Warhorse, Workhorse; Girardi Leaves Rangers

There may have been better Rangers defensemen than Dan Girardi, but never a backliner who gave more of mind and body to the Blueshirts’ franchise than this ultimate competitor out of Welland, Ontario.

That explains why the club’s buy out on Wednesday of Dan’s contract marks a meaningful turning point in the franchise’s history.

A good 11 years of the Girardi Era were marked with success, both individually and collectively, culminating with the Rangers’ march to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings.

Rangers President Glen Sather took a gamble on Girardi when he signed the never-drafted blueliner on July 1, 2006. A total unknown up from the ECHL’s Charlotte Checkers soon would demonstrate why Slats’ chance inking was sage.

“Dan’s contributions to the Rangers have been immeasurable,” Sather asserted in a prepared announcement. “He has been a role model through his relentless determination, giving everything he had to the organization, on and off the ice.”

Although his forte was taking care of business behind the Blueshirts’ blue line, Girardi had a deceptive offensive bent.

Frequently, he would gallop down the right side and mesmerize goalies with a deceptively deft shot. I’ll never forget when he delivered such a gem against the Islanders and goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

In the 2007-08 season, Dan lit the red light 10 times and in 2010-11, he produced 31 points. Most years you’d find him in the plus category with a career-best 18 in 2015-16.

Who can forget Girardi’s playoff-series-winning goal against the Ottawa Senators to close out that 2012 series. And, if you did forget, you can’t but remember the innumerable bodychecks, shot-blocks and overall team leadership he delivered.

Dan put on the Blueshirt for the first time in 2006-07, his stint coming just prior to the John Tortorella reign which began with the 2009-2010 season.

Under the Torts’ regime, Girardi became the Rangers poster boy for shot-blocking and assorted other grit work; never with a beef; always dedicated to the franchise and winning.

“I poured my heart and soul into this team for the past eleven seasons,” Dan said Wednesday in a prepared statement that remains true to every word spoken, “and I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Not that he savored the assorted injuries that eventually took its toll and began to limit his range. Yet in the recently-completed playoffs — both against Montreal and Ottawa — he dished out bodychecks and emerged as one of the most reliable of Alain Vigneault‘s defenders.

In historic terms, Dan was a defensive throwback in the mold of such Blueshirt icons as Hall of Famers Ching Johnson, Babe Pratt and Art Coulter.

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Like Girardi, they savored the hitting game, but were honest blockers never known for dirty play. Dan never had more than 53 penalty minutes in a season which alone is a testament to his playing-it-fair style.

In his good-bye note, Girardi paid tribute to the franchise and the Rangers Faithful. Also, there was a tip of the fedora to The Big Apple as well.

“I’ve spent one-third of my life as a New Yorker and a New York Ranger. New York always will be our second home. I started my family here, got married to my wife, Pam, and had our two children, Landon and Shaye.”

As Rangers chroniclers have been aware, rumors of the possible buyout had been bruited for a while. At age 33, Dan, himself, knew what likely was in store for him. And now it has happened.

“I’m going to miss all of the friends I’ve made,” this most worthy of Rangers concluded.

And we will miss this role model for perseverance and grim determination as well!