There are trades, and then there are trades that ship you 2,366 miles northwest.
The late-June swap that sent right winger Teddy Purcell from Tampa Bay to Edmonton was a shock. His closet said it all. It contained zero winter jackets and hadn’t for seven years. He’d spent his entire NHL career in California and Florida, and it seemed as recently as a year ago he wasn’t going anywhere for a long time.
The undrafted college free agent didn’t blossom in parts of three seasons with L.A., but the Lightning took a chance on him with a 2010 trade. He realized his potential as a top-six forward, posting 51- and 65-point seasons, often as Steven Stamkos’ linemate.
Something changed this past season, however. Young guns Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat burst onto the scene, and Purcell’s role diminished. Coach Jon Cooper, and even teammates like Valtteri Filppula, publicly asked Purcell to shoot more. He slipped to 12 goals in 81 games and tumbled to the fourth line. Purcell became expendable when the team identified other needs and off he went in the Sam Gagner deal.
Standard storylines would have Purcell entering 2014-15 motivated to prove Tampa wrong, but that’s just not him. He’s about as easygoing as it gets. He’s happy to call frigid Edmonton his new home, pointing out he grew up in Newfoundland and played in Saskatchewan and Maine. And he’s not angry at Tampa Bay. He speaks highly of GM Steve Yzerman.
“I give him all the credit in the world for giving me an opportunity five years ago to solidify myself as a regular NHL player on a good team,” Purcell said. “When I first broke into the league in L.A., I couldn’t find my role. I was up and down. I couldn’t find my confidence. So I’m very grateful for all the stuff that happened in Tampa. At the end of the day, it’s a business decision. They have young guys coming up, they were trying to shed some salary cap space and go after some defensemen. You can’t feel sorry for yourself.”
Purcell, 28 and 6-foot-3, 203 pounds, is a welcome addition to a team with a lot of flashy young talent up front and a dearth of size and leadership.
“The top six forwards are scary-skilled,” Purcell said. “With guys like myself and Benoit Pouliot coming in, and a couple solid defensemen, it’s going to make the team deeper. Especially in the tough Western Conference, there’s no easy games, but hopefully guys like us will give them a better chance to win.”
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin