It was the day after Christmas, and Niclas Wallin was about to play his 500th game for the Carolina Hurricanes when the defenseman sat back to reflect and reminisce - on the Canes, his teammates, winning the 2006 Stanley Cup, the future.
"This is my team," he said. "I'm really proud of what I've been a part of here.
"It's been the best time of my life. I've got kids and that's the top of the mountain, but this has been a pleasure."
At the time, Wallin had given no thought to the notion he might play for a team other than the Hurricanes before the season ended - that he would be asked to waive the no-trade clause in his contract, again, and accept a trade that would make sense for the Canes, for himself.
But Wallin, for the first time in his career, now will wear another team's sweater. His days with the Hurricanes ended Sunday when he was sent to the San Jose Sharks along with the Canes' fifth-round pick in the 2010 NHL draft in exchange for the Buffalo Sabres' second-round pick.
The Sharks again should be Stanley Cup contenders. Only the Washington Capitals have a better record in the league.
"This is like winning the lottery," Wallin said Sunday. "I'm with a team obviously that has a chance to go all the way. I've been there, and there's nothing like it.
"I want to win. I want to win championships. I'm excited to be a piece of the puzzle."
The trade had been in the works for days, and Wallin, 34, would not say Sunday if he had been given a contract extension.
Few, if any, players have been more popular with his teammates than the affable Swede, nicknamed "The Secret Weapon" after three times winning playoff games with overtime goals. He played 517 regular-season games for the Canes, third among defensemen in franchise history.
"He's been here a long time, and we've been through a lot of games together," forward Rod Brind'Amour said. "He's just one of those guys you want on your team. A solid player and a good person to have around."
Brind'Amour joined the Canes in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2000, the year Wallin was drafted by Carolina. The two helped the Canes reach the 2002 Stanley Cup finals, win the Cup in 2006 and reach the Eastern Conference finals last season.
"That's probably why a lot of teams wanted him, because he's been there and knows what it takes to win," Brind'Amour said. "He adds great value to his team."
Center Matt Cullen said it would not be the same, on or off the ice, without No. 7.
"When you hear the term 'heart and soul' of a team, he's one of those guys who's such a big part of what we do," Cullen said. "He makes it fun to come to the rink every day, and his play speaks for itself."
Paul Maurice was the Canes' coach when Wallin first broke into the NHL in the 2000-01 season.
"He's always been a consistent face and a real consistent personality in our locker room," Maurice said Friday. "He's one of the good stories about drafting and developing a defenseman into being a good, solid member of our team but also a real good performer for us on the ice."
Wallin, 34, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. He has talked at times of taking his family back to Sweden, perhaps play a few more years there.
Wallin once was a part of other trade negotiations. In June 2007, just after the draft, he was asked to waive the no-trade clause and agree to a deal with the Sharks. That time, he decided to stay with Carolina.
"I stuck to my contract, and I thought I deserved that contract," he said. "But it's a business, and I understand things like that are going to happen."