If there is one player you are almost guaranteed to see at every game, every season, New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi is the guy.
Before signing with the Blueshirts as an undrafted free agent, back in 2006, the 31-year-old defensive stalwart got his start playing for the 2005 OHL Championship-winning London Knights. Through a two-way contract with the team’s AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolfpack, Girardi was quickly added to the defensive arsenal and by 2007, after former-Rangers’ defenseman Darius Kasparaitis suffered a debilitating injury, he was finally ready for the majors.
Ever since then, Girardi has played more than 80 regular season games per season—except in 2012, when a lockout caused the season to be cut in half—and currently leads the NHL with a career-total of 758 regular season and playoff appearances.
Devoting his entire professional hockey career with the Rangers, Girardi last agreed to a six-year $33 million contract extension in 2013-14, which isn’t set to expire until 2019-2020.
Girardi finished the 2014-15 season with a +12 goal differential, nabbing 20 points—four goals and 16 assists—in 82 games played. Despite taking a puck to the face in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, off of a deflection from Pittsburgh Penguins’ forward Chris Kunitz, Girardi would fight on to play for the rest of the series.
On the ice, Girardi is best known for blocking shots. His reach combined with a willingness to use his own body to stop the puck makes him a truly challenging opponent.
In the 2011-12 season Girardi established several career-highs, recording 211 hits, nine power play assists and two game-winning goals, for a +13 goal differential. He was also nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy and the 2011 All-Star Game.
By the 2012-13 season, Girardi led the NHL with 125 blocked shots and ranked eighth for average time on the ice at 25:24. The following year, he led the team with 174 blocked shots and 191 hits, ranking second in average ice time at 23:07.
During the Blueshirts’ attempts at taking the 2013-14 and 2014-15 Stanley Cups, Girardi made many memorable saves, including this one, which made highlight reels everywhere.
However, Girardi is not without flaw. Over the years, the defenseman has also been known to give away the puck in the defensive end and cause unnecessary penalties that give their opponents the upper hand. While there is certainly room for improvement, the Rangers are lucky to have such powerful defenseman on the ice.