After hectic 20 hours, Red Wings' new additions ready for 'new chapter'
Detroit — Forward Oskar Sundqvist and defenseman Jake Walman, both of whom the Red Wings acquired Monday in a trade with the St. Louis Blues, were on the ice for a morning practice before Tuesday night’s game with the Philadelphia Flyers at Little Caesars Arena.
Their heads were still “spinning” when they spoke to the media after practice, going from having received the news to donning their new red winged-wheel home jerseys (No. 8 for Walman, No. 70 for Sundqvist) in less than 20 hours.
“We were ready to take off to go to Washington when we got a phone call from (St. Louis general manager Doug) Armstrong saying we’d been traded to Detroit,” Sundqvist said of the Blues’ team flight Monday. “Basically, it’s get out of your seat, get your suit back on, go to the front of the plane, find your suitcase. It was a nice surprise, and it was a hectic day with a lot of stress and emotion, saying goodbye to everyone.
“My head was spinning everywhere. I went home and packed up my stuff, and looked at my phone. My flight was taking off in 2½ hours. But it was nice to land here, settle in, and meet everyone this morning. It makes you feel a lot better.”
Sundqvist and Walman smiled and said they both slept quite well, despite everything.
Walman added, “I was in a little bit of a shock. I’d never been through something like this. It’s all new, but change is good. So, I’m really excited for the opportunity. It was sad to say goodbye to the guys in St. Louis, but those guys will always be friends. It’s a new chapter now, and we’re ready to go.”
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said he wasn’t sure yet who Walman (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) would be paired with on the blue line, or who Sundqvist (6-3, 208) would become linemates with — or even whether he’d play center or forward.
“It’s a little fluid,” said Blashill. “I’m going to watch a bit and decide what the best pair is and what the best line is. Who they start the game with might not be the way they finish the game.”
But Blashill was sure about what he liked about the two acquisitions of former third-round picks that came right at the NHL’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
“Oskar is a real good hockey player, a hockey player — meaning he has good hockey sense,” Blashill said. “He’s strong in his stick. Because of that, he’s a really good two-way player. He has the ability to play both on the penalty kill and on the power play. So, he could be a really good addition. Size matters; it’s just a reality.”
Blashill noted an inability for his team to get to the net in some recent games, and said Sundqvist will help in that regard.
“I’m intrigued by Jake,” Blashill said. “Jake has great skating ability. One of the things I talked to him about is using that skating as a defensive weapon. His best attributes are his skating and his shooting, and I told him to shoot every chance that you get.”
Detroit sent defensemen Nick Leddy and Luke Witkowski to St. Louis, and also received the Blues’ second-round pick in 2023.
Walman, 26, from Toronto, was drafted in 2014 and has played 32 of his 57 games in 2021-22. He has three goals and three assists this season.
Sundqvist, 27, from Boden, Sweden, was drafted by Pittsburgh in 2012 and traded to St. Louis June 23, 2017. He didn’t play in enough games or dress for the Penguins in the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals, and so didn’t qualify to have his name on the Cup.
However, Sundqvist did score four goals with five assists in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs won by St. Louis to get his name on hockey’s cherished chalice. He had career-highs of 14 goals, 17 assists and 31 points that season. Sundqvist had four goals, 11 assists and 15 points for the Blues this season.
Sundqvist said his knees “have been fine this season,” after tearing an ACL last year and also having double hip surgery last summer.
What does each player feel he adds to the team?
“It’s speed and moving the puck up off the boards in a rush,” Walman said. “I try to play and create some offense, play tenacious all over the ice. I need to get back to my game and being confident. … There’s a lot of history here, and I’m excited to be a part of it. It’s really nice to play where you’re wanted.”
Sundqvist said, “Mostly defensive responsibility, and just trying to help the team as much as I can. Using my speed and skating and being tenacious on the ‘D’ end, and get the puck out to the forwards. I’m very excited for this opportunity. … It’s a big opportunity for some extra shifts.”
They have 20 games left this season to make a mark, but none are against the team that traded them.
“Now they’ve got to go out and prove they can help this team win,” Blashill said. “Both guys could be real assets to our team.”
Staal to be honored for 1,000th game
Red Wings defenseman Marc Staal is scheduled to be honored prior to Tuesday night’s game for playing in his 1,000th NHL game in Calgary during the last road trip. He joined Eric Staal (retired) and Jordan Staal (Carolina Hurricanes) in becoming the first three brothers to achieve that longevity milestone in the NHL.
Staal’s wife, Lindsay, three children and parents, Linda and Henry Staal, are expected to be in attendance. The Staals raised their sons in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, on a 600-acre sod farm that featured a homemade hockey rink.
Steve Kornacki is a freelance writer.