Ask Lightning coach Jon Cooper about veteran newcomer Dan Girardi and be prepared for a lengthy answer. For as much as he knew about Girardi coaching against him all these years, Cooper has a more complete understanding of the former Rangers defenseman now that they are on the same team.

“You can appreciate certain guys more once you have them with you,” Cooper told Sporting News Canada. “Dan was always one of those guys you didn’t really notice as the opposing coach because he always was in a defensive role, not the guy running the power play, for example. He always did those unsung hero things. When you get him under your umbrella, that’s when you really can appreciate him more.”

Cooper can’t use that word – appreciate – enough when he talks about Girardi, who at age 33 signed a two-year contract with the Lightning after having his contract bought out by the Rangers at the end of last season.