Defenseman Dan Girardi signed a two-year contract with an average annual value of $3 million with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
"I'm just so grateful for the opportunity that [Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman] gave me," Girardi said. "I'm going to use it as motivation just to sort of have a couple of good years here with Tampa and see what I can do to help them win."
Girardi, a right-handed defenseman, replaces Jason Garrison, a lefty who was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Girardi likely fits best in Tampa Bay as a third-pair defenseman on the right side playing behind righties Anton Stralman and either Andrej Sustr or Jake Dotchin. The Lightning have Victor Hedman, Braydon Coburn and possibly Slater Koekkoek on the left side. Rookie left-handed defenseman Mikhail Sergachev will push to make the Lightning as well.
"Obviously, it's going to be a little different, being in New York so long, the last 11 years," Girardi said. "But myself and my family are real excited for a new opportunity here. In Tampa, obviously the weather's great. The fans are great there. I always liked going to play in Tampa when we came with New York. It's going to be a different feel coming into this year's training camp, but I'm real excited for the opportunity."
Girardi had the final three years of his contract bought out after 11 seasons with the New York Rangers on June 14. He had 230 points (46 goals, 184 assists) in 788 regular-season games and helped them make the playoffs 10 times, including the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.
Since his NHL debut on Jan. 27, 2007, Girardi led the League in blocked shots (1,691) and ranked fourth among defensemen in games played (788).
"I feel 100 percent; I feel great," Girardi said. "That's kind of been the No. 1 question all interviews so far, but I have to respect that. Obviously I have played hard over the last 11 years, and it does take a toll on your body. But as of right now, I feel 100 percent. I feel great and I've been working out really hard. ... I think I feel like I'm really excited for this year more than ever now. I'm just looking forward to getting another year started here."
Video: Dan Girardi on joining the Tampa Bay Lightning