St. Louis happy to play for the Rangers, ready to help playoff push

Greenwich resident Martin St. Louis addresses the media after playing in his first game for the New York Rangers. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich resident Martin St. Louis addresses the media after playing in his first game for the New York Rangers. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich resident and New York Rangers forward Martin St. Louis can finally relax for a few brief moments.

After playing 24 hours ago in St. Louis against the Blues, the former Tampa Bay Lightning captain was traded to the New York Rangers.

After flying to New York Wednesday afternoon, St. Louis was in Madison Square Garden Wednesday ngiht for the Rangers game against the Toronto Maples Leafs, and was in the game, joining the Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin line. He also was with Derick Brassard’s line on the power play.

“It was a tough day for my family, but we are all excited to be here,” St. Louis said. “This is an opportunity for me to play for a big market team. It’s going to be a challenge. Obviously being somewhere for 14 years is going to be different. Just getting ready for the game and just the little things that you’re used to. It’s a new locker room, new team, new teammates. I like what they have here and I thought tonight was a gutsy comeback and I’m happy I was able to come here and break the ice. I was able to fly in and get that first game over with.”

Earlier Wednesday, St. Louis was traded to the Rangers in exchange for New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan and picks.

“It was a little bit of a shock,” Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. “There has been a lot of talk about Cally, but it’s tough to see him leave. He’s been a great teammate and a friend and a great player for his team for so many years. In the end, this is the way we decided to go as a team and I’m really excited about having Marty (Martin St. Louis). He’s such a skilled player and one of the best in the game. It’s such a mixed feeling right now. Having the opportunity to play with a player like that, but at the same time seeing a good friend and teammate leave, I’m not sure how to feel right now.”

Although the Rangers fell to the Maple Leafs, coming back from two goals down in the third period but losing in overtime, New York head coach Alain Vigneault didn’t want to mix up the other lines on the squad.

“It sort of worked out that way,” Vigneault said. “I didn’t want to split up the other lines. We’re going to decide what to do as we move forward here in the next couple of days.”

While St. Louis said there were several reasons for leaving the Lightning, one of the main reasons was it being a family decision.

“Obviously there are a lot of emotions about today,” said St. Louis during his postgame press conference. “I was blessed to play in one place for 14 years and I’ll cherish those years. Tampa has been a home for my family and I have nothing but great memories. The fans have always been awesome and I kind of grew up there as a player and I’m thankful for everything the Lightning have brought to me and my family.”

For St. Louis, if he was going to be traded, he knew that the Rangers were on his shortlist of teams to play for.

“If I was going to leave Tampa, the first place I would want to play is in New York,” St. Louis said. “It’s been in the back of my mind for quite some time. I have a house here and spend my summers here. I think this is the place that really fits my family. I’ve been fortunate to be in one place for that long and I’ve gone through a few new management, but at some point It thought about maybe trying to make a move. But like I said, I wouldn’t trade those 14 years in Tampa for anything.”

So far this season, St. Louis, 38, is having another standout season. He’s currently fifth in the NHL with 29 goals and also has 32 assists in 62 games played. He also has nine power play goals and is eighth in the league.

“Believing in yourself is the biggest thing when you’re a player,” St. Louis said. “I think I’ve done that throughout my career. I know this is going to be a challenge for me but I love challenges and I like to rise to the occasion. This is the chance to play the game in the biggest market and I know what comes with it. When things are good, it’s awesome. There are going to be tough times, but you have to live through it and face it. You have to be honest with yourself and how you’re playing. I am my biggest critique and I’ve always been that way.”

It was obvious that St. Louis enjoyed his first game with the New York Rangers and is looking for good things with the team down the road, however he still wants the fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning to know how much they meant to him. Because the Lightning were on the road when the trade went down, he was unable to say farewell to the the Tampa Bay supporters.

“It’s a fresh wound right now,” St. Louis said. “I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye. I owe a lot to the fans and I think the same reasons they fell in love with me many years ago is the same reason why they probably understand what I’m all about. I think I’m a character guy and I know this is hard for them. I didn’t make this decision lightly, but I knew it was a right one.”

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