Jamie Oleksiak returns to Dallas 7 weeks after trade to Penguins
Three days after standing ovations, tribute videos and even tears greeted a player making his return to his former team and city, the reunion that takes place Friday in Dallas doesn’t figure to be quite so moving.
“No, definitely not,” Penguins defenseman Jamie Oleksiak said with a smile. “ That was emotional.”
Before Tuesday, his first time visiting PPG Paints Arena as an opponent, Marc-Andre Fleury spent 14 years with the Penguins and won three Stanley Cups. Oleksiak’s 6½ years in the Dallas Stars organization weren’t quite as notable, and Oleksiak insists his return for Friday night’s game hasn’t been on his mind all that much. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be a nice piece of familiarity and nostalgia.
“It’s definitely been a game coming up that had got kind of a weird atmosphere around it,” Oleksiak said. “But I think the closer it gets, the more it kind of feels like you’re in the same routine.”
The No. 14 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Oleksiak was dealt from the Stars to the Penguins in exchange for a conditional fourth-round pick Dec. 19. After parts of six seasons with Dallas in which he never established a full-time role, Oleksiak has fit in seamlessly as a third-pair defenseman for the two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
Oleksiak has two goals, two assists and a plus-6 rating while averaging what would be a career-high 17 minutes, 50 seconds of ice time in 20 games for the Penguins.
“It’s been fantastic,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to know some guys coming in here already, and they just made that transition that much smoother. It’s been great, and I can’t say enough about how easy it’s been.”
Oleksiak still has a place in Dallas, one that he had to pack up quickly in December after the trade. Only recently did he secure a non-temporary residence in Pittsburgh: Thursday evening will be the first time he’ll see plenty of his belongings that have remained in Texas over the past seven weeks.
“I brought a big bag,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll get back to my old apartment and throw a bunch of stuff in there and bring it back with me.”