Claude Giroux is ready to make a Stanley Cup run with the Florida Panthers.
A Philadelphia Flyers icon, Giroux has arrived in South Florida, and he addressed the media Monday, two days after he was traded to Florida.
“I’m here to win. I’m here to help the team win,” he said Monday. “I think this team has a great chance to go far in the playoffs.”
A short time later, in an interview on the NHL Network, Giroux reiterated how special it was to play in his 1,000th and final game with the Flyers, Thursday’s electric 5-4 win over Nashville at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I had a tough time playing that game, to be honest,” he said, referring to how he was overcome with emotion.
Now he’s starting a new chapter with a powerhouse Florida team. Giroux (18 goals) could play one of the wings on the No. 1 line with winger Carter Verhaeghe (21 goals), and center Aleksander Barkov (26 goals, 62 points). He will probably also be on the Panthers’ top power-play unit.
Giroux, 34, a center/winger, had a no-movement clause in his contract, and he was asked why Florida was the only team he agreed to be traded to.
“I had a chance to play against them this year; they were very (tough) to play against,” he said. “They play hard and it just seems like everybody is on the same page. I did some homework. My goal is to come here and win, and have a good time doing it.”
He said he “felt a little weird” to go on the ice Monday morning and wear a Panthers jersey — he spent parts of 15 seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers — but was eager for a new start.
“I’m just excited for the opportunity,” he said. “… It’s exciting to see how deep this team is.”
Florida is 42-14-6 for 90 points, and it sits atop the Eastern Conference standings. The Panthers are first in the Atlantic Division.
The Flyers are 20-31-11 for 51 points; only five teams have fewer points in the NHL.
Giroux, an unrestricted free agent in July, said his goal was “to come in, find chemistry with whoever I’m playing with, do my job, and help this team win.”
He said he told Florida interim coach Andrew Brunette he was ready to play where needed, and was “going to do everything I can to master that role.”
The Ontario native “makes us so much better in so many areas,” Florida GM Bill Zito said of the versatile Giroux, who can play in all situations. “It’s almost like getting a couple players in one.”
Giroux, who will make his Florida debut Thursday in Montreal, was jokingly told he might replace injured defenseman Aaron Ekblad.
“I can tell you that I’m not skating backwards,” he cracked, smiling.