Less than 24 hours after the trade, the 31-year-old left Winnipeg and had a brief layover at the Minnesota airport, where he got to see his wife at the gate for 20 minutes before he continued his journey to Boston to play for his third NHL team.
"She's about 33 weeks now, so she's coming down to the wire," Stafford said after he arrived in Boston. "She can't travel, so she's back home in Minnesota. She met me at the airport to say 'hi' quickly because I haven't seen her in a while. It was nice to catch up. She's doing good, and I'm obviously monitoring that. The family stuff is extremely important to me."
The trade deadline is a stressful time for players, but the personal pressure and anxiety they deal with often goes unnoticed because their teams are busy fighting for a postseason berth.
Sure, these players earn millions of dollars and have a good life by any measure. But that's small comfort, at least in the short term, to a young child whose father must leave suddenly and might not be home for months. It's also hard on spouses who have to uproot their entire family and force their kids to finish the school year in a strange place with no friends. Or the players who find out that they're changing jobs at the same time the rest of the world does.
Stafford experienced that first-hand, too. After spending his first nine seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Stafford was traded to the Jets on Feb. 11, 2015. He found out about the deal when he saw it reported on TV.
"It's crazy," Stafford said. "Sometimes nowadays you find out from social media."
This time was different for Stafford. Given his injuries and lack of playing time because of Winnipeg's young roster, he knew he could be on the move again. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and Stafford's agent informed Stafford of the trade. Because the call came right before the 3 p.m. ET deadline, he couldn't get a flight out that night and had to wait until the next day. After that brief reunion with Hali in Minnesota, where Stafford grew up, he arrived in Boston in time to watch his new teammates lose 2-1 to the New York Rangers.
"It's been a circus," he said last week. "Calling the family and making sure everything's OK back home, packing up out of Winnipeg. There's a lot of moving parts. But I'm excited to be here, excited to get going. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to help the team win."
Stafford's story is not unique. Future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla has been through it several times.
"It's definitely something that you don't get used to," said Iginla, who was traded from the Colorado Avalanche to the Los Angeles Kings just before the deadline. "There are all different types of situations. There are situations when guys get traded and don't expect it. Those are a lot more challenging."
His latest trade was not a surprise to the 39-year-old. Iginla knows his days in the NHL are numbered, but before he decides to hang up the skates, he wants a legitimate chance to finally win a Stanley Cup. Avalanche GM Joe Sakic understood that drive, so he found a deal that worked for both sides -- and Iginla was on his way to Los Angeles.
"I'm excited about the opportunity and my family is excited about it," Iginla said. "At the same time, it is an adjustment, and living away from them is not easy. It was great that there was a break in the schedule, so I was able to get home for a couple of days to pack some stuff and see the kids because I had already been gone for six days before the deadline."
Iginla faced a similar situation when he was dealt from the Calgary Flames, the team with whom he had spent the first 16 years of his career, to the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 28, 2013. He agreed to the trade because he felt that the Penguins could win the Cup that season, but the Bruins swept Pittsburgh in four games in the Eastern Conference finals.
"I was a little apprehensive before leaving Calgary because I had never done it and it was the unknown," Iginla said. "Once my family visited, it was a great experience. But it was tough to live away [from them]. I couldn't do it for a whole year. If it's only for a few months, and you make the playoffs and go all the way, it's doable."
He and his wife, Kara, have a 12-year-old daughter, Jade, and two sons, Tij, 10, and Joe, 8.
"The kids now are older and they're excited for me," said Iginla. "But it is challenging for my wife; she's trying to juggle all the activities. They're trying to come visit every few weeks, but they have school and their sports teams, so they just can't take off."
Of course, it will all be worth it for Iginla and his family if the Kings win the Stanley Cup this season.
The Bruins bought out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg's contract after the 2015-16 season. He and his wife, Rebecca, had called Boston home for seven years and he helped the Bruins win a Cup in 2011. His three kids grew up and went to school in the area. Seidenberg was without a job until the New York Islanders signed him to a one-year deal after the native of Germany played for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey in September.
"That was the hardest part, after living there for so many years and getting to know so many people, and having a network of friends. It was hard to leave, especially for the kids and all their friends," Seidenberg, 35, said. "When I got traded from Florida to Boston [in 2010], we only had one kid and she wasn't in school, so it wasn't too bad. But once you're in a spot for a long period of time, and you have success and get to know a lot of people, it's tough to leave."
Rebecca Seidenberg and the kids still visit Boston and stay in touch with their friends. The family's house is on the market but they haven't decided whether or not they'll end up living there in the future.
After Seidenberg arrived in Brooklyn, it was a bit of a shock because he was the new guy. After things settled down it became easier for his family and he was able to focus on hockey.
"Things are good," Seidenberg said. "It was tough in the beginning for my wife to get the kids settled into new schools and all their activities, but once that was figured out, it was easy. For guys adjusting to a new team and teammates, hockey is the easy part."