The elephant in the room: Addressing a Dan Girardi buyout

dan girardi
Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

The Rangers need defensive help. Most of that is because of the rapid decline of Dan Girardi, who continues to play on the top pair due to lack of other options on the Rangers. No matter where you sit on the Girardi spectrum, it’s tough to argue against Girardi being a shell of what he was five years ago. Players like him deserve a leash, but that leash should have run out two years ago.

Beyond his declining play, his contract is an albatross to the Rangers. He is signed for another three years following the 2016-2017 season, with a $5.5 million cap hit. The Rangers were able to get some cap breathing space in the Derick Brassard/Mika Zibanejad swap, but not enough to make an adequate fix to the defense. Even if the Rangers had the space to make an upgrade, there’s no room for additions. Something has to give.

While we could look at Kevin Klein as the obvious piece to go, his awful play has killed whatever trade value he had to the point where he’s been a negative asset for the Rangers all season. Klein, unless packaged with a forward, isn’t bringing back anything worthwhile (As an aside: He wasn’t bringing back anything resembling an upgrade before this season either). Plus, Klein actually has value to the Rangers as a NHL defenseman who can be exposed in the expansion draft.

Which brings us to the biggest wild card this June. The Rangers can only protect three defensemen in the expansion draft, and Girardi, Marc Staal, and Ryan McDonagh must all be protected. While that doesn’t have any impact on the current roster (Klein, Adam Clendening, and Nick Holden will be exposed), it does have a major impact on any potential trade.

If the Rangers land a defenseman without dealing one of Staal or Girardi, then that defenseman would need to be exposed. If the club is dealing any good forward off the roster to land this hypothetical defenseman, then that can’t happen. It would be a total waste. Yes, even if that defenseman is a pending UFA, like Kevin Shattenkirk.

In this scenario, the Rangers would need to find a trading partner for Staal or Girardi (unlikely), or bite the bullet. With Staal’s somewhat improved play and ability to not be a total anchor, the obvious choice is Girardi.

This is a topic that has been visited before, but since a year will have passed, the numbers for a buyout have changed:

  • 2017-2018 – $2.61 million cap hit (down from $2.75 million)
  • 2018-2019 – $3.61 million cap hit (down from $3.75 million)
  • 2019-2020 – $3.61 million cap hit (down from $3.75 million)
  • 2020-2023 – $1.11 million cap hit (down from $1.25 million through 2024)

Waiting a year gave Girardi a chance to bounce back, which he has not, while also removing an extra year of cap space. It’s certainly not pretty, but it’s the only way to improve the defense while not crippling the team. It opens the door to sign Shattenkirk in July as well.

Buying out Girardi was always one of the unspoken options that Jeff Gorton and Alain Vigneault would have to discuss if Girardi did not rebound. He has not. It’s unfortunate, since the guy has given everything to this team. However a tough decision needs to be made. If the team as a whole truly does come before the individual players, then the correct choice is becoming clearer by the day.

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  • I think the point has to be made that we all love G, let’s get that out of the way. he has been a true “warrior” all these years, and even now as he is giving his all.

    For the fact that he is not good and has not been good for a 3rd season now is due to: The new pace and speed of the game and the wear and tear he experienced, especially during the Torts’ years of blocking shots and a collapsing defense.

    But this is about winning. 2 Cups in 76 years for an elite franchise is unacceptable. This is a business. G got his money and is not really earning it so please don’t cry for him too much.

    WE WANT A CUP, and playing G on the top pair is ridiculous and anti-Cup IMO. If he HAS to play, then put him on the 3rd pair:


    That’s how I would do it. Has to be better than it is now. Almost anything is better than it is now. The King’s career clock is ticking…

    • The guy has to be beaten up from his Torts years ( yeah believe it or not Richter I do play the game(in the net and out ) …. last few months I’ve been lucky enough to get hit a few times playing out (through gear) …. got a knot on the side of my tibia bone that’s just there and gives me fits for a few weeks now.Couldnt even imagine what these guys go through blocking shots night in and night out.
      Does he need to go?Hell yeah …. he’s killing us along with Klein.Like I said before let the kids play and make mistakes now and keep learning as the year goes along.Don’t sit them and play with their heads.

