Dan Girardi spent the first 11 years of his NHL career with the New York Rangers, but that all changed this summer when the team decided to buy out his contract.
For those of us on the outside, the decision was a lot less surprising. Stay-at-home defensemen with big contracts are becoming more and more rare, so the fact that the Rangers wanted to move on from the inflated contract wasn’t exactly shocking for the average hockey fan.
Still, being forced to leave the only team you’ve ever known couldn’t have been easy. Now, he’ll get the chance to suit up against his former team for the first time, on Thursday night.
Most players pretend like this is just another game, but not Girardi, who told NHL.com that Thursday’s game is “still going to be weird” even though it’s being played in Tampa, not New York.
The Lightning have more overall depth than the Rangers, so they’ve been able to use Girardi in a much more limited role than he had been playing with New York in the past. Between 2007-08 and 2015-16, the 33-year-old was averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. In his first season with the Bolts, he’s playing just 16:33 per game, which is probably just right for him at this stage of his career.
“Definitely, it’s kind of a different role,” Girardi said. “They want me to still come in and play my game, but I’m not leaned upon to be the top guy. I’m paired with (Braydon) Coburn and we’re still playing some hard minutes against top lines, [but] my job is to be really good defensively and if I can contribute on offense it’s great.”
Obviously, contributing offensively isn’t his forte (he has one assist in 13 games), but he’s been a decent fit with his new squad.
Girardi’s CF% is under 50 percent at 47.6. But considering he isn’t great with the puck on his stick and that he starts in the defensive zone 57.4 percent of the time, those are fair numbers for the veteran. During his final three years in New York, his CF% was 46.3, 41.3 and 44.
For those wondering when Girardi will get a chance to go back to New York for the first time, that’ll come on Mar. 30, 2018.