The Lightning dealt O’Brien and winger Michel Ouellet to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday for defenseman Lukas Krajicek and winger Juraj Simek, making an early transaction after dropping consecutive 2-1 decisions to the New York Rangers in the Bridgestone NHL Premiere Prague series this past weekend.
“It’s been kind of a hectic day,” O’Brien said, estimating the Lightning arrived home around 7 a.m. Monday, and he received word of the trade from Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Brian Lawton around noon. “It’s been a little much to handle, but any time you get moved to another team it means somebody wants you, and that’s all you can ask for.”
O’Brien, entering his third season in the League, played in the opening game on Saturday but was scratched Sunday in favor of Mike Lundin.
“Barry (Melrose) told me management didn’t want me to play, so I figured I might be getting moved but I didn’t know where,” said O’Brien, who had been aware of trade rumors involving his name.
The physical blueliner broke in with Anaheim in 2006-07 and was acquired by the Lightning late that season. In 158 regular-season games, he has compiled 6 goals, 37 points and 330 penalty minutes.
“What I think I can bring to the table is solid play – I can move the puck, play solid defense, finish my checks and be a solid all-around player,” O’Brien said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to help the Vancouver Canucks win.”
Ouellet debuted with Pittsburgh during the 2005-06 season and registered 35 goals and 80 points in 123 games before the Lightning signed him as a free agent prior to last season. He scored 17 goals in 64 games for Tampa in 2007-08 and did not play in either of the games last weekend in Prague. Ouellet is expected to report to Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.
“The coaches and GM in Tampa told me I impressed them, but they had signed so many guys they told me I’d need to score five goals a game to make the team so they told me there was obviously not a spot for me there,” Ouellet said of learning he’d been dealt to the Canucks.
“Last season I played well at that level and it’s tough, but sometimes you have to do a step backward to take two forward, so that’s how I take it right now.”
Krajicek, 25, further strengthens a young, but up-and-coming Tampa blue line, and adds a bit of offensive punch.
A former first-round pick by Florida (24th in 2001), he entered the League with the Panthers by playing five games during the 2001-02 season and was eventually dealt to the Canucks in the Roberto Luongo deal.
Krajicek had 5 goals, 27 points and 100 penalty minutes in 117 games with Vancouver over the past two seasons.
The 21-year-old Simek, a sixth-round pick in 2006, spent last season playing for Manitoba, finishing with 7 goals and 17 points in 66 games. Playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL in 2006-07, he notched 28 goals and 57 points in 58 games.
“Lukas is a proven NHL performer who can sure up our blue line and help with our transitional game,” Lawton said. “With the addition of Juraj, we feel we have added to our depth at forward and we look forward to seeing what he can do in our organization this year.”