    • I agree about Giradi and Groton made the right move by seeing if the short off-season resulted in a rebound. They need the caps space and the ability to protect Holden in the draft.
      But let’s stop all the Clendenning stuff on all the blogs. In the few games he has played he is constantly bodied off the puck in his own zone. It doesn’t show as a turnover and isn’t as glaring as throwing an outlet pass to the opponent, but the results are equally problematic.
      I haven’t seen Bobby Orr on the offensive end either as some bloggers would leave you to believe.

      • Again, it’s not about Clendening or how good he is, it’s how bad the 6 guys playing now are. It’s amateur hour fr most of the game back there. At least Clendening can skate and move the puck.

        There are countless times the D are coughing up the puck or having “inefficient touches.” If the coach had the same tolerance for all his D as he does for Clendening or did for McIlrath then no one would play.

  • If we trade G to another team does he become exposed to the draft there? Or must he still be protected wherever he goes?

  • If AV rotated Girardi & Klein now(cap credits be damned) for the next month, the team would isolate for both players whether the problem is a lack of recovery time or a skill decline.

    I’d love to see quadrant charts for all D: 1 for 1st game after 2+ days off, one for the 2nd of a back to back and a third for the 3rd game in 4 days.

    • But that Minny game was just as ugly for Staal as it was for Girardi. G chipping the puck off the glass out, leads to an uncontested zone entry to a scoring chance, Staal with a snow shovel clear up the wall to Miller where he’s hung out to dry, leading to an easy goal.

  • Guys…I agree with Richter…..this is a 5.5mm per year hit we are talking about and that is top 20 D money. And while I appreciate his service….It can be a bit easier to look like a stalwart defenseman when the goaltender behind you is/was the best in the world on a year-in, year-out basis while you were in your glory years Speaking of glory… over his entire career, his on-ice 5-on-5 goal differential is almost even. He has to move on.

  • As Richter 1994 stated, we all love Dan, and all he gave us over the years, but time catches up to us all, and G is no exception.

    Now having stated that, we should ask Dan for his consent to trade him, or at least put him up for the expansion draft, knowing that should he decline, well good bye my friend.

    Dead cap space is the worst thing possible, it’s tough enough to keep the players you have happy, with decent contracts, but having less money to do so due to Dan’s contract is crazy. Bottom line, he should be history, and then we can address the other problem, Staal, also in the same category as Dan !!!!!!!

    As a side note, management can offer Dan a job, paying him the balance of his contract, without loosing any money on Dan’s part. He retires voluntarily, becomes a coach, scout ????????, he walks away with head help high, and we get rid of the cap hit !!!!!!!!! Just a thought……..

    • It would likely be considered cap circumvention; penalties would be a fine between $1-5mm, a corresponding reduction in cap room and the loss of draft picks.

      Girardi would have to willingly walk away from his career and who in their right mind is walking away from $11mm?

      Rotation keeps him healthy, maybe rubs him the wrong way so he waives his NMC so you can deal him to AZ(with a pick) who has room for dead space.

        • Devils were fined $3mm, lost a 3rd round pick and had the 1st they were going to lose converted to the last pick of the 1st rd after deferring its loss for a couple of years.

          • That was due to the first deal they tried to sign him to which the NHL decided was too back loaded, not because he “retired” and went to Russia.

            There were no penalties when Kovy walked. The Devils got screwed there.

            To your point, though, this has nothing to do with the scenario where Girardi “retires” then takes a job with the front office. I agree that would attract attention from the league and is an unlikely scenario to begin with. Let’s remember that Drury was bought out before he took a job with NYR’s front office. The same would have to happen to Girardi. If you want the guy off the team, at this point our only option is a buyout.

