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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]
Published May 14

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.

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.

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 mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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