Friday, August 18, 2017

Reaves ready to give Penguins anything they need

Lifelong Blue, traded to Pittsburgh on June 23, 
excited about move after initial shock of trade

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- A Friday morning at the Ice Zone inside St. Louis Outlet Mall looked very familiar for Ryan Reaves as it has for the past seven seasons.

There was Reaves, on the ice during an informal skate with Blues players and local skaters for other NHL teams and college teams, working out, taking part in drills and scrimmages as if nothing has changed.

But in fact, it has changed. All one had to do was look at the logo to notice something never seen before: Reaves wearing a logo other than the Bluenote.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan Reaves (right), here shown checking Minnesota's
Christian Folin during the first round of the playoffs
in April, is ready to join the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Reaves was his usual jovial self, joking and laughing with what are now ex-teammates, but the colors black and gold made up his attire rather than the blue and white.

It was the full-circle look of what was a trade on June 23 that sent Reaves to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins along with a 2017 second-round pick for the Penguins' first-round pick (No. 31, which the Blues used to select forward Klim Kostin) and forward Oskar Sundqvist.

Reaves, 30, is still in St. Louis getting his pre-training camp work in before making the trek east-northeastward to Pennsylvania and to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs, where he'll be the new sheriff in town to protect the well-being of superstars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and others. 

But the sight of Reaves, still a fan favorite who was drafted by the Blues in the fifth round of the 2005 NHL Draft and spent his entire seven-year NHL career in St. Louis, wearing a Penguins practice jersey cemented the finality of his Blues career.

"It was funny, because somebody told me gold and black isn't your color," Reaves said Friday. "But everybody forgets that I came from the (Brandon) Wheat Kings (of the Western Hockey League), which is gold and black. I think I look good in these colors.

"... You go from playing with the Tarasenkos and the Steens here and now I get to go play with Crosby, Malkin and that Guentzel kid (Jake Guentzel) is starting to light it up. I'm definitely excited. I'm obviously very honored and humbled that a team that good and that's won the last two years wanted me on their team and traded for me. I'm excited to do whatever they need me to do to help them win a third one."

Reaves, who had a career-high in goals last season with seven, tied a career-high in assists with six and set a career-high in points with 13, said he had to get through the initial process of no longer being a Blue, and that was not easy initially.

"The first night was a lot of processing and the next morning was a little more emotional just because I talked to a lot of the boys," said Reaves, who was tipped off by friend and former Blue Chris Stewart of the Penguins' interest before having what he called a brief conversation with Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. "I talked to a lot of them that first night, but obviously the guys in Europe hadn't heard the news yet, so I talked to a lot of them the next morning. The second day, it was tough, but the days have been getting better and at this point, I'm very excited to get down there and get going.

"I don't know if it's just that I've spent my whole career here (in St. Louis). I think more so that I've been here for so long, I have roots here now. You make a lot of friends inside and outside the organization. You create a fan base for yourself. There's a lot of tough things about leaving the organization for 7-10 years, but that's the business part. I always said I've never been traded in any league, but eventually the business side was going to catch up to me."

The Penguins targeted Reaves with a purpose: to get the 6-foot-1, 225-pound winger there to police the lineup in case the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Kris Letang, Phil Kessel and a slew of other talents get the rough treatment by the opponent, as was evidenced during the Penguins' second-round playoff series this past season against the Washington Capitals, one in which Crosby sustained another concussion.

"Sometimes you look at trades and sometimes it's dumping salary, sometimes it's just getting rid of a player," Reaves said. "I think the feeling was however I can go in there and help, they wanted me that they traded for me. I'm excited. I don't think this is a getting-rid-of-me kind of move. It's something they thought they needed in their lineup and I'm excited to bring it."

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford told reporters after the trade that this is who he wanted and with that sole purpose in mind.

"We're getting a little bit tired of getting beat up game after game," Rutherford said.

Reaves will be taking his wife Alanna and daughter to Pittsburgh and sometimes, uprooting a young family can be difficult. But not in this case.

"My wife hasn't shown any signs about feeling down about the trade or anything," Reaves said. "I think that's the hardest thing about leaving is how close the whole organization is and the wives. But Pittsburgh's been really good to her. They sent her a nice little booklet of everything that's in the city, daycares, restaurants, everywhere to get her hair and nails done. She talked to the GM's wife. I think she feels just as excited as I am. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan Reaves (75), here fighting friend and former teammate Chris Stewart
last season in Minnesota, could be called upon to do more of the same
this season with Pittsburgh after being traded to the Penguins. 

"I talked to Crosby a couple times, a couple texts from a few of the other guys. I think that's the main reason I want to go down there early is to meet all the guys and let them know what I'm about and see what they're about. Get used to them early."

And in what couldn't have been a better script, Reaves' first NHL game with the Penguins will be on opening night, Oct. 4, against ... you guessed it: the Blues. And he'll be teammates again with former Blue Ian Cole.

"You can't write that. It's going to be a weird and emotional first game for me," Reaves said. "I think obviously we're going to be raising the banner, but I wasn't part of that team and then looking across the ice, that was a team I was a part of. I'm kind of in the middle for the pregame skate, but once that puck drops, I hope everyone in that Bluenote has their head up."

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