(HockeySTL)-- For most NHL players, an offseason is exactly what the word depicts. Some players take time to travel, to fish or to just relax. But for new Blue Paul Stastny, the offseason, in some ways had an in-season chaos to it.
“Every summer is a different level,” Stastny explained on Friday. “But for me, (this one was crazy).”
Stastny, who recently arrived in St. Louis, skated with the bulk of his new teammates for the first time on Friday, as players took the ice for one of the final informal skates before training camp. Finally lacing up the skates with his new squad after transitioning from Colorado to Missouri was a kind of closure for the 28-year old center who has been on the go for much of the summer.
In early July, Stastny inked a four-year, $28 million deal with the Blues, opting to leave Colorado, which has been his home for the last six years. In the two months following his decision, Stastny married, traveled to Slovakia to participate in charity games honoring former Blue Pavol Demitra, and made the transition to St. Louis. The summer was life-altering.
“I think the most important thing was getting married,” Stastny said. “Everything after that is a lot easier.”
“It’s been a busy summer with a lot of weddings and going overseas, but it’s all been fun. I think it’s important to stay in shape, have fun and continue to progress as a player.”
Stastny has only been in St. Louis for a few weeks. He made his return official in late August when he, along with teammate Chris Butler, made a surprise appearance at their Alma Mater, Chaminade. On the same day, Stastny was welcomed by more than 4,000 fans at the team’s Ice Breaker event, which was held at Ballpark Village. He recognized the passion of the city from his youth when he had the chance to watch his father, Peter, play for the hometown team. But he admitted that he was shocked to see so many fans come out for an event three weeks prior to training camp.
“It was fun,” Stastny said. “You want to get everything going after you see that. I don’t think I expected that many people to show up to the ballpark event. The Chaminade thing was a fun twist. You just see, from those things, how excited people are in this town. It’s the reason so many people have played here. Whether they play here now or did, they say it’s one of their favorite towns at the rink and away from the rink.”
The outside perception of the Blues and the city of St. Louis is a big reason Stastny decided to join the organization this summer. But now that the offseason is drawing to a close, Stastny has focused his attention to the ice. His first skate with his new teammates consisted of skating laps, participating in a few organized drills, and joining in on a scrimmage. It left the center with tired legs.
“I was a little tired, getting used to it,” Stastny admitted following the skate. “I forgot how humid it is here, especially early in the season and late in the season.”
The St. Louis native is expected to be a centerpiece for the Blues’ success in the upcoming season, but before he starts worrying about his impact and role with the club, Stastny is trying to adjust to the new environment.
“It’s been good just getting to know the guys, on the ice especially,” Stastny said. “For me and for the new guys it’s good to get a few days around the locker room, around the trainers, managers and coaches, just to get used to it all so when everything starts Thursday, nothing surprises you.”
The adjustment is expedited immensely for Stastny, who has played with many of his new teammates at various points in his career. Teammate Kevin Shattenkirk is even renting a place from Paul’s brother, Yan.
“A couple of years ago when I was living here in the summer, I skated out here with these guys, though I had a different jersey on,” said Stastny. “There’s so many good player, whether it’s playing with guys for U.S.A, playing with guys at the international level, or just skating with them in the summer, you know what they bring to the table on and off the ice. I just look forward to getting something started with these guys.”
Every player will be back in town this week, giving Stastny a few days before camp to get familiar with the entire team. The forward will continue to join in on informal skates with his teammates leading up to the start of training camp on Thursday. His goal, however, is to use the sessions as prerequisites for camp.
“I think you are trying to peak for the first day of the season, not for training camp and then you want to peak for the playoffs obviously. So, for me, it’s just kind of getting comfortable with myself, comfortable with the puck, compete level and then finding players I’m comfortable with when it comes to playing offense.”
Stastny spent this past weekend cementing his family’s transition to the new city, but also he spent a bit of time with a few of his teammates at a fantasy camp on Saturday. It was the last ‘leisurely’ weekend of a busy offseason.
“I get a couple of days with some of the guys and a couple of days for the wife and I to get home furnishings – bare essentials- and then to get right back to work leading into camp.”