A few hours after being acquired, Rick Nash walked into the Boston Bruins' dressing room and met his new teammates. The high-scoring winger knew he was in the right place.
"I've only been here for five minutes, and you can kind of sense that buzz and the energy that a winning team has," Nash said Sunday before making his debut against Buffalo. "I wanted to go to a place that wanted me and a place that had a great chance to win. I think Boston fits both those perfectly."
Already one of the NHL's elite teams, the Bruins bolstered their Stanley Cup chances by getting Nash from the New York Rangers and signing former Sabres captain Brian Gionta. Nash played in KeyBank Center while Gionta will join the Bruins at practice Tuesday.
Nash is expected to add scoring on the second line. Gionta, who just returned from the Olympics, will give the Bruins depth.
"We consider him obviously a proven NHL player," coach Bruce Cassidy said of Gionta. "I don't know him well enough yet to see where he fits. I know he just played in the Olympics, but he hasn't been playing all year, so where is his hockey stamina right now?
"The thing we do have is a lot of games in March, so we have plenty of time to see where these guys best fit."
The Bruins' fourth-line right winger against Buffalo was Noel Accieri, who has seven goals but just 87 games of experience. Gionta, who has played 1,006 games, can step in if any young players start feeling playoff pressure.
"It's a veteran guy, brings a lot of experience and grit for his size," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said of the 5-foot-7 winger. "He's been proven to be playing a physical game when it needs to be and also can make plays."
The 39-year-old Gionta turned down contract offers prior to the season in order to stay in Western New York with his family and captain the U.S. Olympic team. He signed for the rest of the season for a prorated $700,000.
"It wasn't that he didn't have opportunity to play this year," Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney said. "Maybe he just waited to see what clubs might have been in a position to be in a playoff race. We hope we continue to be one of those clubs. He's going to add to that."
The Bruins entered Sunday with a 37-14-8 record, their 82 points ranking third in the Eastern Conference and sixth in the NHL. They see a path to Cup contention.
"Our players have made a push, and we wanted to inch that along if we could and reward them in a way," Sweeney said.
Nash was one of the biggest rewards available on the NHL trading block. The 33-year-old has topped 30 goals eight times, and he had 18 goals in 60 games with the Rangers this season.
"We hope he's the impact player he has been," Sweeney said.
The Bruins gave up a ton to get Nash. The Rangers picked up a first-round pick in this year's NHL Draft, defenseman Ryan Lindgren, forwards Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey, and a seventh-round pick in 2019.
It should set the framework for a Buffalo trade involving Evander Kane, who long ago joined Nash on teams' wish lists. The NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. Monday.
"The team's had such a great year, you don't really want to ruffle any feathers," Nash said. "You just want to fit in and help wherever you can."
Story topics: Brian Gionta