Ott sensed trade from Red Wings was coming

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Vancouver, British Columbia — Steve Ott knew something was going on when he wasn’t in the lineup for the Red Wings game Tuesday against the Vancouver Canucks.

Ott has been traded this time of the year, at the trade deadline, before. And when Ott found himself being a healthy scratch Tuesday, the antenna went up.

“I thought I’ve been playing pretty good and probably didn’t deserve to be a healthy scratch,” Ott said after the Red Wings’ 3-2 overtime victory over Vancouver, and just minutes after it was announced he had been traded to Montreal for a 2018 6th-round draft pick, as the Red Wings continued to sell before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.

“That kind of gave it away, in the sense something was up,” Ott said. “I’ve been through this a few times now and prepared my family. I talked to them during the day to prepare them to know something was going to go on.

“And obviously it popped during the game.”

Earlier in the day the Red Wings traded Brendan Smith to the New York Rangers for a 2018 2nd-round pick and a 2017 3rd-round pick.

Thomas Vanek, who like Ott and Smith can be unrestricted free agents July 1, will likely be traded before the deadline.

Seeing teammates go left and right isn’t easy for the Red Wings, who aren’t used to being sellers this time of year.

But an inconsistent season has put the Red Wings deep down in the standings.

“It’s not a fun position to be in,” said Justin Abdelkader, who scored Tuesday’s winning goal in overtime. “We have to look at ourselves, we put ourselves in this position. It’s been a challenging year and we’ve had a lot of injuries.”

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The long list of injuries is where Ott puts the blame for the Red Wings’ ragged play with 21 games left in the regular season.

“Just look at the injuries,” Ott said. “At the beginning of the year we lost some extremely valuable points. Take five games caused by those losses, and that’s about 10 points (closer) to the playoffs due to injuries.

“I hate to make excuses but that really put us in a hole.”

Ott, 34, signed a one-year contract last July 1 thrilled with the opportunity to join the Red Wings — the team he cheered for while growing up in Windsor.

Ott played in 42 games this season, with six points (three goals, three assists) with a minus-6 rating and 63 penalty minutes, while proving to be a valuable leader on and off the ice.

The experience playing for the Red Wings, Ott said, was worthwhile and memorable.

“It’s tough, it’s mixed feelings, but it’s part of the business,” Ott said of being traded. “I loved the opportunity I got here in Detroit, to put on the Red Wings jersey. It meant a lot to me and my family to play in front of friends and family every single night as a Red Wing.

“It sure meant a lot.

“But it’s a business and it’s definitely part of it. Heading to a team with another great heritage (Montreal), and a great opportunity in the playoffs as well, it’s very exciting now to know that I have a chance at the playoffs. I’ve heard nothing but great things about that dressing room in Montreal and I know some people as well. They have a special group there as well.

“Having done this before, being traded at the deadline, it definitely makes it easier.”

Coach Jeff Blashill called Ott “one of the best teammates I’ve ever seen” and added the veteran will be missed.

“You can’t say enough about what he does from a leadership standpoint,” Blashill said. “He’s a heart and soul player and he’s a good hockey player. I can’t thank Steve enough for everything he’s given us this year.”

Ott formed close relationships with teammates in a short period of time in Detroit.

“I formed a brotherhood with a lot of these guys in here,” Ott said. “Just giving the farewell hugs and goodbyes, but in all, what a good group of guys here in Detroit. I’ll be thankful for the opportunity I got here.

“It’s tough because guys know it’s a tough situation when you don’t make the playoffs or you are a team that is a long shot to make the playoffs.”