TAMPA, Fla. — It was one week ago the Tampa Bay Lightning lost one of their key contributors to their back-to-back Stanley Cup victories to the Seattle Kraken in the NHL Expansion Draft.
“Everything felt right here,” former Lightning forward Yanni Gourde told ABC Action News sports anchor Kyle Burger. “At first it was a little bit of a shock.”
It all started when Gourde received a phone call from Lightning general manager Julien BriesBois eight hours before the Expansion Draft.
“It was a quick call,” Gourde said. “He called me and told me he was going straight to the point. They picked you.”
The Kraken were allowed to pick one unprotected player from each NHL team, except the Vegas Golden Knights. The Bolts left several notable players exposed, so Gourde never thought he’d be gone.
“It was definitely surprising,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to get picked, especially with (Ondrej Palat) and (Alex Killorn) on the list. They’re great players, so I am definitely flattered that they picked me.”
Gourde finished the 2020-21 regular season with 17 goals and 36 points, ranking tied for second on the team for goals. He played every regular-season game for a second-straight season.
The Lightning locker room is a tight group of players. Gourde spent six seasons in the NHL, all with Tampa Bay. One of his first calls was to his buddy, former teammate Anthony Cirelli.
“I told Cirelli pretty quickly that I was going away. ‘No way, no way.’ Yeah, yeah way. ‘No way, no way.’ Yeah,” Gourde recalled the conversation. “It’s sad leaving your teammates, your brothers. These guys, I’ve been around them for a long time. All the guys texted me afterward. The amount of love and everything, it was great to hear from them.”
Gourde will make his return to Amalie Arena with Seattle on Nov. 26. He’s still not sure what type of reaction he’ll get from the fans. He will certainly be welcomed back.
“I can’t wait to play in that building again and play in front of those fans again,” Gourde said. “They might hate me, learn to hate me instead of loving me. It’s definitely going to be fun. I am a competitive player. I am going to play like that next year. Even if it’s my friends, I am not letting anyone off the hook.”
Friends who were bonded for life after winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.