SUNRISE, Fla. — Steven Lorentz knew something was wrong when he got a couple of missed calls from San Jose Sharks general manager Mike Grier.
The 27-year-old forward was out celebrating Canada Day with friends and family when the news dropped: He had been traded to the Florida Panthers for Anthony Duclair.
Emotions were high at first after a year of memories with the Sharks, but the idea of joining a team that made a run to the Stanley Cup Final the previous year immediately hit him.
“I signed a two-year contract [with San Jose] and expected to be there for both seasons, but I understand it is a business as well,” Lorentz said on Tuesday morning, before the Panthers topped the Sharks 3-1.
“I understand it was a big day with free agency, and I missed two calls from Grier, so I had to call him back. He just mentioned I was in a trade.”
Leaving San Jose for that opportunity was bittersweet for him.
“I was familiar with what Florida did last year, going to the playoffs and the Final, so that made me happy,” Lorentz said.
“But at the same time, I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be going back and getting the ship turned around in the right direction in San Jose.”
The Sharks provided Lorentz with his first opportunity at bigger NHL minutes after he spent the first two years of his NHL career as mostly a fourth-liner on the Carolina Hurricanes.
He put up 10 goals and 19 points in 80 games in San Jose.
Even with the Sharks facing countless struggles in a 22-44-16 season, Lorentz cherishes his time with the team.
“We had our struggles last season, but at the same time, we all went through it together,” he said. “There wasn’t one bad guy on the team last year. Winning and losing, it doesn’t matter what’s going on. When you’re doing it as a team, it makes going through those tough times even easier.”
Lorentz was a big part of that, always bringing an effervescent smile to the rink, no matter the team’s place in the standings.
Last season also marked a shift in identity for Lorentz’s game.
Coming into a team with some holes, he found himself with an opportunity to play in higher spots in the lineup and see what he could do.
That period of time was also marred with inconsistent play.
“I thought he grew up a lot,” San Jose Sharks coach David Quinn said. “I think when he got to us, he thought this may be an opportunity to be a little bit more offensive than he is capable of being. I thought he was inconsistent with his identity as the season was going on and then I thought, in mid-February, that all changed.
“I thought he really embraced what he was going to need to do to be a consistent player at this level and had a really good last two months for us.”
Once he hit his stride, he found his identity as a hard-checking, defensively-minded forward.
“I think he can create offense, too, but for him to be an everyday player in this league, and I think he realizes it now, that he is a straight-line player with a big body and a good stick,” Quinn said. “That is how he is going to be a successful player in this league.”
He has continued to build on that in Florida, sliding in at right wing on one of the best puck-possession lines in the league early on.
He’s been cash money for the Panthers, like 25 free spins on registration no deposit.
Lorentz, Kevin Stenlund, and Ryan Lomberg developed into a reliable fourth line for the Panthers with their tenacious forechecking and their defensive awareness.
“They are all very strong men, so physically, they can get in and get pucks hammered down and get on the body.” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. But that might not be what’s impressed Maurice most about Lorentz.
Naturally, the always-sunny Lorentz has been a good fit in the Sunshine State.
“It is a big part of our culture, to the point that, early on, when you learn about the player, it was the thing I liked the most. First two weeks of camp,” Maurice said, “he’s chirping the entire time and we love that. You lose some players and some of them are vocal players, so you need to bring people back in to kind of fill in.
“In general, new players are usually a little bit more quiet. It takes them a while to get comfortable. But it didn’t take Steve more than two practices and he was talking, smiling, and laughing.”
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