Kevin Klein, the gritty, physical defenseman who helped the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 but whose nagging back injury slowed him down last season, announced his retirement from the NHL on Friday.
“Thank you to the fans of both cities [New York and Nashville] for their appreciation,” Klein, 32, said in a statement in which he also thanked his family, the Rangers and the Predators, with whom he began his NHL career. “I couldn’t have been happier to play in front of you. I’ll miss all the friends I’ve made along the way from the staff to the guys I played with . . . I am looking forward to many great years with my extended family. Again, thank you.”
Klein ends his career having played 627 games between the two teams, totaling 38 goals, 116 assists and a plus-22 rating. His best years came with the Rangers, with whom he played the final 3 1⁄2 seasons of his career, beginning in January 2014.
Klein was integral in helping the Rangers recover from a 3-1 deficit against the Penguins in the second round of the 2014 Eastern Conference playoffs and scored a goal in their 5-1 rout in Game 5 in Pittsburgh. He scored nine even-strength goals in both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. He had 75 penalty minutes in his time with the Rangers and was second among team defensemen in goals, points and hits (414).
With one year and $2.75 million left on his contract, Klein’s retirement saves the Rangers $2.9 million in cap space. It’s unclear if Klein, who played only 60 games last season because of his back and was a healthy scratch for all but one game of the playoffs, will look to play hockey elsewhere.
“Kleiner, together we thank and salute you!” the Rangers wrote on Twitter, with an accompanying video with some of the highlights of his career in New York, including overtime winners against the Penguins, Devils and Red Wings.
The righthanded defenseman was drafted by Nashville in the second round in 2003 and played his first 8 1⁄2 seasons with the Predators, going to the playoffs seven times in that span.