June 14, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) The Rangers will buy out the final three years of Dan Girardi's contract, ending the defenseman's tenure in New York after 11 seasons.

The move will clear just under $2.9 million in salary-cap space next season and just under $1.9 million the two following years. Girardi was set to count $5.5 million against the salary cap through 2019-20 and with his no-movement clause would have had to be protected in the upcoming Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft.

By buying out the 33-year-old veteran, the Rangers can protect an extra player from Vegas and make room on their blue line for next season.

''Dan's contributions to the New York Rangers organization have been immeasurable,'' said team president Glen Sather, who was the GM when New York signed Girardi as an undrafted free agent in 2006. ''He has been a role model through his relentless determination, giving everything he had to this organization both on and off the ice.''

Girardi was the second-longest tenured player on the Rangers after goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and ranks ninth in franchise history with 788 games played. He put up 46 goals and 184 assists during the regular season and helped the team make the playoffs 10 times and reach the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

In a lengthy statement released by the team, the Welland, Ontario, native called New York his family's second home and said, ''I poured my heart and soul into this team for the past 11 seasons and I enjoyed every minute of it.''

The right-handed-shooting Girardi becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team beginning July 1. The buyout will cost New York more than $1.1 million on the cap in 2020-21, '21-22 and '22-23.

The Rangers on Wednesday also agreed to terms with forward Matt Puempel on a one-year contract worth $725,000. Getting a deal done with the 24-year-old helps New York satisfy the minimum expansion draft requirement of exposing at least two forwards under contract for 2017-18.

The Rangers claimed Puempel off waivers from Ottawa in November. He had six goals and three assists in 40 games last season and has 10 goals and five assists in 79 career NHL games.

New York also named former player Jed Ortmeyer as director of player development, Steve Eminger as a professional scout and Ben Prentiss as strength and conditioning consultant.

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