro leagues following his draft year.
It’s a pretty obvious statement to make but the Rangers’ top defensive pair of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi are critical to the Rangers hopes of progressing to the Conference finals and beyond. Dan Girardi and, particularly Ryan McDonagh, have been inconsistent in this series but a dominant performance from both – in addition to the assumed performance from Henrik Lundqvist – would go a long way in helping the Rangers clinch in Pittsburgh tonight.
The Rangers live and die by their defensive core. McDonagh was a plus one and logged over 26 minutes in the emotional game six victory Sunday and had a goal and assist and almost 27 minutes of ice time in game five. The result? Two huge victories and another game seven for the Rangers to look forward to.
The Rangers are a much tougher proposition when their top pair are on their games and following an indifferent start to the playoffs, McDonagh’s form is trending in the right direction. It has to continue tonight if the Rangers want success. This team can invest in as many offensive players as it wants but their success will always begin and end with players #30, #5 and #27.
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Girardi staying helps the Rangers look elsewhere long term. Photo Credit: US Presswire
For several years the Rangers had a relatively steady flow of defensive prospects make it to the NHL through the system. Whether it was Michael Del Zotto, Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Mike Sauer or Girardi himself, the Rangers were able to supplement the NHL roster with cost effective home grown talent. Recently, there have been concerns of the talent approaching the NHL level.
With the relatively slow progress made by Dylan McIlrath (who still has time on his side) and the unknown NHL projections of Brady Skjei and Calle Andersson, the Rangers don’t have the ability to promote from within. Perhaps Conor Allen aside, there is very little that could step up in short notice.
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