TAMPA — The conversation went sort of like this when Dan Girardi told his 7-year-old son, Landon, that he was going to sign with the Lightning:
Landon: "Oh great. I can finally meet Steven Stamkos."
Girardi: "Well that's really nice. What about me? Getting my jersey?"
Landon: "No. I want Stammer's autograph."
Girardi: "Okay then. I guess that's what we're going to go with."
Shortly after that exchange Girardi received a text from Stamkos, welcoming the former New York Rangers defenseman to the team.
"Let me know if you need anything," Stamkos texted.
"Since you asked …," Girardi replied.
So Landon Girardi is going to get an autograph from the Lightning captain, and from Girardi the Lightning are going to get …?
"I'm pretty much a team-first type of guy," Girardi, 33, said Monday morning during a news conference at Amalie Arena. "I'm going to block shots, hit guys, do whatever I can to keep the puck out of our net."
Girardi (6 feet 1, 212 pounds) brings 788 regular-season games plus another 122 playoff games worth of experience to the Lightning.
Girardi, who signed a two-year, $6 million contract this month, joins forward Chris Kunitz, who brings four Stanley Cup rings to the dressing room, as a pair of veterans who can give the Lightning something the team was missing last season.
"Bringing in Dan Girardi and Chris Kunitz, I believe we're a stronger defensive team," general manager Steve Yzerman said. "I think we're going to be a team that has a little abrasiveness to it, a little harder to play against."
"Well, I'm not going to go out there and start fighting guys," Girardi said, "but I will stick up for teammates and I will finish checks and play hard, and I think that will help out the team."
When asked about Kunitz, who just won back-to-back Cups with Pittsburgh, Girardi said: "I really don't like playing against him, but obviously he's doing something right. He's a four-time Stanley Cup champion, and bringing a guy in like that is going to help the team for sure. He's a hard-nosed player. He can score goals. He gets in your face. That's a good type of player to have on your team if you want to get to the playoffs."
Girardi said he was disappointed when the Rangers bought his contract after last season. He wondered if his career was over. But he said he drew interest from several teams, chief among them the Lightning.
"Stevie Y called me and that really meant a lot to me," Girardi said. "He pretty much talked for 20 minutes of how he wanted me here, how great their team was. I was pretty much sold, but we had to play a little hardball."
Now Girardi is reunited with former Rangers teammates Ryan Callahan and Anton Stralman, which is also a plus. Girardi said Callahan did a wonderful job selling him on the Lightning and the Tampa area.
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Girardi said his end in New York after 11 years with the Rangers has him eager to begin his career in Tampa.
"I feel hungrier than I have been in any other year," he said. "I feel like maybe you've been in one place so long you kind of get on cruise control and that might not be great for your career. I feel like what happened to me might have jump-started it.
"This is the most excited I've been for a year in a long time."
Girardi said his time in New York is "way in the past," with the transformation within the Girardi household from Ranger to Lightning a quick one judging by this exchange when Landon found his Rangers pajamas.
Landon: "We can throw these out. We don't need them anymore."
Girardi: "That's right, buddy."