After signing a two-year, $800k AAV contract extension to stay in Toronto, veteran defenseman Mark Giordano discussed his motivations behind taking a hometown discount to remain a Maple Leaf.
At this point in your career, how much did you prioritize being at home rather than seeing what you could get on the open market?
Giordano: The first thing I prioritized — my family, my wife, and my kids have been great my whole career at being able to adapt and move wherever we have to, but it came down to being at the stage of my career where I want to take as many last cracks at having an opportunity to win. We thought about that first and foremost as a family.
Of course, my kids not having to move schools and change addresses at this point go a long way. It was a perfect fit. There were a lot of different conversations, but at the end of the day, we just kept coming back to how great of an opportunity it is and how much we love this city. With my wife and I growing up here, we wanted to put the roots in and have the kids solidified for a few years.
Kyle Dubas described it as you making a tremendous sacrifice. You laid out all of the reasons you wanted to come back to Toronto. Did you feel like you were making a sacrifice in these negotiations at all?
Giordano: I don’t know. I am at the stage in my career where I am definitely blessed to have had the career I have had so far and to be in a position financially where I am in a good spot. I wasn’t worried about hard negotiating or anything like that.
At the end of the day, I want to be here. I love the team. I wanted to do what I could do to help this team move forward and win. I will leave it at that. All of the other stuff is what it is. I made the decision for different reasons.
We saw how far the team pushed Tampa. Now we see what Tampa is doing in the second round. This core still hasn’t gotten past the first round. Where does your belief in the team stem from with this group?
Giordano: I have a big belief in the team. That was one of the top reasons for me wanting to come to Toronto last year at the deadline. I always had them circled as one of the teams that I thought had a chance to win. Playing here and going through it with the guys — going through playoffs — from my perspective, being a player on this team, it is not hard to see that we are a team that is not far away from being a true contender in the league.
We pushed Tampa Bay to seven games. They have had the success they’ve been having the last few years for a reason. I think we are seeing a little bit of that as playoffs go on as well.
It was a tough way to go out, but we all think and still believe that we have a team that is pretty close. We know we have to take steps to get over that hump to get over that first round, but I believe in this group for sure.
You were saying one reason you believe in the team is the work ethic of the young stars on the team. What do you see that makes you believe they’re so close to crossing the line?
Giordano: It is easy when you are looking from the outside to see the goals and the assists and the highlight reel stuff you see on TV — especially from our top guys — but then you get in here and see, day in and day out, what the team puts in with the work ethic and the preparation for practice and games. The organization, as a whole, I was really impressed with the detail that goes into the little things like skill development. Us being able to prepare the right way on and off the ice is top-notch.
On the ice, I was really impressed with how the leaders on our team put in the time and their play away from the puck — all of those things you don’t see if you don’t watch closely. I am happy to be here and be a part of it for another few years. Hopefully, we can push this team to the next level.
You had to get to know Sheldon Keefe pretty quickly. What sells you on the head coach of this team and the job Sheldon does?
Giordano: I think he is a great coach. Just being here for almost 30 games, with his bench management and the way he sees his game, I agree with his theories on the game or the way he sees it from the bench and in video sessions. I was impressed with all of our coaches. Again, it’s another reason I really wanted to be a part of this moving forward.
What was the transition like getting back home after the deadline, putting the roots back in, finding a place, and getting settled?
Giordano: I had a place in Toronto up until two or three years ago. I sold it. I wish I hadn’t now looking back. It’s easy to say looking back. We are settled in a nice little spot here in Toronto. Moving forward we will look for a house and all of that stuff. We are happy right now with where we are at.
We will eventually take care of all of the off-ice stuff. It feels like we have some time now. I am excited for that process. I have a ton of family here, friends, and a lot of support. That goes a long way, too, in making those transitions easier. I am happy that my kids can see all of their cousins and grandparents on a more regular basis than they have in years past.
How important was the second year in terms of the contract in the negotiations?
Giordano: It was important. You just feel like the team wants you around for that extra year. It makes you feel better about things. For me, I just feel like the two years let me establish myself even more as a leader in that room and a presence on this team. It felt really good. I was happy that we could get two years locked in.
At locker cleanout day, you mentioned you enjoyed a mentorship role with younger players — guys like Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin. When you were in the earlier stages of your career in Calgary, who were the mentors for you as you were trying to establish yourself?
Giordano: There were a lot of great leaders in Calgary. Jarome was the captain and a guy you looked up to every day. He had such a presence about him in the locker room, off the ice, and all of that stuff.
For me, it was guys like Rhett Warrener and Robyn Regehr, who were the older defensemen on the team. Bryan Marchment was there when I first got there. It was cool to watch those guys day in and day out.
All of the young guys coming into the league now are so skilled and have so much talent. The one thing you can help them the most with are the mental parts of the game and the little ins and outs of the grind of the season with the ups and the downs. I try to stay away from trying to give too many pointers on plays and skilled stuff because they are so great and have to trust their instincts, but I think sometimes throughout games and seasons you can really help young guys mentally get through some of the ups and downs.