PHILADELPHIA - When the Rangers visit the Flyers for Saturday's matinee, one part of a tough, two-pronged personnel decision will remain unresolved.
Shutdown defenseman Dan Girardi, who has been with the Rangers since he was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2006, agreed to a six-year, $33-million contract extension . The 29-year-old defenseman, who forms the top pair with Ryan McDonagh, has earned $3.4 million annually for the past three seasons.
But with Wednesday's 3 p.m. trade deadline approaching, there appeared to be no significant progress in the negotiations with captain Ryan Callahan, another pending unrestricted free agent who could be dealt if the sides cannot reach a deal. The Rangers are believed to have offered a five-year deal at about $6 million per season. Callahan and his camp are seeking more money per season and a longer term.
Is there still wiggle room? It's unclear. If there isn't, Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather has some choices, including trading Callahan, 28, rather than letting him walk without compensation in the summer to, say, the Sabres, who are believed to be interested in the Rochester native and have plenty of dollars and cap space.
One immediate destination could be Tampa, where veteran scorer Martin St. Louis has asked to be traded to the Rangers. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman likely would want Callahan plus assets in exchange for St. Louis, who lives and trains in Connecticut during the summers.
Sather also could keep Callahan, who was drafted by the Rangers in 2004, for a playoff run. Callahan has said his heart is in New York, but he believes his market value is higher that the offer on the table. His agent, Steve Bartlett, said the sides are talking.
Sather has kept a critical piece in the durable Girardi, who averages more than 22 minutes per game, including the penalty kill, and has missed only four games in eight seasons. The native of Welland, Ontario, has been among the league leaders in blocked shots the last four years.
The two sides negotiated through the Winter Olympics, and Girardi said after the 2-1 victory over the Blackhawks on Thursday that he hoped a deal could be "banged out" in the next few days.
Girardi, a valuable righthanded shot who has four goals and 13 assists this season, would have drawn interest from several teams in the Stanley Cup chase but would have been costly to replace. In the contract, he received a full no-movement clause for the first three years and a limited no-trade clause for the rest.
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