WINNIPEG - Go back - waaaay back to the winter of 2013. It was then when General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Winnipeg Jets took an interest in Brian Strait, one of the newest recruits in this year's edition of the club.
After spending more than four years with the team that drafted him in the third round seven years prior, the defenceman's time as a Pittsburgh Penguin had come to an end after being placed on waivers.
Cheveldayoff put a claim in hoping to secure the services of the now 28-year-old, but so, too, did the struggling New York Islanders.
Strait was off to Uniondale.
Three-and-a-half years later, things have come full circle and Strait, eager to start fresh, is now a Jet - exactly as he was meant to be.
"I guess it was destiny," a smiling Strait said Saturday at MTS Iceplex.
"It's funny. (Cheveldayoff) told me that they'd put in waiver claim right after they signed me. Obviously I ended up in Long Island and that was great for me, but it's funny how paths cross once again. … I'm just excited about this opportunity."
Strait signed a one-year, $600,000 contract back on Jul. 1. The Waltham, Mass. product (who's a big-time Patriots fan, as you might expect) has been in Winnipeg for just a few days now, but his early impressions of both the city and team are all positive, despite the steep learning curve.
Video: CAMP | Brian Strait
"This is my third organization so I'm kind of getting used to what it's going to be like at first. It's like an introductory period for me; it's more about making some relationships here and feeling comfortable in the locker room. Each day is getting better - I'm getting comfortable out on the ice, I'm getting to know the coaches, the staff… It's funny, you come in here you're worried about training camp, but I think I get more worried about remembering so-and-so's name and I'm like, 'Oh, God, I forgot his name already!'
"They're all brand new faces. … (Chris Thorburn) called me right after I signed to welcome me to the organization, which was really nice of him. It was great to have that, especially on a team where I don't know everybody. Everyone's been very welcoming and it's been good so far."
Strait spent the past four years on the Island, compiling 27 points (7G, 20A) in 183 combined regular-season and playoff games. He's a defensive defenceman who prides himself on being physical, a strong penalty killer and one of the more willing shot-blockers in the game.
"I'm pretty simple when it comes to breaking the puck out," he said. "I'm going to move the puck quick, get it up to the forwards. They want me to be good defensively, stand guys up at the blue line; be a good penalty-killer, shot-blocker. I also have a decent skating ability where I can get up the ice [and join the offence]. Those are my strengths and that's what I try to use every day."
Strait knows that with Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom, Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba, Ben Chiarot, Paul Postma, Mark Stuart, Josh Morrissey and Julian Melchiori all fighting for Top 6 ice time, landing a job won't be easy. But it's also not stressing him out, either.
He's only concerning himself with what he can control - forgetting the noise and playing to the best of his ability.
"To be honest, I try not to think about it too much. I want to just come out and do my best in camp, do whatever I can. Where the chips fall, we'll see. I'm just worried about doing my job out there and getting used to everything.
"I'm going to give it everything I've got, every day."
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com