By Leo Scaglione Jr., pinch-hitting for The Maven
Kevin Klein is calling it a career.
After totaling 154 points (38 goals, 116 assists) and a plus-22 rating in 627 regular-season games over parts of 12 NHL seasons with the Nashville Predators and New York Rangers, and 19 points (4 goals, 15 assists) with a plus-5 rating in 73 Stanley Cup playoff matches, the 32-year-old defenseman announced his retirement from the NHL Friday morning.
“I would like to thank both the Nashville Predators and New York Rangers organizations for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of playing in the NHL,” Klein wrote in a prepared statement. “Thank you to the fans of both cities for their appreciation. I couldn’t have been happier to play in front of you. I will miss all the friends I’ve made along the way, from the staff to the guys I’ve played with.”
Continued Klein: “I’d like to thank my parents for everything they have done for me and for their constant love and support. Most importantly, my wife Jodi and our boys, Joseph and Oliver, who have sacrificed the most over the years. I am looking forward to many great years with my extended family. Again, Thank You.”
Klein, selected 37th overall in the 2003 NHL draft by the Predators, skated in parts of nine seasons with Nashville before he was traded to New York in exchange for blueliner Michael Del Zotto on January 22, 2014.
With the Rangers, Klein appeared in 224 regular-season contests over parts of four seasons, totaling 72 points (22 goals, 50 assists) and registering a plus-49 rating. He added one goal and nine assists for 10 points with a plus-3 rating in 45 playoff matches with the Blueshirts.
From the time he made his Rangers’ debut on January 23, 2014, through his final regular-season game this past April, Klein led all Blueshirts blueliners with 22 even-strength goals and eight game-winning markers. He ranked second among Rangers defensemen in goals, points, plus/minus rating and hits (414), and ranked third among team defensemen in assists.
A shot-blocking machine if ever there was one, Klein, at 6-foot-1, 206 pounds, was also a nightmare to cross paths with for opposing forwards.
To wit: In Klein’s final NHL game — Game 3 of the Rangers’ first-round series versus the Montreal Canadiens, his lone playoff appearance this past spring — the Kitchener, Ontario, native checked Habs center Torrey Mitchell into the Rangers’ bench.
Klein also had an innate ability to bury the biscuit in the clutch, with three overtime tallies to his credit, all of which came with New York.
Speaking of overtime winners, no goal defined Klein’s character, competitive spirit, grit and determination more than his extra-session goal on December 8, 2014, against the Pittsburgh Penguins at The Garden.
After being high-sticked late in the opening period by Penguins center Zach Sill, Klein headed to the dressing room to have his bloodied and torn left ear repaired.
The wounded blueliner returned for his regular shift in the second period after receiving 13 stitches and didn’t miss a beat.
Later in the night, with the scored tied 3-3, Klein exacted revenge when he fired home the winning score from mid-blue line through a five-man screen and past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury 3:45 into overtime.
For his courageous performance, Klein was named the game’s second star and was awarded the Broadway Hat for being the most notable player in a Rangers’ win.
Now, with Klein walking into the hockey sunset, the Rangers gain an additional $2.9 million of cap space. The relief will benefit New York since the club must re-sign restricted free agent center Mika Zibanejad.
The hard-nosed defenseman will be missed on Broadway, but certainly not by visitors.
Especially those who skate by the benches.