The Ottawa Senators have signed star forward Claude Giroux, one of the most significant free agent signings in the franchise’s history.

Giroux, 34, signed a three-year, US$19.5-million contract with the Senators at the start of the NHL’s free agency period on Wednesday.

Giroux, who went to high school in Ottawa and spends his summers here, told TSN he's excited at the prospect of playing at home.

"When the idea was to come back home and play for the Sens, I didn’t look back after that,” Giroux said. “It’s a young group that’s very exciting. A lot of talent, guys that like to work hard and compete.

"I just like the character of the team and I think I’m going to fit right in with them.”

The seven-time NHL all-star spent his entire career with the Philadelphia Flyers until this past season, when he was traded to the Florida Panthers at the NHL trade deadline.

He had 23 points in 18 regular-season games with the Panthers and eight points in 10 playoff games. In his career, Giroux has 923 points in 1,018 NHL games, and led the Flyers in scoring eight times. The Hearst, Ont., native is the longest-tenured captain in that franchise's history, serving 10 years in the role.

"We're thrilled to add a player of Claude's calibre to our lineup," Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said in a news release. "He's an elite offensive talent with exceptional face-off prowess and a player who maintains a strong work ethic. His leadership skills are arguably among his best assets.

"We're very happy to welcome Claude and his family home to Ottawa."

The signing is a homecoming of sorts for Giroux. He went to high school at Beatrice-Desloges high school in Orleans, played minor hockey in Cumberland and played junior hockey with the Gatineau Olympiques, where he was the league’s rookie of the year.

But Giroux also said he believes the Senators are on the road to contention. The team hasn't made the playoffs since 2017.

“I wouldn’t sign here if I didn’t think we had a chance to win the Cup,” Giroux said. “You have to build on that one good season and you need to have an identity.  … I’m not saying we’re going to win the Cup this year, but the plan is to build on it and have baby steps.”

The signing is perhaps the team’s most significant since signing winger Bobby Ryan to a seven-year, $50-million contract extension in 2014 after trading for him the previous year.

It’s the latest move in a busy week for general manager Pierre Dorion.

On Tuesday, the Senators swapped goalies with the Minnesota Wild, acquiring veteran Cam Talbot in exchange for Filip Gustavsson.

On Monday, they unloaded goaltender Matt Murray along with a pair of draft picks to the Toronto Maple Leafs, retaining only 25 per cent of his salary.

And prior to last week’s NHL draft, the Senators acquired forward Alex DeBrincat, a two-time 40-goal scorer and the best forward available on the trade market, for draft picks.