Giroux: Panthers were ‘Top of My List’
By the time the NHL’s trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. on Monday, the trade sending Claude Giroux to the Florida Panthers was nearly 48 hours old. But on Monday afternoon, as the rest of the league was wheeling and dealing, Giroux was introduced in South Florida as a member of the Panthers for the first time.
“It was pretty annoying to play the Panthers. To be on their side now, it’s definitely very exciting. It’s a lot of emotions,” Giroux said. “It’s kind of weird, but I couldn’t be more excited.:
Giroux, the 34-year-old former captain of the Flyers who had spent his entire 15-year career in Philadelphia, donned a red Panthers hat during his press conference. Yeah, weird for sure.
But Giroux focused on his new opportunity in Florida. The Panthers were his choice, reportedly the only team he would waive his no-movement clause for a trade to take place. Giroux declined to give any details of talks with the Flyers prior to the trade.
“Those details are going to stay private with Chuck Fletcher, but Florida was top of my list,” Giroux said. “If there was a team I wanted to go to, it was here. I had a chance to play against them three times this year, watched a few of their games, asked around about the guys on the team and the coach and the management and I didn’t hear a lot of bad things. I’m just happy the deal got done.”
This is his opportunity to win, and he expressed his excitement to join such a talented and deep roster. Giroux had played 1,000 games with the Flyers. He had 900 points. He made seven All-Star Games, played nationally at World Championships, set franchise records with the Flyers. All that seems to be missing is the ultimate prize.
“That’s the reason I’m here. I’m here to win. I’m here to help the team win. That’s the reason why this trade happened,” Giroux said. “I think this team has a great chance to go for in the playoffs. Obviously, there’s a lot of great teams in the East. Coming to this team, I think I can help this time. It’s just time to go to work.”
Giroux did do some reflecting on the season in Philadelphia as well. He admitted that there was no thought of playing in Florida or anywhere else when the season started. But as the season slipped away from the Flyers, Giroux started to look around quietly, watching games around the league. He stated how much he enjoyed the way the Panthers played.
“To be honest, when this season started this year with the Flyers, I didn’t think we would be in this position. It never really crossed my mind ‘where would I play?’ When we were kind of out of the playoffs, that’s when I started thinking where could I go, what would be a good fit for me to play and win a Cup?” Giroux said. “I was just looking around at the teams and there was something about Florida. Every time I was tuning into a game, I just liked the way they played. I just thought it would be a perfect fit.”
Of course, prior to the trade, Giroux did get a proper sendoff in Philadelphia. His 1,000th and final game with the Flyers was bittersweet, from the pre-game ceremony to the postgame reception as he took a victory lap and curtain call on the ice.
“It was a great ceremony. The organization did a great job. My teammates made me feel pretty special that day. Made me feel a little uncomfortable. In the back of my mind, I was celebrating my 1,000th game, but I was also knowing that it would be my last game because a trade would probably happen,” Giroux said.
“It was an emotional night. It was tough. I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t think it was going to be that emotional. There’s no words to really describe it. My time in Philly, I was there for a very long time, I had a lot of great players, had a lot of great coaches, management, the whole organization – it definitely wasn’t an easy decision to make. But, at that time, I think it was the right decision. Now we’re in the present, I’m a Panther, and just ready to go to work with them.”
But this begins a new chapter for Giroux. He’ll debut with the Panthers on Thursday night in Montreal, wearing his familiar No. 28, only this time in red and white. There is a chance Giroux will be playing alongside Aleksander Barkov, a player who certainly always catches his eye in his viewings of the Panthers.
“Barkov, the way he plays the game, very smart hockey player,” Giroux said. “Always in good position. Obviously one of the best defensive forwards in the league. On top of that, he makes a lot of plays and he’s got that offensive touch. If I have a chance to play on his line, I’ll be like the first time going to school, just giggling a little bit.
“The team looks great right now. Just the depth that they have, I’m just excited to – I keep repeating myself – just to blend in, do whatever I can. Whatever role [head coach Andrew Brunette] gives me, just embrace it and go to work.”