Training camp is right around the corner, and in our next training camp preview series –goalies were done last week– we are going to look at the defensemen vying to make the roster for the 2010-2011 season. Defense isn’t as cluttered as the forward position, but there are going to be some interesting battles in camp for those final two spots in the top six. The battle for that seventh defenseman spot, should there be a seventh defenseman, is also going to be interesting. The Rangers have four players battling for those three spots, and there are some other rookies that may be off most people’s radar, but could be dark horses to make the team.
Marc Staal: The unsigned defender is the Rangers best defenseman. Seeking a big raise from his $800,000 salary last year, the Rangers are going to need Staal signed and playing in order to compete this year. Staal logs all his minutes against opponents top lines, and does a great job at shutting them down. At the end of last season, he showed some offensive prowess, scoring in three straight games as the Rangers made a desperate push for the playoffs. Staal’s 10.4 GVT was third on the team last year, and second among skaters (Marian Gaborik was tops). His 6.4 DGVT was tops on the team by a full goal. Staal’s value to the team is almost immeasurable, and many fans are starting to get worried about when he will sign.
Dan Girardi: Girardi is an interesting conundrum. On one hand, all fans see is that he didn’t stand up for Gaborik as he got pummeled by Dan Carcillo. On the other hand, Girardi’s 5.0 DGVT (second on the team) and 6.8 GVT (fifth among skaters) shows just how valuable he really is. To put those numbers in perspective, Girardi had a better GVT than Fedor Tyutin (who some fans want back), Jay Bouwmeester, Dennis Wideman, Dion Phaneuf, Anton Volchenkov, and Zbynek Michalek. His 5.0 GVT is good for 32nd in the league, better than all those guys just mentioned, and other guys like Dan Hamhuis. Sure, Girardi may be a little overpaid at $3.325 million per season, but he’s a top four defender on almost every team in the league.