Oskar Sundqvist and Jake Walman were on the plane Monday in St. Louis, preparing to depart for Washington, when they got a call from Blues general manager Doug Armstrong telling them they had been traded to the Detroit Red Wings.
It was the start of a hectic 20 hours that culminated Tuesday in their first Red Wings practice prior to their debut tonight at Little Caesars Arena against the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30, Bally Sports Detroit).
“It’s basically get out of your seat, get your suit back on, start from the back of the plane to the front and say bye to everyone,” Sundqvist said. “Get off, find your suitcase and your stuff and right after that (Red Wings GM Steve) Yzerman called and welcomed me and said there was someone that wanted to talk to me. I talked to Nicklas Lidstrom a little bit, so it was a nice surprise. It was a hectic day, a lot of stress and emotion saying bye to everybody. It’s nice to finally be here and get the first practice out of the way.”
The Red Wings acquired Sundqvist, a 6-3, 208-pound checking-line center/winger, and Walman, a decent-sized (6-2, 215), good-skating defenseman, along with a 2023 second-round pick, for impending free-agent D-man Nick Leddy.
Both are expected to be regular in the lineup and help the team moving forward.
Coach Jeff Blashill described Sundqvist as a “real good hockey player.”
“That’s the term that has been used when I’ve talked to people who have had him, meaning he’s got good hockey sense,” Blashill said. “He’s strong on his stick. Because of that he’s a good two-way player that has ability to play on the penalty kill and the power play. We’ve talked about the need to get better defensively and adding a good 200-foot player will help. I’ll start him at wing tonight but eventually could see him moving to center, because he is a real responsible down-low center.”
Sundqvist’s size is important.
“We had a hard time getting to the net against Seattle (in Saturday’s 4-2 loss),” Blashill said. “We just have a hard time in some of those games when we face some opponents that have really big, strong D. Size helps you get to those areas and also matters defensively, especially if you’re long.”
Sundqvist is comfortable in his role.
“I think mostly a defensive responsibility but also contributing offensively,” Sundqvist, 27, said. “It’s always been my strong suit, my two-way game, so just trying to help the team best as I can both ends of the ice.”
Blashill said he is intrigued by the left-shooting Walman.
“One of the things I talked to him about is using that skating as a defensive weapon,” Blashill said. “(Former Red Wings defenseman and current Washington Capital) Nick Jensen has done a really good job of that over his career. Because of that, he goes out against the other team’s best on a consistent basis.
“I’m not saying Jake will get there or won’t get there. But I know we want to gap off the offensive blueline, we want to end rushes early, we don’t want to give away time and space, and a guy that can skate like that can really help. His best attributes are his skating and his shooting. From a shooting perspective, we talked about our D shooting more. Make sure he’s shooting every chance he gets.”
Walman, 26, said he is eager to “get back to his game” and restoring confidence.
“I think I can play well with the guys here, using my speed, getting the puck up quick, making a move and getting it up to the forwards, closing plays out in the D-zone as fast as I can and just being tenacious all over the ice,” Walman said. “Being confident is the big thing with me, confidence and shooting the puck from everywhere. If I’m shooting the puck, it means I’m on my game. I’ll do that and I’ll skate and help the team win.”
Sundqvist was a huge Tomas Holmstrom fan growing up. He also liked Henrik Zetterberg. He has battles with Niklas Kronwall, who he said was tough to play against, especially in the corners.
And meeting Lidstrom Tuesday morning was special.
“I think when you’re from Sweden everyone knows who Nick Lidstrom is,” Sundqvist said. “It was awesome to talk to him.”
Sundqvist called the past 20 hours emotional and stressful.
“Felt yesterday like my head was spinning everywhere,” he said. “I was at home packing my stuff, didn’t know what to bring really. Looked at phone and realized it was only 2½ hours until the plane left so I had to start hurrying up. It’s nice to finally land here and settle in and meet everyone this morning. Surely calms you down a little bit and makes you feel a lot better.”
Said Walman: “It was a little bit of a shock. I’ve never been through something like this. Change is good. I’m really excited for the opportunity and sad saying bye to the guys in St. Louis, who we’ve been with for a while now. But it’s a new chapter now and we’re ready to go.”
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