One day after the transaction that swapped the players between Carolina and Florida, those two players found themselves in strange locker rooms preparing to play the team they practiced with just one day earlier.
”It’s definitely a different scenario and it’ll be a weird for a while, but once you start playing it’s just a game and it will be fine,” said Allen, speaking from the Hurricanes’ locker room.
“I’m sure things will settle down after this day, but right now it’s a bit awkward,” said Samsonov, cramped into the visitors’ room at the RBC Center for the first time in years.
For those who have experienced something similar as either players or observers in the past, playing against one’s former team for the first time can present its unique challenges.
“I think it makes it a little more difficult, to be honest with you,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, who expects to pair Allen with Jay Harrison to start. “Especially with Bryan’s game, he wants to come out and be physical, and it’s a little harder to hit the guys you were just battling with, but they’re professionals and they’ll get over it.”
“It’s good to get it over with,” said Hurricane-turned-Panther-turned-Hurricane-again Cory Stillman, whose first game with the Panthers three years ago was against Carolina. “It’s always an emotional game, especially for Bryan having been there for five years.”
Although Allen’s contract runs through next season, meaning that he wasn’t a name mentioned prominently in trade rumors leading to Monday’s deadline, he said that his move to Carolina still didn’t come as a complete shock.
“In our situation that we were in in Florida, it could have been anyone,” he said, referring to the amount of deals his former employer made as a “selling” team over the last month. “I had a good time in Florida, but I’m excited to be here.”
Allen could have rejected the move if he so chose, as his contract holds a no-trade clause that he had to waive in order to join the Hurricanes. He did so to re-join the playoff hunt and on the recommendation of Stillman, who preceded his arrival by just four days.
“Bryan called me on the trade to see what it was like and I sold him, but I didn’t make his choice,” said Stillman. “I let him say why he thought he should come here and I gave my two cents. I think it’s a great place to play. Obviously playing in the playoffs here before and seeing the excitement around the city, it’s a fresh start and it will be a great thing for him.”
“It’s the people outside of the game that are affected the most, and people don’t realize that sometimes,” said Allen. “My wife has been great and really supportive, and we’re both looking forward to it. I know she talked to Cory’s wife as well and it’s a good spot that once you’re here people want to stay and be part of.”
In his press conference following Monday’s trade, Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford described Allen as a big, gritty defenseman who could help clear the crease in front of his own net. The following day, Stillman backed up that assessment.
“He’s a defensive defenseman that’s mean to play against,” he said. “He’s going to punish people.”
Allen said that he was hoping to stay on the Panthers’ 5 p.m. charter to Raleigh on Monday, but he ended up on a commercial flight out of Miami that was delayed several hours due to thunderstorms. As such, he said that he did not arrive in his hotel room until 4:30 a.m. Meanwhile, Samsonov slept in his own bed, with Florida’s post-game trip home the first time he’ll have to pack up with his new team.
Samsonov, aware of his expiring contract and having heard rumors, said he was prepared for the possibility of having to leave town, even if he thought it would be one day earlier.
“You’re sort of expecting it and in your head you’re trying to make preparations in case it happens,” he said.
“It is difficult,” said Maurice. “You tell a player he’s been traded and that’s pretty much all he hears, and after that you tell him how important he was and how much you appreciated his professionalism and his effort, but at the end of the day, he’s leaving.”
With Allen in the lineup and the Hurricanes carrying seven defenseman, 23-year-old Derek Joslin will be a healthy scratch on Tuesday. Even with Eric Staal’s return to the lineup, the team will keep Jeff Skinner at center, as all three players on the second line will switch from the positions they’ve held from the last several weeks.
“We liked (Skinner) on the wing when that line was going, but that line struggled a bit recently at both ends," said Maurice. “I liked the way he played down low. When Eric went down he went back to the middle and was effective. The more time we can get him there, we’ll hopefully get that line going a little bit, and if not, we’ll adjust it again.”