The Best Way to Trade Dan Girardi

Girardi (USATSI)

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi has become a very polarizing figure among Rangers fans.

He has been a home grown warrior, a shot blocking machine, and a former all-star. It is unbelievably tough to sign a player (Girardi) as an undrafted free agent, and turn him into a first pair defenseman for years. But, many games, and many blocks have taken their toll.

Girardi has lost a step and the Rangers play a much more up-tempo style then in his early years. At present, it is painfully apparent that Girardi is miscast as a first pair defenseman. The Rangers need better skating, puck movers to spring their transition game.
Many fans look at Girardi and his contract as a huge detriment to the team and its future.

“They gotta buy this guy out”, they scream. There is a big problem with a buyout. That is, the 6 years of dead cap space that would beset the Rangers payroll. The first 3 years of the buyout would cost the Rangers, 2.6, 3.6 and 3.6 million in dead cap space. The next 3 years would be around 1.1 million per year in dead cap space. General Manager Jeff Gorton is a very clever man. He is not going to hamstring himself with that albatross for 6 years.

Other Ways to Skin a Cat

The summer of 2017 brings an expansion team (Las Vegas Golden Knights) and an expansion draft into the mix. There will be more player movement this summer then in any recent year. How much more remains to be seen.

This summer also represents the first summer Dan Girardi will be able to be traded to 15 teams in the NHL, as his no-trade clause turns into a partial no trade clause. Meanwhile, over in Columbus, Blue Jackets beat writer Aaron Portzline on February 14 of this year, wrote about the health issues forward David Clarkson, has had. He has 3 degenerative discs in the L5 region of his spine. He showed up for training camp knowing he would fail his physical. He hasn’t played all season, and not since March 11, 2016. The chances of him ever playing again are very remote. As of now, he is not capable of working out with his lower body. But, maybe he will “finish” his career with the Rangers?

Why a Trade makes sense

On February 26, 2015, the Toronto Maple Leafs asked David Clarkson to waive his no movement clause, and accept a trade to the Blue Jackets, for injured forward Nathan Horton. Clarkson acquiesced, and went to Columbus.

Now keep in mind a few things about this trade: For starters, the Blue Jackets approached Toronto about the trade. Horton’s career is over, beyond a shadow of a doubt. He signed with Columbus in the summer of 2013 and played 35 games before back issues effectively ended his career.

One of the biggest reasons the Jackets were anxious to make this deal was that they are a smaller market team, while Toronto is a huge market team. The benefit for Columbus was they move a long term contract of a player that would never help them for a player that could play on their third line. Except that Clarkson played a combined 26 games for them. What the Maple Leafs got out of it is cap space. Quite simply, they stash Horton on LTIR every year. He doesn’t count at all towards their salary cap. Remember, at the time of the trade, Clarkson was healthy, but playing very poorly. He had become “the worst free agent signing ever”, according to the Toronto media.

Why a Columbus-NY trade makes sense

Because Horton will never play again, Toronto effectively plays 5.3 million dollars over the cap every year because of the LTIR relief they are entitled to. Columbus was entitled to the same relief, but weren’t as interested because they don’t make nearly what the Maple Leafs make in revenue. So, the object to trading Horton, from the Blue Jackets perspective, has been blown to pieces. They are back to where they started, with an injured player, whose career is almost certainly over.
If we flash forward to the expansion draft, the player that Columbus would most likely lose is defenseman, Jack Johnson. The 3 defensemen on the Jackets protected list most certainly will be Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, and David Savard. Johnson is known to have the exact type of spirit an expansion team would crave. His cap hit is around 4.35 million per, which isn’t too big for a player that would be the captain, or at least alternate captain. Bear in mind, Las Vegas has to play above the salary floor, like any other team, which will be around 54 million dollars.

Enter the Rangers

Now if this very plausible scenario plays out, Columbus may be seeking a veteran right defenseman that the coach is very familiar with. Someone they could pair with lefty rookie Zach Werenski (who is exempt from the expansion draft) on the second tandem. Girardi could be a very welcome addition to the Blue Jackets, based on his veteran leadership and the fact that they play a more conservative game then the Rangers.

Another thing they would benefit from is that Girardi, whose contract was front loaded, is owed 13 million in real cash over the last 3 years of his deal. Clarkson is to be paid 15 million, including a whopping 7 million next year. Clarkson’s contract is even more onerous in that most of the money he is paid yearly is in lump sum signing bonuses every July 1.
Obviously the benefit the Rangers get is to stash the Clarkson 5.25 million dollar cap hit on their LTIR and put that new cap space to work. Kevin Shattenkirk anyone?

The bottom line is this type of option, or even a trade where you retain 500k-1 million is a far better option than a buyout. Even if they retained some money, it isn’t 6 years of dead cap space. The one variable that could be a sticking point is if Columbus is on Girardi’s 15 team no trade list. But, as history tells us, Marian Gaborik accepted a trade to the same Blue Jackets back at the trade deadline of 2013. Glen Sather knew how to persuade, can Gorton do the same? Can Sather help him out? Those questions will be answered this summer.

A Trade Deadline Prediction

Darren Dreger reported that the St.Louis Blues are “committed to trading Kevin Shattenkirk”, this afternoon. I will make the semi-bold prediction that the Rangers acquire him for a first round pick and a solid ¬†prospect, possibly Ryan Graves. If that were to happen, i think they move Kevin Klein for a pair of second round picks. This prediction is not based on any inside info, or ¬†sources. Just an absolute guess.

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