  • You can use all the stats you want to rationalize this daily ripping on Girardi but the problem with everyone who’s ripping on him day in and day out is a psychological issue ranger fans have where every single season, every single game, no matter how good or how bad we are doing…they ALAWYs need someone to hate and to blame for all their personal problems every time they touch the puck. every single season you guys pick someone toscape goat and you ride them all season–my favorite was when you guys booed Michal Rozival every time he touched the puck in a season where he literally led the league in plus minus. You guys said all the same nasty stuff about him his last few years, then he turned around and now that same kinda Albatross has won two more cups than you’ll ever see with Chicago as a top 4 guy. maybe you guys should send an email to the blackhawks with all your expertise and tell them to hit the undo button on those cups? Also, we’ve made a LOT of trades for premiere Defensemen over the years and essentially none of them have stuck (McDonough was so young it’s hard to count that) so personally while you guys write more and more articles and moan and groan more at the garden to get inside our guy’s heads, I’m gonna chant let’s go rangers and support two guys who’ve put up with your negative attitudes for their entire careers. And if they do indeed get moved, I hope it’s just like Rozival and you can watch them get their names etched in the Stanley cup while you find a new scape goat.

    • As I ask all fans that criticize the G critics, what exactly does G do that warrants him to: #1, play at all and #2, play top pair minutes?

      Please do not give me off the cuff emotional responses. tell me what he does that helps the team win or will help the team win in the playoffs?

      Do you know that opponents target him all the time because he’s a weak link and is dragging McD down because McD is always covering for him?

    • Your post, while emotional, makes no sense due to the fact that the man has declined over the last few year, was exposed in the SC finals by LA, and can’t keep up with the pace of the new era of hockey. If we are using him as a scapegoat as stated, answer but one question, why does every other team dump the puck into his corner, pressures him into mistakes time and again? I admire your loyalty, but this is a business, and as such, the main objective is to win the cup. The last one was 1994, before that 1940, so you keep supporting your heart felt emotions, while I’ll pull for a cup!!!!!!!

    • Hey Tim,
      Thanks for your post. I for one was a big G supporter. I was wrong and concede Walt and Richter were right on the money.

      I think you’re off base with your comment about the fans and “personal problems”. There are many VERY knowledgeable fans that post here. Some of us see problems that exist with the team and express our feelings, and that has zero to due with personal problems.

      I am a proponent of G retiring and accepting a role within the Ranger Organization, maybe as D-coach with the pack replacing Buek.
      The man deserves all of our respect for what he has done. Fact is he just can’t do it anymore.

      • Full disclosure, I was for signing G at the time for a 4 year, $16M contract, so it’s not like I was against him at the time of his signing.

        G “earned” his way off my list of preferable players over time and by the reality of the situation.

      • “I am a proponent of G retiring and accepting a role within the Ranger Organization, maybe as D-coach with the pack replacing Buek.”

        Please No.

        I am now having nightmares of future Ranger defesnsemen needless sliding across the ice in the opposite direction of the puck…

        “Ok Timmy, this is how you do it. You just get a moving start then slide face first on the ice”

        “But Dan, I’ve been taught all my life not to do that. Wouldn’t that take me out of the….”

        “Hush Timmy. I was an NHL defenseman. Who you gonna trust? “

    • Very interesting!
      Psychologically speaking I believe what the coach does is worse than what the fans are doing. You need to put a player in a position to succeed. Is the coach doing so? I believe not. What did the coach do to the youngsters psychologically or McIlrath?
      Are you suppose to get praises if you do poorly? How about when you do well and the coach benches you or gets rid of you? What do you think it does to the other players that watch what the coach is doing? What happens when the coach plays his favorites even if they play poorly?
      I was not in agreement with the Rozival situation, but the fans have the right to say what we feel like it or not. Stifling thoughts is like the coach and it will not get us anywhere.
      We all have to stand for something even if it’s wrong.
      When you stand in the middle of the road you get run over.

