What now for Rangers after buying out Girardi?

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Now that they’ve bought him out, the New York Rangers won’t need to protect Dan Girardi in the expansion draft, and that could be a big deal for a team that needs to improve its blue line.

Girardi had a no-movement clause, which surely contributed to today’s announcement. Marc Staal also has a NMC, so he’ll still require protection. The Rangers will obviously protect Ryan McDonagh.

But after Staal and McDonagh, there’s no obvious candidate on the blue line to throw a wall around. Kevin Klein is reportedly pondering retirement. And no disrespect intended, but Nick Holden, Steven Kampfer, and Adam Clendening are hardly irreplaceable. (In case you’re wondering, Brady Skjei is exempt.)

Perhaps now the Rangers could be in on a player like Sami Vatanen. They could sure use a right shot on the power play.

Related: Devils, Bolts and Leafs could make play for Vatanen

Of course, the expectation all along has been that the Rangers will pursue Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency. Buying out Girardi would also clear cap space for that.

The forward group could see change as well. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Derek Stepan‘s name “is fairly prominent in trade chatter” at the moment.

Clearly, the Blueshirts aren’t done making moves.

Related: Changes needed for Rangers, but which ones to choose?