LAS VEGAS — It takes about four to five hours to drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, depending on where you start the journey from and what time of the day you leave.
For Jonathan Quick, it took longer than usual.
“I got caught in the rush-hour traffic,” said the 37-year-old veteran goaltender who admitted to committing a rookie mistake.
But Quick made it to Southern Nevada in time to get to work Friday for his new job — goaltender for the Vegas Golden Knights as he was on the ice at City National Arena for the morning skate prior to the evening’s game against New Jersey. Quick had spent his entire 16-year NHL career with the Los Angeles Kings and then found himself getting traded twice within 48 hours. First, he was sent to Columbus Tuesday as part of a deal that saw goalie Joonas Korpisalo go to L.A. Then on Thursday, the Blue Jackets traded Quick to the Golden Knights for a 2025 seventh-round draft pick and goalie Michael Hutchinson while retaining 50 percent of Quick’s $5.9 million salary.
That long drive gave Quick time to think and contemplate his future while perhaps recall the past. Maybe by the time he reached Zyzzyx Road on Interstate 15 he had put L.A. in his mental rear-view mirror.
“There’s a ton of emotions, obviously, considering how much time my family and I spent there,” Quick said. “At the end of the day, they made the decision that was best for their team.”
His new team was excited to have him.
“He’s the most competitive guy; he’s a gamer,” defenseman Alec Martinez said of his former L.A. teammate and roommate from the minors. “To get a guy like that, I never thought it would happen. But the hockey world is a strange world.”
Brayden McNabb, another former teammate of Quick with the Kings, said: “He’s got this cool, calm, demeanor. He’s a workhorse. I think he’s going to fit in here great.”
Quick said his new teammates and coaches made him feel at home the moment he stepped into City National Arena, the team’s practice facility in Summerlin.
“They’ve been very welcoming,” Quick said. “It definitely helps to see some familiar faces — Marty (Martinez), Nabber (McNabb), Hutty (Ben Hutton), Ammo (Michael Amadio) and (coach) John Stevens. I just want to fit in and help these guys as much as I can.”
Coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t want to place a firm timeline on when Quick will make his Golden Knights debut. It could come as early as Sunday against Montreal at T-Mobile Arena. Or perhaps on the upcoming five-game road trip through the south, midwest and east.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Cassidy said. “He got on the ice today and got familiar with what we do. We’ll practice tomorrow and go from there. He just has to get in there and live it and be part of the group.”
For Quick, this was a new experience. He had spent his entire NHL career with one team — the Kings — and he’s obviously seen many of his teammates get traded. But now that it has happened to him, he said it was a different experience.
“It’s still a shock when you get the call,” he said. “You have so many things going through your mind.”
In Quick’s case, he was traded twice. But he was grateful to the Blue Jackets for getting him to a West Coast team and a winning organization.
“I can’t thank Jarmo (Kekalainen, CBJ’s general manager) enough for the way he handled things,” Quick said. “He was totally professional and I really appreciate it.”
For Quick, the trade to Vegas a represents a chance to prove he can still play in the NHL at a high, successful level. His numbers have been in decline for a while and he has really struggled this season. In 31 appearances, Quick is 11-13-4 with a 3.50 goals-against average and an .876 save percentage. Of the 50 goalies in the NHL, only Vancouver’s Spencer Martin has a lower save percentage (.871) than Quick, who said he’s willing to make adjustments to his game if necessary.
“I’ve talked to Burkie (goaltending coach Sean Burke),” he said. “I’m genuinely open to constructive criticism. And I’m looking forward to working with him. He’s been around the game a long time.
“There’s different reads and a different system to learn. But at the end of the day, it’s five guys in front of me and five guys against me trying to score.”
The change of scene appears to have already had a positive effect on Quick.
“It’s genuine excitement,” Quick said. “It’s a great group of guys and I already feel comfortable. You want to win your division, you want to win in a playoff series and ultimately win 16 games. I hope to be able to help them any way I can.”
Quick may not know his way around Las Vegas yet. But he does know how to get to the rink.
“I remember when we opened T-Mobile with the Kings (against Dallas in 2016), so I know where the home locker room is,” he said.