Rangers Re-Sign Girardi; Add D Eminger

Since the July 1st opening of free agency it has been very quiet on the transaction front. Much of the holdup is due to Ilya Kovalchuk’s continued presence on the market. Most felt Kovy, as the most attractive UFA available, would have been off the market early on in the process. That hasn’t been the case and the rest of the market has ground down virtually to a halt.

The Rangers haven’t let the dragged out Ilya Kovalchuk negotiations stop them from taking care of some needed business. While the team got a few things done on July 1st by adding a backup goalie (Martin Biron), a legit eforcer (Derek Boogaard) and re-signing forwards Erik Christensen and Vinny Prospal, the team still needed to get the signatures of restricted free agents Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.

On Friday the Rangers announced they had come to terms with Girardi on a 4 year contract worth $13.3 million. The AAV is $3.325 million which puts Girardi’s deal in the same hemisphere as the UFA signings of Henrik Tallinder ($3.375), Toni Lydman ($3 million) and Kyle Quincey ($3.175 million).

Another comparable, given Girardi’s status as a RFA not an UFA, is the offer sheet extended by the Sharks to Niklas Hjalmarsson of the Blackhawks. Hjalmarsson agreed to a term of 4 years for $14 million or an AAV of $3.5 million.

Girardi’s NHL track record is a little longer and stronger than Hjalmarsson’s. Here are the career numbers of each for comparison:

Girardi
280 GP - 20 G - 60 A - 80 Pts

Hjalmarsson
111 GP - 3 G - 18 A - 21 Pts

Girardi’s played for NY for 3+ seasons, including 3 consecutive campaigns in which he’s appeared in all 82 games. Hjalmarsson has made appearances in parts of 3 seasons but has played far fewer games.

Girardi has been a key contributor in NY for 3 seasons. He usually is counted on to play against some of the better offensive players on the opposition. Hjalmarsson didn’t become a regular contributor until this past season and used a strong playoff run to cash in. He played an average of 21:01 in 22 postseason games. Girardi has averaged better than 21 minutes in each of the last 3 seasons.

Without saying which player is better, the numbers clearly say that Girardi’s contract is certainly on par with what Hjalmarsson got. If the Blackhawk defender is worth what he got then certainly Girirdi’s deal is for fair market value.

I’m glad Sather was able to get Girardi’s name on a contract. By buying out 3 years of his free agency, Sather may actually have bought himself a bargain. If Girardi continues to play important minutes then he may have attracted strong interest on the market next year.

Sather wasn’t done strengthening the Rangers’ defense. Also on Friday he dealt F Aaron Voros and minor league prospect Ryan Hillier to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Defenseman Steve Eminger. Eminger is a former Capitals’ 1st round pick but hasn’t yet lived up to expectations. He appeared in 63 games with the Ducks but was a healthy scratch 13 times.

Voros is a physical energy forward with limited skill. He stands up for his teammates but couldn’t consistently earn ice time under Ranger coach John Tortorella. He ahd 7 points in 41 appearances last year.

Hillier has struggled to score at the professional level. He was a 3rd round pick of the Rangers in 2006. Hillier only recorded 7 points in 26 games split between the AHL and ECHL.

Eminger had 16 points last year but recorded a combined 26 points (5 goals, 21 asssts) in 2008-2009 split between Tampa, Florida and Philadelphia. Perhaps NY is where Eminger fulfills his potential.

Depending on what else the Rangers do this summer, Eminger could be a regular but at worst will give John Tortorella a better option than Anders Eriksson as the 7th defenseman. The Blue Shirts also added Ryan McDonagh to the mix which will give the Rangers 8 defensemen to compete for 6 regular spots. This has led to the belief the Rangers have something else in store. The question is what.

It’s possible the Blue Shirts could ship Rozsival off via trade to a team like the Dallas Stars. The Stars have a couple of Centers (Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro) they could move for a defenseman. With questions surrounding the stability of Tom Hicks’ ownership, the Stars may be willing to move Richards to NY for Rozsival. That would save the Stars $2.8 million in cap space next season although they would have to assume the final year of Rozsi’s deal at a cap hit of $5 million. Perhaps even more appealing to Dallas though is Rozsival is due only $7 million in real salary for the next two seasons while Richards is earning $7.8 million.

By acquiring Richards, the Rangers would upgrade the Center position while opening a spot for McD on the blue line.

The other possibility in clearing roster space for McD (assuming he makes the team) would be to demote Wade Redden to Hartford. Making that move would release the $6.5 million cap hit and enable the Rangers to be more active in the trade market.

The offseason has been quiet in regards to the Rangers making significant and impactful additions but that’s alright. It appears as if Tortorella and Sather are serious about letting their kids play and giving them a chance to win jobs. As much as we want to win now it is better if we wait a few years for our kids. The additions Sather has made at least appears to be following a plan for a change.