      • I was replying to a message Dave! I read the post and I thought you are going out of the way to villainize a player but I did not comment on that. And rehash a wound that there is no good outcome(dilemma).

    • Ranger fans love to rip their dmen, yet turn a blind eye to the fact that their superstar netminder is playing like a backup this year. I will agree Danny G isn’t a first pair dman, but he is not the reason why the Rangers are on a losing skid. The team as a whole turn the puck over way to often and are too loose in their own end. So thumbs up Tim, you are spot on.

  • Wade Redden went down to the minors and played a very valuable role developing young talent. I am pretty sure he is now doing the same as a coach for… I wanna say Nashville.

    I remember the booos raining down on him… no player wants to hear that and know they are not performing at the level their should be.

    We all knew by this time of the season we would know more. Let’s hope Gordan and AV have the cojones to make something happen!

    Cojones! I even spelled it correctly!

  • I just can’t eat the dead cap space. If you buy out Girardi in order to add a guy like Shattenkirk then you are essentially adding the dead cap space on top of that new contract. A $6 million contract becomes a $9.5 million contract and I just can’t justify that. Girardi will never live up to his contract but his usage has got to change. He should not be on the first pair and he should not go weeks/months without resting a game.

    AV clearly can shield a defenseman and make it seem like he really is a good player despite his inability to keep up with the play. He did it with Mcilrath. He does not have to go to that extreme and bench the guy in the third and give him a total of 9 minutes a night but he should not be playing top pair minutes. Girardi is not that bad.

    My prediction at the beginning of the season was that Skjei would be Mcdonaghs partner by seasons end. I still stand by that. Put Girardi with Holden and keep Klein and Staal together. AV doesn’t even have to say Girardi is on the 3rd pair. Just say you have a top pair and the other two are interchangeable.

    See guys I don’t agree with everything AV does!

    • I’m holding my breath for those D pairings

      McDonagh – Skjei
      Staal – Klein
      Holden – Girardi

      For the life of me, I can’t figure out why it’s taking so long.

  • Why are we discussing this when the team has shown no understanding of how horrific this player is? I fully assume Dan Girardi will be with us next year on the top pairing.

  • Can’t trade him. Can’t get him to waive his NTC. Won’t be scooped up by LV. Buy out leaves a significant cap hit. None of those things can be changed, really. This is where I agree with Spozo.

    How Girardi is used can be changed.

  • Not being very knowledgeable of the cap rules
    1. can the rangers send him to the minors?
    2. can they encourage him to retire and hire him as coach?
    3. sit him for every game until he agrees to retire?
    4. package him with stepan and trade them for nothing just to rid ourselves of 2 bad cap hits?

    The terrible contracts for girardi, stall, stepan, bad trades for yandle , st louis, and worst of all the non signing of Strallman……should prove that management deserves as much criticism as we dump on them……and more…..

    • 1. nope
      2. yes
      3. yes
      4. yes

      Just answering your questions my friend, lol, not saying any is possible. 🙂

  • Another solid article, Dave!

    Seems everything covered fully in proper detail, unless I missed something.
    Full effort to fairly address pros and cons.
    They were hoping for chief Neilson at min and got Seiling.
    Once the shot blocking was not only a non-factor, but catalyst for injury and skill erosion, his fate is obvious.

    However, I am not entirely clear on one facet, which is Shattenkirk and the exp draft.

    Let’s say we do balance of this and next year of Nash at half, 3.9, for expiring Shatty balance of this year.
    I am under the impression that, Shattenkirk is UFA, he does NOT have to, and in fact could not until he is signed, be protected by [ultimately] signing club.
    Yes, LV can claim him; but he is not forced to sign with them. Vegas’ rights bend, buckle and break in submission to his ultimate right to sign with club of his choice, without penalty.
    We would be taking chance he does not stick us and walk or hold us up for ridiculous # we cannot afford.
    But otherwise, there is no risk or penalty in the above scenario.
    Could you please comment and verify or correct my impression?

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