ST. LOUIS - He's not the most notable addition to the Blues roster this summer (that distinction belongs to center Paul Stastny), but Carl Gunnarsson won't go unnoticed when the 2014-15 season begins in October.
Gunnarsson, a 27-year-old defenseman, was acquired by the Blues in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia. The Blues also acquired Toronto's fourth-round pick (No. 94 overall), which was used to select Ville Husso, the top-ranked European goaltender in the draft. In exchange, the Maple Leafs acquired Roman Polak.
Gunnarsson has played in five NHL seasons, all with the Maple Leafs. In 304 NHL games, he has scored 15 goals and tallied 71 assists (86 points) and a plus-14 rating.
We caught up with the new Blues defenseman over the phone from his home in Sweden to get his thoughts on the trade, playing in the Winter Classic, music and more.
BLUES: You’ve been a Maple Leaf for your entire NHL career and all of a sudden, you’re a Blue. Describe the emotions of learning of the trade and your feelings on coming to St. Louis.
CARL GUNNARSSON: At first, I was kind of shocked. I spent five years with the same team and it started to become a second home for me. All of a sudden, I just got traded. After the shock, everything feels really good and I’m excited to come to St. Louis. The last couple years playing the Blues, they’re one of the harder teams to play against in the League. So I’m really excited to come over and play for the Blues. I know a couple of guys on the team, so I’m looking forward to it.
BLUES: How familiar are you with fellow Swedes Alexander Steen, Patrik Berglund and Magnus Paajarvi?
CG: I don’t think I’ve played with Steener, but I’ve met him before. The other two I played with at the World Championships. I kind of know those guys and they’re all great guys. I hope everyone else is, too.
BLUES: For fans in St. Louis that haven’t seen you play much, explain what type of player they’re getting.
CG: I think I’m more of an all-around player than anything. The last couple years, I’ve been playing with more offensive-minded (players), so it’s been more defense than offense I’d say. Simple, nothing flashy, a team player. It’s more defense than offense, but I’ll try to put up a couple points this season, anyway.
BLUES: A lot will have to be figured out at training camp obviously, but several media outlets suggest you might be paired with Kevin Shattenkirk. How’s that for a fit?
CG: That’d be great. I’m not taking anything for granted coming into camp. I’m just going to do my best and make sure I show the staff and the coaches what I can do. Whoever they pair me up with, I’m sure it’s going to work out fine. I’ve been looking at the roster and there’s some really good 'D' on the team. If I play with Shattenkirk, by all means, that’s going to be a lot of fun.
BLUES: You dealt with a nagging hip injury last season. How's that going after getting some time to rest?
CG: Yeah, it’s getting better. I’m still rehabbing after having surgery in late April. I’m just working away on that, and hopefully it’s going to be better than ever. I’m looking forward to playing with a 100-percent, feeling-good body. We’ll see when training camp comes how good it is, but right now, the rehab is going as planned. My hope is to be in 100-percent shape when we start.
BLUES: Tell us something nobody knows about you. Any hidden talents? Can you play an instrument or sing a song?
CG: I wish I played in a band. I love music, but I can’t play anything. My best skill outside of hockey would be soccer, I guess. It's nothing that I can show off, but I played well when I was young. I guess all Europeans are good at soccer, but I have no other hidden talents. That’s probably my best one.
BLUES: Are you satisfied with how the World Cup turned out?
CG: I watched quite a few games. After awhile, I thought Germany was the best team and they deserved to win. Too bad that Brazil kind of choked there at the end. I always like the underdogs. I don’t know if Germany was an underdog, but Costa Rica and Iran, they were pretty good. Nobody expected anything from them, especially Costa Rica. Teams like that you never expect anything from, but they go and have a great tournament. I love those kind of things.
BLUES: What sort of music would we find on your iPod right now?
CG: Oh man. A little bit of everything. I don’t know how to describe the genre or whatever, but I like The Strokes and maybe alternative rock. If it’s a good tune, it’s a good tune. I don’t care if it’s hip-hop or rock or pop. A good tune is always good. I’m trying to widen my horizons a little bit and listen to everything.
BLUES: There’s plenty of country music played in the Blues’ locker room. Can you deal with that?
CG: Um….no. I’ve never been a fan of country. We had a couple guys in Toronto who loved it and they got ahold of the iPad and starting playing some country songs. Like I said, a good tune is a good tune, but I’m not a country guy.
BLUES: You found a “Share a Coke with Carl” Coke bottle and currently use it as your Twitter profile icon. How much time did you spend at the store looking for the bottle with your name on it?
CG: That was my fiancée who bought it when she was out. She found it and sent that picture to me. I've never found one myself, but she keeps an eye out for me, I guess. I don’t drink too much Coke.
BLUES: What’s the most frequently used app on your cell phone?
CG: Well, if you exclude Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, I’d say Shazam. I use that one a lot.
BLUES: Fans in St. Louis have been dying for a Winter Classic, but you got to play in one back in January against the Red Wings. Is that experience everything you thought it would be?
CG: Yeah, that was one of the best experiences in my career. It’s something I’ll remember forever. The whole set up leading up to it, too. HBO did a great job with their guys in the locker room. They were sneaking in and were in the shadows. You never really noticed them. I had my whole family come in for the game. The setting, the arena…the weather was cold and snowy but they did a great job. It was amazing.
BLUES: What your overall expectations for your first season with the Blues?
CG: I haven’t talked to the coaching staff or management too much about their goals for the season, but seeing the Blues for the last couple years, playoffs have to be there for sure. And going deeper than last year. I’m looking forward to that. For myself, coming to a new team, it’s going to be a new experience. I’m looking forward to going and showing Blues fans what I’ve got. And like I said before, with the injury I had, I’m looking forward to being healthy and really showing what I’ve got. That’s my main priority.