When the Carolina Hurricanes traded Brandon Sutter to the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the Jordan Staal deal, it marked the first time the 23-year old center had been dealt in his hockey career. Spending time at a friend's house on Friday, he received a call from Ron Francis, Carolina's Director of Hockey Operations, and was told of the trade.
Last July, Sutter, who scored his first NHL goal against the Penguins in Oct. 2008, inked a 3-year, $6.2 million deal with Carolina and GM Jim Rutherford said at the time that he was "one of the cornerstones of our franchise moving forward", so hearing the news on Friday was a bit of a surprise.
"I really didn't see it coming at all," said Sutter on a conference call with reporters on Monday. "It was a bit of a shock to the system. Now I'm a little bit relaxed and getting excited about it."
He'll be plugged into Pittsburgh's third line center position, and while Staal expressed a desire to get out from behind the shadows of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Sutter is fine with the role.
"I'm four years into my career now," he said. "I'm still yet to play a playoff game. I'm at a point now where it's about winning. That's what I want to be there for and I want to help with that.
"What goes on with the lineup over the course of a couple years isn't in my hands and what could change. With the two big guys down the middle, playing behind them is going to be a great opportunity for me. You never know with injuries the way things could shake it up to the season. I just want to win some games. I'm looking forward to the opportunity and to play with some great players."
While Sutter will used to help shut down the top players of opposing teams and be a key cog on the penalty kill, he said that at times in Carolina he was stuck in a defensive role, something he hopes doesn't happen in Pittsburgh."
"I don't want to be looked at as just a defensive player," he said. "I want to score goals and do things, too."
Three days after the trade, Sutter hasn't talked with the Penguins about how his role will be defined just yet; only brief conversations with GM Ray Shero, head coach Dan Bylsma, and Sidney Crosby.
Staal had six fruitful years in Pittsburgh scoring 120 goals in 431 regular season games, winning a Stanley Cup in 2009 and earning a Selke Trophy nomination in 2010. Sutter hasn't been a slouch scoring 53 times in 286 games and leading all forwards in average shorthanded time on-ice per game, but he says he isn't feeling the pressure taking the spot of Staal.
"I'm coming in to do what I've done," said Sutter. "I'm my own player. I don't feel like I'm here to replace anyone. Jordan's a great player and playing against is player you want to be like. Hopefully one day I can try and find that level that he was at in terms of offensive numbers."
Having a father and five uncles who played in the NHL, four of whom played for more than one team during their careers, Sutter has plenty of sources of wisdom to consult about moving on to a new team.
"What my uncles and dad were able to do was pretty special, so I'm happy to be a part of that," said Sutter. "I know my uncle Richie played in Pittsburgh. He was down there for the Draft and said that I'm going to like where I'm going and that it'd be a fun place to play.
"If I ever need any advice I've definitely got a few people to call."
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
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