Slowed by injuries in recent seasons, Girardi played all 12 playoff games against Montreal and Ottawa, turning back the clock at times with his longtime partner Ryan McDonagh.
But Girardi struggled against the speedy Canadiens and Senators, as did his veteran teammate Marc Staal. Both defensemen had been potential buyout options after the emergence of the rookie Brady Skjei and the newcomer Nick Holden.
Staal, 30, has four years remaining on his contract with an annual cap charge of $5.7 million.
The Rangers acquired defenseman Brendan Smith at the trade deadline. Smith, an unrestricted free agent, was a key playoff contributor and has expressed interest in re-signing with the Rangers.
After the Rangers’ six-game second-round playoff loss to the Senators, Coach Alain Vigneault hinted at changes in his aging defensive corps, which also includes the oft-injured Kevin Klein, 32, who played only one playoff game and has one year left on his contract.
“We’re definitely looking at bringing in another young defenseman next year,” Vigneault said last month.
Girardi is fifth among Rangers defensemen in career games, behind Harry Howell, Brian Leetch, Ron Greschner and Jim Neilson. Signed by the Rangers as an undrafted free agent in July 2006, Girardi played more games than any other undrafted player in franchise history.
A soft-spoken native of Welland, Ontario, he perennially garnered the respect of teammates because of his savvy and physical presence. He blocked shots and played his position with an economy of motion. Girardi has only 275 career penalty minutes.
“Dan Girardi is a clear example of why it is important to believe in yourself and your ability,” said Tom Renney, Girardi’s coach during his first three seasons with the Rangers. “He is also an example of the need to remain true to what works for you, what makes you an authentic contributor.”
The Rangers have the 21st pick in next week’s N.H.L. draft,…