As Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi was house-shopping in Tampa, he found the perfect place on Davis Islands.
Girardi, 33, signed to a two-year, $6 million deal in July, showed it to his good friend Ryan Callahan, a former teammate in junior and with the Rangers. Callahan a Lightning wing, also lives in the neighborhood.
"'Um, I'm pretty sure that's the GM's house,'' Callahan told him.
Replied Girardi: "Oh man."
The four-bedroom, Mediterranean-style mansion belonged to Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman. Yzerman, though, was trying to sell it as he already moved into another home.
Girardi bought it for $3 million. No, Girardi quips, it wasn't part of his contract (though that would be shrewd salary cap management).
So what was the tougher negotiation - free agency or real estate?
"That's why we have agents and real estate agents - you don't have to deal with each other and make it awkward," Girardi said. "There was no real talking between us, let the agents do their thing and that's what they're there for."
Girardi said Yzerman is a big reason why he chose Tampa Bay in free agency. It was a phone call from the Hall of Famer that sold Girardi, who had just been bought out by the Rangers, his team for 11 seasons.
"I came here because 'Stevie Y' called me personally and said, 'We want you here,'" Girardi said. "I felt that meant a lot to me as a guy who pretty much played his heart out for 11 years in New York, got bought out. You don't know what's happening and you get a guy like Steve Yzerman call you personally. It's like, 'Okay, that's where I know I need to be.'
There were some critics of the Girardi signing, especially those who believe strongly in analytics. One, DTMAboutHeart's goals above replacement statistic, ranked Girardi 297th out of 301 qualifying defenders.
As Yzerman said, the Lightning "use our own analytics," and is "confident he can play against the best players in the league." Exactly what role Girardi will play - and how much - will be a key storyline in camp.
Girardi is ready for the challenge, noting he's finally healthy, having battled injuries the past couple seasons. This is the first time in five years Girardi has been able to skate a lot in July.
Plus, Girardi is reinvigorated with a fresh start after admittedly getting on "cruise control" in the same place for so long.
"It's going to be a lot different I think," Girardi said. "I feel like I've got something to prove after getting bought out. I feel really good physically and mentally. I'm just excited. Great place to live, great place to play."
Girardi already has his son, Landon, 7, in hockey, on a youth team coached by former Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier. And Landon, along with Girardi's daughter Shaye (in pre-K), dig their new digs, which include a pool.
"The kids love it," Girardi said. "That's all that matters."