PITTSBURGH - Speaking publicly for the first time since the Penguins traded him to the Florida Panthers, Patric Hornqvist said Friday that he was "blindsided" by the end of his time in the city where he won Stanley Cup rings and raised two children.
"This came up and blindsided me because I had a no-move clause. But then I find out that Pittsburgh didn't want me and Florida really wants me, and it was an easy choice for me and my family," Hornqvist said on a Panthers conference call. "I'm super excited to go down there and help them win some games."
Word leaked Wednesday morning that the Penguins were trying to trade the two-time Cup-winner to the Panthers. Hornqvist had to agree to waive his no-trade clause first. Eventually, he relented and the trade was finalized Thursday. The Penguins received defenseman Mike Matheson and forward Colton Sceviour.
"It's been obviously a little crazy," he said of the whirlwind week, adding, "It was obviously a tough situation for me and my family, when you get blindsided a little bit. When you know you have a no-trade, you don't think this kind of question is going to come up. When it came up, I took my time to go through every scenario."
The rough-and-tumble power forward scored 132 goals with 132 assists and a plus-51 rating in six seasons in Pittsburgh. In 66 playoff games he added 22 goals, including the one that secured a second straight Cup in the 2017 final.
He was a tone-setter on the ice from the jump. He would grow into one of the team's most vocal leaders off the ice, wearing the "A" on his sweater at times.
Hornqvist, who turns 34 in January, said he believes the Panthers and he are a "perfect" fit for each other. The veteran winger plans to bring fire and leadership to an underperforming Florida team with an All-Star center in Aleksander Barkov and a coach, Joel Quenneville, who won three championships in Chicago.
"I'm really excited for this opportunity," he said. "They have a great group of young core players. Barkov is probably the most underrated player in the league and I'm super excited to play with them. And with the coach we have, too, we know what we need to win. I think that's the reason why they want me there."
Hornqvist, at least for the moment, is clearly bitter about how everything ended here. But he had good things to say about the teammates he left behind.
"The last six years of my hockey career has always been great in Pittsburgh. We won two Stanley Cups and I got a chance to play with ... two of the top players ever," he said. "To win with them and with the organization, it means a lot."
This city will always have a place in his heart, too. The Swede raised his two young daughters through their early years here. But South Florida is home now.
"My family all started there. Isabella was 4 months when we first came (to Pittsburgh) and Vendela was born two years ago. So all my family life was in Pittsburgh. I like the city. I like the fans," he said. "But when they decided they didn't want me, it was an easy choice to go down to Florida."
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