New York Rangers: Top 5 Defensemen in the Henrik Lundqvist Era

Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a multitude of defensemen that have played in front of Henrik Lundqvist since he took over the reigns as the New York Rangers starting goaltender during the 2005-2006 season. There will always be a debate on who some of the best defensemen are to have played in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Here are some suggestions to help with that debate…

Henrik Lundqvist has played behind a vast amount of defensemen since his rookie year during the 2005-2006 season. If Lundqvist had debuted a season earlier, there would have been a time where Brian Leetch, Mark Messier and Lundqvist all shared the ice together in New York Rangers uniforms.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a list about the top players Lundqvist could have played behind. This list is composed of five defensemen that are at the top of the all-time defensive roster to have played in front of Lundqvist in no particular order. (Sorry, Darius Kasparaitis…you just missed the cut.)

Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

5. Dan Girardi –

Dan Girardi is currently the longest tenured New York Rangers defenseman. Girardi has also played the most games in front of Henrik Lundqvist of any other blueliner. The undrafted, right-handed defenseman has been an iron man on the blue line since joining the team during the 2006-2007 season.

Girardi has always been willing to put his body on the line to help out Henrik Lundqvist. His body took the biggest beating during the John Tortorella era and many believe he is still feeling the effects from Tortorella’s game plan. The 32-year-old has registered 45 goals, 180 assists, and a 51 +/- rating in his 773 games played in the NHL. Regardless of what people think about Girardi now, he deserves to be on this list.

The 32-year-old has registered 45 goals, 180 assists, and a 51 +/- rating in his 773 games played in the NHL. Regardless of what people think about Girardi now, he deserves to be on this list.

Mar 2, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal (18) controls the puck against the Nashville Predators during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 2, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal (18) controls the puck against the Nashville Predators during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

4. Marc Staal –

Marc Staal is the second longest tenured New York Rangers defenseman. He has played the second-most games in front of Henrik Lundqvist during his playing career. Staal was drafted by the Rangers with the #12 pick overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native made his NHL debut during the 2007-2008 season.

Staal was a top pairing defenseman for the New York Rangers for a few seasons and has gone up against the best in the NHL. Many believe that Staal hasn’t been the same player since his devastating eye injury during the 2012-2013 season. The left-handed defenseman has 37 goals, 115 assists, and a +/- rating of 41 throughout his 10 seasons with the New York Rangers.

Dec 1, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman (6) battles for the puck with New York Rangers center J.T. Miller (10) during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 1, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman (6) battles for the puck with New York Rangers center J.T. Miller (10) during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

3. Anton Stralman

Mr. Anton Stralman, the one that most would agree “got away.” Stralman joined the New York Rangers during the 2011-2012 season after being released from a player try-out with the New Jersey Devils.  The Swedish-born defenseman was a big help to the Rangers reaching the Stanley Cup finals during the 2013-2014 season.

Stralman eventually left the New York Rangers as an unrestricted free agent and signed a five-year $22 million contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Over his 182 games played as a New York Ranger, Stralman tallied 7 goals, 31 assists, and a 32 +/- rating. The New York Rangers weren’t willing to give Stralman the contract he was looking for and because of that reason, Stralman is no longer playing in front of his Swedish pal, Henrik Lundqvist.

Mar 8, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival (32) is pursued by New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) during the third period at the United Center. New York won 1-0 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 8, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival (32) is pursued by New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) during the third period at the United Center. New York won 1-0 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

2. Michael Rozsíval

Who could forget Michael Rozsíval? Rozsíval played six seasons with the New York Rangers. This Stanley Cup winning defenseman played a big part on the Rangers blue line from 2005 to 2011. For those that have forgotten about Michael Rozsíval, he has an absolute laser of a shot. Rozsíval scored 42 goals during his tenure with the Rangers and tallied 134 assists as well.

The right-handed defenseman by far had his most successful years in the NHL during his time with the Rangers. The biggest moment of his career during his time with the Rangers came during the 2006-2007 season. The Rangers were down 2-0 in the conference semi-finals against the Buffalo Sabres. The game was late in double overtime and Rozsíval sniped one past Ryan Miller from the blue line to give the Rangers hope for that playoff series.

Jan 19, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) carries he puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. New York defeated Toronto 5-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 19, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) carries he puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. New York defeated Toronto 5-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

1. Ryan McDonagh –

Thank you, Montreal Canadiens front office. The 27th captain of the New York Rangers is an obvious choice to make this list. The former 1st-round pick was traded to the New York Rangers in 2009 in a seven-player deal that sent Scott Gomez and his hefty contract to Montreal.

McDonagh has since been a vital piece not only to the Rangers blue line but the entire team as a whole, on and off the ice. The  St. Paul, Minnesota native has gone up against the best that the NHL has to offer and hasn’t backed down from anyone.

McDonagh has registered 45 goals, 155, assists and has an insane +/- rating of 124. The 27-year-old is averaging 23:28 minutes on the ice per game for the Rangers trying to protect Lundqvist.

McDonagh is currently signed through the 2018-2019 season. He can give Dan Girardi a run for his money for most games played in front of Henrik Lundqvist. McDonagh also can easily be the best defenseman to play in front of Henrik Lundqvist when it’s all said and done.

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