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Is the Lightning’s Dan Girardi getting better or older?

The Tampa Bay defenseman hopes the team sees his 13 years of experience as an asset, not a liability
Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi celebrates scoring after beating Buffalo Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton in a November game. It remains to be seen if he returns with the team next season.  [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi celebrates scoring after beating Buffalo Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton in a November game. It remains to be seen if he returns with the team next season. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published May 14, 2019

This is the 11th in a series this month looking at each player on the Lightning’s roster. Up next: Ryan McDonagh)

TAMPA — You may have heard this before: another 30-plus-year-old defenseman up for free agency this summer who may have played his last games in a royal blue sweater.

But this time it isn’t Anton Strålman we’re talking about, it’s Dan Girardi.

Thirteen years in this league certainly has some perks. It’s one of the reasons why many fans cringed when the Lightning announced Girardi would be out “indefinitely” in the last part of the regular season, right when Tampa Bay appeared to be maintaining its winning ways. Girardi’s injury coincided with Strålman getting sidelined.

Girardi earned his top spot on the blueline in a defensemen pairing with Victor Hedman. But he tops the roster as the oldest,having turned 35 in April. He ranks as the second longest-tenured player on the team (Braydon Coburn edges him out with 15 seasons). Many question whether it’s the end of the line for him.

The month-long lower-body injury that kept Girardi out of the lineup led to his shortest season since 2012-13, logging only 62 games this year. And despite the shortcoming in appearances, the veteran defenseman notched four goals and 12 assists.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: Anthony Cirelli's consistent play belies his young age.

One of Girardi’s best stints of the season came right before his injury when he went on a three-game points streak, logging one point apiece (one goal and two assists respectively).

The impending salary cap entering the free agency deadline this summer looms like a dark cloud over Girardi and a few others on the Lightning’s roster. It’s plausible many saw him donning his Lightning gear for the last time, especially when he makes $3 million per season.

But after finishing his second season with Tampa Bay, following 11 seasons with the Rangers, it’s also possible the defenseman isn’t quite finished with his career. He’s yet to hoist the Stanley Cup.

The veteran defenseman doesn’t have much going for him in terms of what else he can contribute outside of experience and the innate leadership that helps some of the younger blueliners.

But what makes Girardi’s case more interesting is his age and contributions to the team appear to be an inverse trend over the last few years.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: Is Alex Killorn good enough to stay on the Lightning's roster?

To the midpoint of his career (covering seven seasons, including his inaugural year with the Rangers in which he only docked a meager six points), Girardi averaged 22 points a year. His age is starting to show in the fact over the past six seasons his average has dropped to 18.3 points per year.

But Girardi might be willing to take less money and a shorter one-year contract if it means sticking around a bit longer.

That may be enough to keep him around.

Girardi’s season

High: Girardi contributed a 4-on-4 goal to help his team get a two-goal lead make history with a 4-3 overtime win against the Rangers. The Lightning recorded a new franchise record for consecutive wins (10) on Feb. 27.

Low: Girardi’s lower-body injury, which kept him out of the lineup just under a month following Tampa Bay’s matchup against Winnipeg until the regular season finale at Boston. Despite being well enough to play in the Lightning’s four playoff games against Columbus, Girardi failed to log a point and finished his postseason with a minus-two.

By the numbers:

16 points this season, his lowest count since 2015-16 with the Rangers (15) and tied for the second-lowest on the roster with rookie Erik Černák

62 games played this season, a new low since 2012-13 with the Rangers (46)

35 years old, the eldest on the Lightning’s roster

75 shots on goal this year, a new career-low since 2016-17 in his last season with the Rangers (56)

Contact Mari Faiello at Follow @faiello_mari.


  1. Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) gets beaten by a shot from Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov (86) as Lightning's Steven Stamkos (91) looks on during first-period NHL hockey game action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. [JOHN WOODS  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay pours on the goals with seven total, including two from Nikita Kucherov.
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn (2) celebrates his goal, the first of the game, along with right wing Nikita Kucherov (86), defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) and center Tyler Johnson (9) beating New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) during first period action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay also reassigned Alex Volkov to AHL Syracuse as Pat Maroon returned to the lineup.
  3. Minnesota Wild's Zach Parise (11) tries to control the puck the puck against Tampa Bay Lightning's Jan Rutta (44) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. [HANNAH FOSLIEN  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay falls off a recent trend of strong defense and lets Minnesota dictate the game.
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper watches from the bench as his team plays against the Minnesota Wild during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. [HANNAH FOSLIEN  |  AP]
    Even if the play is erased by an earlier offsides, the penalty still must be served.
  5. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) in the tunnel before heading out to the ice for warms ups before taking on the New York Rangers at Amalie Arena on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Tampa.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Playing in Minnesota is special for McDonagh, who grew up 12 miles from St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.
  6. Canada's Geneviève Lacasse (31) blocks a shot by United States' Kendall Coyne Schofield (26) during the third period of a rivalry series women's hockey game in Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) [MICHAEL DWYER  |  AP]
    Teams representing the United States and Canada will play a 3-on-3 scrimmage as part of the festivities in St. Louis next week.
  7. TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 14: (Editor's Note: Image was digitally altered)  The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Los Angeles Kings fathers, brothers and mentors during the Kings' annual team trip at Amalie Arena on January 14, 2020 in Tampa. (Photo by Casey Brooke Lawson/NHLI via Getty Images) [CASEY BROOKE LAWSON  |  NHLI via Getty Images]
    The Kings are the latest team to bring their annual trip to Tampa. The Capitals and Senators have also done so this year.
  8. Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Alexander Volkov (92) before Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Kings. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    Also, Kings’ Jonathan Quick takes a Steven Stamkos one-timer up high.
  9. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) on the ice against the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 7. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Journal: Plus the perfect kill ended, celebrating Gasparilla early, a four-on-four overtime.
  10. Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrates his goal along with defenseman Victor Hedman (77) after beating Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (32) to tie the score at 3. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay gives up the first two goals, responds with two more all within seven minutes.