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Reaves 'honored and humbled' for opportunity with Penguins

Physical veteran forward 'excited to bring it' for back-to-back Cup champs after trade from Blues

by Louie Korac / Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Ryan Reaves isn't sure what to expect on opening night, when they raise their second straight Stanley Cup banner on Oct. 4 against his former team, the St. Louis Blues.

Reaves, 30, was traded with a second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft from the Blues for a 2017 first-round pick (No. 31, forward Klim Kostin) and forward Oskar Sundqvist on June 23.

"Once that puck drops, I hope everyone in that Blue note has their head up," Reaves said Friday at the Blues practice facility.

"It's going to be a weird and emotional first game for me. I think obviously we're going to be raising the banner, but I wasn't part of that team and then looking across the ice, that was a team I was a part of. I'm kind of in the middle for the pregame skate."

The Penguins targeted Reaves for his physicality, and were willing to offer a first-round pick for a player who averaged 8:53 of ice time last season and had 13 points (seven goals, six assists) and 104 penalty minutes in 80 games. The only two players on the Penguins who had more than 50 penalty minutes last season were center Evgeni Malkin (77) and defensemen Ian Cole (72).

"We're getting a little bit tired of getting beat up game after game," Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said after making the trade.

Enter Reaves (6-foot-1, 225 pounds), who will provide protection for top-tier players like center Sidney Crosby, the reigning two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Crosby sustained a concussion during the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals last season.

Video: STL@CAR: Reaves wrists puck in off defender's stick

"You go from playing with the [Vladimir] Tarasenkos and the [Alexander] Steens [in St. Louis] and now I get to go play with Crosby, Malkin and that [Jake] Guentzel kid is starting to light it up," Reaves said. "I'm definitely excited. I'm obviously very honored and humbled that a team that good and that's won the last two years wanted me on their team and traded for me. I'm excited to do whatever they need me to do to help them win a third one.

"Sometimes you look at trades and sometimes it's dumping salary, sometimes it's just getting rid of a player. I think the feeling was however I can go in there and help, they wanted me that they traded for me. I don't think this is a getting-rid-of-me kind of move. It's something they thought they needed in their lineup and I'm excited to bring it. ... I talked to Crosby a couple times, a couple texts from a few of the other guys."

Reaves was on the ice Friday with former teammates and other NHL players getting some work in before the start of training camp. After spending the past seven seasons in St. Louis, Reaves said it was tough to initially process being traded.

A fifth-round pick (No. 156) in the 2005 NHL Draft, Reaves has 51 points (27 goals, 24 assists) and 695 penalty minutes in 419 games.

"I don't know if it's just that I've spent my whole career here [in St. Louis," he said. "I think more so that I've been here for so long, I have roots here now. You make a lot of friends inside and outside the organization. You create a fan base for yourself. There's a lot of tough things about leaving the organization … but that's the business part. I always said I've never been traded in any League, but eventually the business side was going to catch up to me."

Video: Penguins trade 31st pick for Reaves, 51st pick

Reaves sported a Penguins practice jersey and said those who need to get used to seeing him wearing black and gold should take a stroll down memory lane.

"It was funny, because somebody told me, 'Gold and black isn't your color,'" Reaves said. "But everybody forgets that I came from the [Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League], which is gold and black. I think I look good in these colors."

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