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This article was published 25/9/2016 (1946 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Brian Strait believes destiny made him a member of the Winnipeg Jets.
The 28-year-old left-handed defenceman admits his NHL career was in a bit of limbo back in 2012, having played just 12 games over two seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had been placed on waivers with the intention of sending him to the minors and wondered what his future had in store.
That’s when the New York Islanders swooped in, grabbing him for nothing. He would go on to play 170 games over four seasons with that franchise before testing the free agent waters.
'Every year I expect to be (in the playoffs). I really know what kind of culture they need in the locker room to get there. From what I've seen so far, we got it.'‐ Brian Strait
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff shared an interesting story with Strait upon signing him this past summer to a one-year, one-way contract worth US$600,000.
"It’s funny. He called me, welcomed me to the organization and told me they tried to claim me a while back on waivers," Strait said during training camp this weekend. "I ended up in Long Island, which was obviously great for me. It’s funny how paths cross once again and it’s destiny I landed here. I’m just excited about the opportunity."
Cheveldayoff repeated the story during the team’s Fan Fest event Saturday, saying the Islanders simply beat the Jets to the punch four seasons ago by having a higher priority on the waiver wire.
"So he’s someone from an organizational standpoint we’ve had an interest in for a while," said Cheveldayoff.
Strait will be the first to admit he wasn’t the flashiest of free-agent signings. But the veteran believes he can bring a calming influence to a blue-line that is likely to be missing Jacob Trouba, the restricted free agent who has gone public with his trade demands.
"I’m pretty simple when it comes to breaking the puck out. I’m gonna move the puck quick, get it up to the forwards," Strait said. "They want me to be good defensively, stand guys up at the blue-line, be a really good penalty killer, shot-blocker. I’ve got a decent amount of skating ability where I can get up the ice."
Strait has scored six goals and added 21 assists over 182 regular-season NHL games while averaging nearly 17 minutes of ice time per game,
Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers and Toby Enstrom are now the Big 3 on defence with Trouba seemingly out of the picture. That leaves Strait in a battle for playing time with players such as Mark Stuart, Ben Chiarot, Paul Postma, Josh Morrissey and Julian Melchiori.
"I try really not to think about it too much. I want to just come out and just do my best in camp, do whatever I can. Where the chips fall, we’ll see what happens," said Strait. "I’m just worried about my job out there, getting used to everything out there, getting used to a new system, getting used to the coaching staff, and just giving everything I’ve got every day."
Strait certainly has a winning pedigree, having missed the playoffs in only one pro season. He won the 2009 NCAA title with Boston University and won a gold medal with the United States at the 2006 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
"I’ve been lucky enough to be on some good teams," said Strait. "Every year I expect to be (in the playoffs). I really know what kind of culture they need in the locker room to get there. From what I’ve seen so far, we got it."
For now, his focus is on getting to know a new organization and system. Strait said he’s never played with any current Jets, so there’s been a steep learning curve at training camp.
"It’s kinda like an introductory period for me, making some new relationships here, feeling comfortable in the locker room," he said. "It’s funny, you come in here and are worried about training camp. I think I get more worried about knowing so and so’s name. It’s the little things like that that kind of stress you out throughout the day."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.