Lightning signs Dan Girardi to two-year, $6 million deal
The Lightning didn't get the big fish on the free agent market, with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk signing with the Rangers, wing Justin Williams with the Hurricanes.
But Tampa Bay did get - at least so far - veteran right-shot defenseman Dan Girardi. Girardi, 33, who signed a two-year, $6 million deal Saturday, was pumped to start a "new chapter" with the Lightning.
And it sounds like Girardi will play a key role on the blueline.
"(GM Steve Yzerman) was very convincing," Girardi told the Times Saturday. "He told me I'd be playing good minutes with some good (defensive) pairs. Overall, I'm just super excited."
Girardi spent the last 11 seasons with the Rangers, which bought out the final three years of his deal (coincidentally, helping New York land Shattenkirk). While Girardi struggled last season, by most analytic metrics, he said a nagging ankle injury hampered him, and now he's finally healthy, "100 percent."
"Obviously when you're fighting different injuries, no one really plays 100 percent in this league," Girardi said. "When your ankle or your knee, that's something that's part of your skating everyday, it doesn't help.
"I think two years ago, (my play) wasn't great. This year it was a step in the right direction and had a better year, really good playoffs. And that's what (Yzerman) saw, that I could still play, still get the job done, and match up against top guys."
Girardi, a stay at home defenseman, knows he wasn't signed for his offensive abilities, a career-low 15 points last season. But Girardi, known for his shotblocking and savvy in the defensive zone, said he'd love to help the group of Tampa Bay's young defensemen, ready to earn his time.
"That's the mentality I have to have," Girardi said. "I'm not getting any younger here. Two years could be it. We'll see. I'm going to use these two years to go out every game, work hard as I can, help the young guys, mentor them."
Veteran wing Ryan Callahan, close friends with Girardi since their Guelph days, said he spoke with his former Rangers teammate often in this process. He also talked with Yzerman, Lightning management on what Girardi would bring.
"I think it's perfect," Callahan told the Times. "I think everyone knows his style of play, laid it on the line every single night. Blocking shots. Great penalty killer. Played against teams top lines for 10 years now, played those minutes. Obviously the biggest thing too is his ability in the room, his leadership. He knows how to win."
Callahan said his presence in the room can be a big factor, leading by example. Girardi has played in 122 playoff games without a Cup.
"You can tell, speaking with him, that he's really hungry, he's excited for a fresh start," Callahan said. "The big thing is, he kept saying how badly he wants to win. I think that's going to be huge for a guy like that."
More to come.
In other signings/news
*Defenseman Karl Alzner signed with the Canadiens, the veteran defenseman not on the Lightning's radar this week
*Former Lightning center Brian Boyle is expected to sign a two-year deal with the Devils ($2.5 million AAV), per TSN Bob McKenzie. Boyle had interest in returning to Tampa Bay, but the Lightning - not needing a center - didn't reach out.
*Defenseman Luke Witkowski goes back home to Michigan, the former Western Michigan star signing a two-year deal with the Red Wings.
*Forward Nate Thompson, aka "Nate Boucher," reunites with Guy Boucher in Ottawa.
*The Lightning traded G Kristers Gudlevskis to the Islanders for forward forward Carter Verhaeghe, who will provide depth at AHL Syracuse. Verhaeghe, 21, had 16 goals in 45 games for AHL Bridgeport last season.
*The Lightning signed goaltender Michael Leighton to a one-year deal. He's expected to be the veteran partner at AHL Syracuse with prospect Connor Ingram. Leighton, 36, has played 110 career NHL games.
*The Lightning signed veteran defenseman Jamie McBain to a one-year, two-way contract, likely adding some veteran depth in Syracuse. McBain, at 6-1, 180, spent the majority of last year with Arizona's AHL affiliate, but has played in 348 career NHL games.
Developing: The first Lightning deal of the day is the signing of veteran defenseman Dan Girardi to a two-year, $6 million deal.
Girardi, 33, was bought out this summer after 11 seasons with the Rangers.
Our story on what Tampa Bay would be getting in Girardi.
The Lightning missed out on a top target in wing Justin Williams, who signed a two-year, $9 million deal with Carolina. Williams cited his family's comfort in North Carolina, with chance to win the No. 2 factor. Not sure Tampa Bay wanted to go that high on Williams, whose $4.5 milllion AAV just under what Nikita Kucherov ($4.76 million) will make the next two seasons.
Kevin Shattenkirk, the top d-man on the market, is still in play.
DEVELOPING: With free agency opening at noon, the Lightning is expected to be busy.
The question is, will Tampa Bay get what it wants?
Two top targets are defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and wing Justin Williams, both of whom had Tampa Bay among the finalists heading into today.
Shattenkirk, 28, has plenty of options, with New Jersey making a push (with the Devils' league-most cap space). For Williams, the Islanders and Hurricanes are contenders too.
Veteran defenseman Dan Girardi has been rumored to be signing with Tampa Bay today, but nothing has been officially confirmed or announced yet. Was thought Girardi would be backup plan to Shattenkirk.
If Williams lands elsewhere, the Lightning is also in the mix for veteran wing Chris Kunitz. Plus, Jaromir Jagr, 45, is now available as he reportedly cut ties with the Panthers.
Stay tuned for more.