Troy Brouwer remembers the calls, one after another, on the night of July 2, when everyone wanted to talk about the trade that caught him by surprise. First came his soon-to-be-former general manager, Brian MacLellan, succinct in the way he delivered the news: Brouwer, a prospect and a pick to St. Louis, T.J. Oshie to Washington.
Next Brouwer dialed his wife, Carmen, who was out running errands while he had arts and crafts time with their daughter, Kylie. Then came his parents, then his wife’s parents, then his agent, then Capitals head coach Barry Trotz, then Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, then St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock, then newspaper reporters, then…
“A lot of wandering around, being like, what’s next?” Brouwer said. “That type of feeling.”
Nearing the end of his first training camp with his third NHL team – and second reached through a summer swap – Brouwer reflected on the move Thursday afternoon through, of course, another telephone conversation. He and his family had moved to St. Louis on Aug. 10, rented a house and been living there since, even growing in numbers when Cade Robert Brouwer came into the world at the end of the month. Friends and relatives came to help unpack boxes. It was a growing sense of normalcy welcomed after an unknown number popped onto his cell and Brouwer recognized McLellan’s voice onto the other end.
“I didn’t think I was getting moved,” he said. “I know players going into their last year of unrestricted free agency have a tendency of being a target, if they’re not in the plans going forward. I knew something may happen within this season or next summer, but I didin’t think anything would be that quick and that time. I talked to my agent a couple weeks before, he said there was nothing, Washington was happy with me. There was really no inclination.”
Over time, the phone stopped ringing and Brouwer assessed the move with a broader lens, he began turning his attention toward St. Louis. The team training staff helped him and Carmen find a hospital and an obstetrician, and his financial advisor helped look for a place to rent. Top-liners David Backes and Alexander Steen reached out, as did defenseman Chris Butler.
He also chatted at length with James Heuser, the Capitals’ senior manager of digital media, who grew up in St. Louis not far from where the Brouwer family moved. Two-year-old Kylie missed her friends in Arlington, and still sends video messages to Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom’s daughter, Haley. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing.
“To be able to situate yourself, go in, find out how to prepare with the move and get ready,” said Brouwer, who came to Washington on a draft-day deal in 2011. “When you have a family too, I feel bad for some of the guys who got traded midseason. To be able to be traded in the summer, it makes things a little bit easier on everybody. You get to stay with your family rather than having to be separated for a month.”
On the ice, a crowded training camp hasn’t given Brouwer much time to skate with his prospective linemates, Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz, but he should work beside them in an exhibition Thursday night. Under Trotz last season, Brouwer matched his career-high of 43 points and set a new mark with 22 assists, logged top-six minutes for much of 2014-15 and led all forwards in shorthanded ice time per game. He also appeared in all 82 games for the third straight full season, but also had just zero goals and three assists during 14 postseason games.
Which is to say, he believed had produced well for Washington, but he understood why MacLellan sought after Oshie, another right winger with a better scoring touch.
“Being a big body, I thought I was a real good player for the last four years, but I can also see why St. Louis targeted me, if you want to say that,” Brouwer said. “A player who plays a physical style, very much in the system with how St. Louis wants to play, I feel that I fit in here really well going forward.
“I’m a player that’s going the other way because [MacLellan] thinks he’s improving his hockey club. You can’t be mad at the guy, but I did love playing in Washington, I did love the teammates and the people there. It was a great four years for me and my family.”