In the minutes, hours, and days after learning he’d been traded from the Vegas Golden Knights to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday, defenceman Nate Schmidt has heard from countless teammates, coaches, and friends old and new. But the first to light up his phone? Braden Holtby.
He just said, ‘I know there’s a lot of things going on in your head right now but I’m gonna be selfish and be super happy that you’re coming,'” Schmidt said with a laugh during an interview on Hockey Central on Thursday.
In addition to being teammates on the Washington Capitals for four years, the two are also great friends. Now with Holtby also headed west after signing with the Canucks in free agency, it’s a reunion Schmidt is looking forward to.
“Braden Holtby’s one of my best friends I have in hockey, a guy that I’ve kept in touch with,” said Schmidt, who also joins another former Capital from his days in Washington in Jay Beagle.
“I’m really excited to be back with those guys, they’re two unbelievable guys,” he said.
“Any time you’re moving teams, if you’ve got someone you know and you’ve got someone that you’ve got a connection with … it makes it a lot easier to make that transition.”
It’s a transition Schmidt, 29, didn’t think he’d be making again — especially not after signing a six-year extension back in 2018. After being plucked out of Washington during the Vegas expansion draft back in 2017, Schmidt thrived as a member of the self-proclaimed “original misfits” and has been an important part of the team’s success in its first three years of existence.
“It’s naive to think you can be there forever and that group will stay together forever,” Schmidt admitted, also opening up during the interview about what was a tense weekend of trade rumours as the Golden Knights were among those in the race to land stud free agent rearguard Alex Pietrangelo — which they finally did, Monday evening.
“I didn’t think it was gonna come down to me,” Schmidt said of the trade. “I was hoping it wouldn’t, but unfortunately when you look at it, there had to be some type of move.”
Despite the initial surprise and disappointment about leaving a team with which he’s formed such a tight bond, the Minnesota native, who’s known for his upbeat demeanour, admitted he’s starting to feel “pretty giddy” about becoming a Canuck.
“With every door that shuts on you, you have another chance to be on a team like in Vancouver that I’m getting pretty giddy about — about how you can have such a young group,” he said. Of course, he experienced first-hand in the Edmonton bubble just how tough that young group is to suit up against, with Vancouver just one win away from upsetting Vegas in Round 2 of the playoffs. “I don’t have to go play against Quinn Hughes or [Elias] Pettersson and these guys anymore, which is nice, to be on this side of things.”