Anthony Mantha woke up, checked his phone, and knew what he had to do.
The new member of the Washington Capitals detailed a tumultuous trade deadline, reflected on his time with the Detroit Red Wings, and revealed, unsurprisingly, that when one wakes up and see Steve Yzerman’s name on the mobile screen, there’s no lollygagging.
“I actually missed the phone call,” Mantha said Tuesday. “I woke up to a text saying, ‘Call me ASAP’ from Stevie.
“You just call him right away.”
Thus ended Mantha’s nearly eight-year association with the only NHL team he’d known. Yzerman shook up the rebuild in sending the highly skilled forward to the Capitals in exchange for a first-round pick in 2021, a second-round pick in 2022, and forwards Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik.
Mantha woke up Monday afternoon at the team hotel in Carolina. He was on his way to his new home while they were beating the Hurricanes, 3-1.
“It was hard,” Mantha said. “I made my way down to the rink just before they played just to say bye to everyone, grab my gear and off I went already. But obviously it’s guys I’ve been around for the past four to six years, and I made great friends down there. Obviously it’s hard to leave a team, but I’m excited for what’s ahead.”
The Wings drafted Mantha 20th overall in 2013. He was a hotshot junior player, coming off a 50-goal season with Val-d’Or. But his pro career, which began in 2014, was marked by ups and downs — there’s no question the 6-foot-5 winger is superbly talented, but he frustrated his bosses with stretches of lackadaisical play.
“It’s hard to leave a team like that, but I have great memories from draft day to my last game,” he said. “It’s going to be memories that are going to live on, and obviously I made some great friends down there. I’ll probably be in Michigan for the summer, so I’ll see those guys again, but from now on I’m a Caps player and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.”
For starters, it’s acclimating to getting ready for a playoff run, something Mantha never experienced with the Wings.
“I’ll be honest, it’s the first time I got traded in my hockey career, even in junior,” Mantha said. “I’ll just let it be. I’m a pretty chill person, so I think it’s going to be be pretty easy to hang out with a couple guys or whatnot. I’ll just let it be and hopefully it goes by quick.
“I think I can bring a lot of offense over here. The style of play that the Caps play I think I’ll fit just in. Obviously I am excited, I am going to play big-bodied, I am going to shoot a lot of pucks and try to make great plays.”
Mantha’s new teammates include Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and John Carlson; guys who were key parts of the 2018 Stanley Cup championship. In Mantha, the Caps get another big guy who they evaluate can help them make another long playoff run.
“He’s got size,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He can play the game fast. He’s got a great set of hands. … You go back and watch the way he plays the game and you can see the skill level, the size and speed. You can see it translate. He’s now in a situation where he’s here and we’re at the top of our division and it looks like we’re headed to the playoffs and going to get a chance to compete for a Cup. It’s a great opportunity for him to really come here and make his marks.”
A four-year, $22.8 million deal signed in the offseason showed the Wings wanted Mantha to make his marks in Detroit, but his uninspired play the first two months of the season led Yzerman to explore a trade.
That stunned Mantha.
“Obviously it was a surprise,” Mantha said. “I woke up from a pregame nap and all of a sudden I was traded. I just signed a deal in Detroit so I thought I was going to stay there a couple more years, but it is part of hockey, it is part of our life so a new beginning over here and I’m excited to join the Caps.”
A quick phone call with Yzerman ended Mantha’s tenure with the Wings: “He just told me I got traded, best of luck and thank you for everything I did in Detroit.”
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.