Simon Despres was shopping with his girlfriend Ariane in a Pittsburgh-area furniture store when he heard the news that he was no longer a Penguin.
The 23-year-old defenseman had little indication he would be dealt, and certainly thought he was in the clear when he noticed the NHL trade deadline had passed at 3 p.m. Eastern.
“It was by the end of the deadline, so I wasn’t expecting it whatsoever,” said Despres this morning following his first morning skate as a Duck at Honda Center. “Then my phone blew up. I’ve never gotten traded in my life, so it was definitely a shock.”
Despres, who is soft-spoken but looks you right in the eye when he speaks, admits he was a bit upset when he first heard the news. “I was definitely [ticked] off a little bit at the beginning,” he says. “I was with the organization for six years, so it was definitely tough on me. Some of my friends, I’m leaving them behind. But I’ll make new friends here, and it looks like a really good team to be with.
“So far, I like what I’ve seen in the room,” Despres says. “The guys are really nice, they have good team chemistry, and it’s a really good team. So I’m excited about the opportunity to be with the Ducks.
While the realization of being traded sunk in, Despres’ focus inevitably had to turn toward getting to Phoenix to meet up with his new team, who were playing the Coyotes the following night.
“I found out about the trade around 3:30 Pittsburgh time, and at 4 my agent told me I should leave that night,” But the paperwork wasn’t done, so they couldn’t book my flight yet. When they finally called me about getting a flight that night, I had like 15 minutes to pack. I got on the plane, got to Phoenix and I landed around 1 a.m., which was 3 a.m. Pittsburgh time. So, I was definitely a little tired when I got to the hotel.”
He didn’t run into his new Ducks teammates until the following morning over breakfast at the hotel, when he ran into Andrew Cogliano, Kyle Palmieri and another player picked up by Anaheim at the deadline – former Panther Tomas Fleischmann. “They were of course very welcoming,” Despres says. “It’s a small world in hockey, so we all know a little bit of everyone.”
Despres took part in the morning skate at Gila River Arena in Glendale, and he was thrust into the Ducks lineup back there last night, wearing No. 24 and playing a major role in a 4-1 Anaheim victory. In just over 20 minutes of ice time, Despres had an assist and a plus-3 rating with a game-high five hits. Ducks fans can expect more of that physicality this season and beyond.
“I’m a physical defenseman,” Despres says. “I make a good first pass. I’m a strong skater, and I get the shots through to the net.”
Oh, and the name of the French-Canadian from Laval, Quebec? According to him, it’s pronounced see-MONE de-PREE, and here is audio of him saying it, for good measure.
Click here if audio won't play
Despres will temporarily reside in a nearby hotel until he finds something permanent in Orange County (and Ariane is joining him out here soon). And now that he’s had time to digest his sudden and unexpected change in locale, he’s relishing it.
“This is very good team in a nice city with warm weather,” Despres says. “I’m really excited about the opportunity.”