One thing that became glaringly obvious this season for the New York Rangers: their defense isn’t good enough. While captain Ryan McDonagh is a workhorse of a defender and breakout defender Brady Skjei provides some hope for the future, the team’s depth on defense simply isn’t good enough to compete with the NHL’s top teams.
The biggest obstacle to improving the team’s blue line? Its current blue line. Defensemen Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, both well past their prime in terms of production and defensive ability, are anchors weighing down the team’s back end on a nightly basis. Worse than that, their contracts combine for a cap hit that’s north of $11 million per season. Ouch.
So, what’s the likelihood of either or both players getting traded or bought out? A buy-out in either case would require the Rangers to carry a percentage of the player’s salary on their cap until 2025, which isn’t a great strategy but necessary if the team is adamant about cutting ties and moving ahead. More likely, however, may be the trade route. The Rangers would have to add picks or prospects to any potential trade and expect literally nothing in return. But, might a cap-friendly team like the Arizona Coyotes or Colorado Avalanche be interested in acquiring additional assets for taking over Girardi’s or Staal’s contract? It’s not unheard of, it would just require some creative asset management.
In any case, it’s clear that, while intentions were good when the Rangers re-signed both Girardi and Staal, their effectiveness is on the wane and they can only hurt the Rangers at this point. One way or another the team must move on this offseason.