Earlier today, the New York Rangers announced that they are going to buy out defenceman Dan Girardi’s contract. The rugged defensive defenceman had three more years left on a contract that was set to pay him $5.5 million annually. In buying out Girardi, the Rangers have saved some cap room over the next three years, and they won’t be forced to use a protection slot on him in the expansion draft.
But that’s enough about New York. What about Edmonton? Should Peter Chiarelli and Co. be interested in signing Girardi, a right-handed defenceman with loads of experience, to his blueline?
Heading into next season, the Oilers have Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Andrej Sekera, Darnell Nurse, Matt Benning, and Mark Fayne under contract. Larsson, Benning, and Fayne are the right-handed shots out of that group. Based on the fact that he was stashed in the AHL for all but four games, it seems unlikely Fayne will play a role on the Oilers next season.
Another wrinkle for the Oilers is Andrej Sekera, who is expected to be injured until December after tearing his ACL in the playoffs. That’s obviously a huge blow to the Oilers, as Sekera emerged into an incredibly reliable presence who was capable of shutting down top competition last season.
So that leaves the Oilers with two pretty obvious holes, one on the left side and one on the right. Klefbom and Larsson will form a solid top pair, while Nurse and Benning enter the season as a formidable third pair that could see their minutes elevated if things go well. It seems as though Russell will be brought back if the Oilers can get him signed to a reasonable contract, but that isn’t a certainty.
Back to Girardi. Can he fill that role on the right side for Edmonton? Coming off of a buyout, Girardi likely won’t be commanding anything more than a one-year-show-me-you-can-play contract, which could bode well for an Oilers team that’s likely looking to avoid long-term deals to veteran players.
A few years ago, Girardi was regarded as one of the league’s best shut down defencemen. In 2012, he finished sixth in Norris Trophy voting, and managed to endear himself enough to the Rangers front office to sign a lucrative six-year, $33 million contract in 2014.
Over the past couple years, though, Girardi’s game has deteriorated quite a bit. Between 2015-17, no defenceman in the NHL (with a minimum of 1000 minutes played) has been on the ice for more shot attempts against at even strength per 60 minutes of play. To be fair, as we know with Kris Russell, it’s better to analyze this type of defencemen through unblocked shot attempts to fully understand whether they are, in fact, shutting their opponents down. In that context, Girardi fares somewhat better, though he’s still well below average in suppressing unblocked shots.
He’s 33 years old, has seen his minutes decrease over the past three seasons, and has very poor underlying numbers. That said, he’s a battle tested veteran and the Oilers could badly use somebody like that on their blueline. What do you think, Nation? Is Dan Girardi a worthwhile reclamation project? Can he make the Oilers a better team?