My take: Fair-market extension for Dan Girardi
The six-year, $33-million contract that Dan Girardi and his camp agreed to earlier today is a win for both sides.
The Rangers needed to lock up their fearless, reliable (four games missed in eight seasons), shot-blocking, right-handed first-pair defenseman, who would have been the target of a dozen clubs had he gotten to unrestricted free agency in June. It's simple supply and demand. There's not a lot of top-four defensemen out there.
For Girardi, who has settled with with family in Manhattan, it allows him to remain with the organization he started with, since signing as an undrafted free agent in July 2006.
And the price is right: St. Louis' Jay Bouwmeester's cap hit, for example, averages $5.4 million; Vancouver's Alex Edler is at $5 million, Phoenix' Oliver Ekman-Larsson is at $5.5. And Girardi's Rangers defense partner, Ryan McDonagh, far younger, is locked up at $4.7 million, but that is a real bargain.
This pact takes Girardi through age 35, and he could agree to be moved to certain teams after three years if the situation in New York changes.
Alternate captain Marc Staal, who is 26 and whose contract is up after next season, surely will be the next top-four target for Sather, and deserves a similar deal. Kevin Klein is signed through 2017-18 with a $2.9 million cap charge. If no deal can be reached with Anton Stralman, who is an unrestricted free agent before the summer, Klein is an option.
This certainly puts more of a squeeze on captain Ryan Callahan to lower his demands if he wants to stay. But Callahan and his agent may have a real sense that they can get closer to what they are asking (reportedly seven years at about $6.5 million per) in July, perhaps from the Sabres, who are clearly retooling with the trades of Ryan Miller and Steve Ott and more to come, including Matt Moulson.
Note: Girardi is a long-time friend of Callahan and their families are close. That could be a factor in Callahan's decision, as well as whether he eventually would want to be part of rebuilding in Buffalo.