New York Rangers, Mats Zuccarello
Photo by Bergen Record

The New York Rangers’ defensive pairings could be very different come October, and some young-guns may get a shot over veterans.

There has been a core of defensemen that have led the way for the New York Rangers over the past five seasons, but that core has began to deteriorate.

At that core were players like Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal. And sure, there have been some decent pickups for the back end, players like Kevin Klein from Nashville, Dan Boyle, and Keith Yandle from Arizona.

And now there are some younger defenseman ready to make a splash in the Blueshirts’ lineup next season, two of which are Brady Skjei and Dylan McIlrath.

However, there is no denying that the Rangers’ blueline struggled last year.

Girardi and Staal looked like shells of their former selves while captain Ryan McDonagh battled injuries.

Needless to say, regression from players who the Rangers have banked on being big time players can be a problem, especially if they have no intentions of moving said players.

We haven’t heard much from Dan Boyle‘s camp, but it would not come as a shock to see him retire. We all remember when Boyle told Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record that he was leaning toward retirement.

If he does come back, the Rangers would likely try to move him.

For starters, let’s take a look at Dan Girardi. The 32 year old had a gloomy season that made every Rangers fan shake their heads at his defense at least once per game.

For the last two seasons, Girardi’s Corsi For % has decreased, if that’s possible.

It went from 49.3 in 2013-14, to 46.3 last season, to 41.3 this year. His average time on ice has decreased the last few years as well, declining from 26:15 in 2011-12 to 20:19 this past season.

The once bionic Girardi has started to show signs of wear and tear.

According to Larry Brooks, the Blueshirts have not yet asked Girardi to waive his no movement clause, which does leave the option of buying him out.

If Girardi was bought out or traded, a lovely return would be Kevin Shattenkirk from St. Louis. There were talks of a deal happening before the trade deadline, but nothing ever came of it.

And nothing is likely to come of it, again due to money constraints.

Hartford could be gutted for picks to at least possibly find something in the upcoming drafts.

Both Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei both proved to be very useful and ready for the NHL during their stints with the team. Both players will most likely see more consistent ice time next season.

If McDonagh can have a bounce back year, which the Rangers will need, it will go a long way towards fixing the Rangers blue line.

Remember that strong defensive presence we were used to seeing when Mac was on the ice?

Don’t get me wrong, he is still capable of being good defender, but he certainly hasn’t lived up to expectations over the past couple of seasons.

While injuries may have impacted his played, the results spoke for themselves.

The Captain had a career high 67 giveaways this season and had a low Corsi For of 47.7.


Going back to basics could be exactly what the Rangers need from their captain.

If we learned anything about McDonagh this past season, it was that he is no Brian Leetch. Failed attempts to jump into the play offensively caused far too many odd man rushes in Henrik Lundqvist‘s direction.

This leads to Keith Yandle, who was forth on the team in points, and simply needs to be on the Blueshirts blue line next season.

Going back to that controversial Brooks article from last week, Yandle is expected to be asking for at least $45 million over a seven year period.

$45 million is a lot for any player, and for the Rangers that deal is boarder line unrealistic. Either No. 93 settles for less money or he is traded, which very well may happen.

But if Yandle and the Rangers do settle on a deal, something along the lines of maybe $5 million for three-four years, it would go a long towards towards fixing an ailing Rangers defense.

So if we all lived in a Utopia of a world, the Rangers’ defensive pairings could look something like this:

  1. McDonagh-Shattenkirk
  2. Yandle-McIlrath
  3. Skjei-Klein

But knowing how this team works, it will likely end up being:

  1. McDonagh-Girardi
  2. Staal-Klein
  3. Yandle-Skjei/McIlrath

Whatever way you do look at this off season, it will be an interesting summer for sure. Free Agency beings on July 1st, and the Rangers should definitely be a shark in those waters.

NEXT: Rangers All-Time Ultimate 20-Man Roster

I love watching sports, specifically teams in New York. I'll root for all New York teams, but the New York Rangers and hockey are my number one. I am an avid hockey fan and enjoy expressing my opinion on the Blueshirts, when they are playing good and bad.