WINNIPEG - He's back.
Two years after signing with the Vegas Golden Knights for three years at 6.5 million dollars per season, Paul Stastny is Manitoba-bound once again. The Winnipeg Jets dealt for the 14-year veteran on Friday sending defenceman Carl Dahlstrom and a conditional fourth round pick in 2022 to Vegas.
"My wife and I were pretty much ready for anything and then we kind of heard rumblings so we figured something would happen, We're hoping kind of that maybe if we did go somewhere that it would be back with the Jets," said Stastny via conference call.
"It came to fruition those rumours. I think we're excited. I think a little uncertainty for us is moving the kids out trying to figure out when the next season is going to start or how is it going to start? Is it going to be in a bubble or not? Stuff like that but hockey wise, going back to Winnipeg, we're all excited."
Video: ON THE LINE | Paul Stastny
You can understand why Stastny would be excited to get back with the Jets considering the run he went on with the team. Helping them finish second in the NHL standings with a franchise record 114 points and taking them to the Western Conference Final after coming over at the trade deadline in February of 2018.
"I had a good bond with a lot of those guys in Winnipeg so I've already talked to a bunch of them so I'm excited. You know also being able to play under Paul (Maurice). I've always respected him a lot as a coach and nothing but good things to say," said Stastny.
"I felt for the three or four months that I was there I learned to adapt as a player so with someone like that you can always evolve and keep getting better as a player and that's something I like to do."
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said conversations didn't really heat up with Vegas until the last 24 to 48 hours. Cheveldayoff really likes the fit of Stastny in his lineup.
"Whether it's free agency or trade, you have an opportunity to find a player that you know fits with you from a play standpoint, from a personality standpoint, just from a teammate standpoint and everything - you take that opportunity and jump at it," said Cheveldayoff.
"When I talked to him this morning I told him that we tried real hard to make it happen when he was here to stay here, it was more of a function of the business side of the game. Not a function of the desire of both sides to try and find something. We all understood that then and told him that we're obviously very excited to have him back with the Jets."
Stastny fit in nicely on the team's second line with Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers and believes the trio can have success again should they be reunited this upcoming season.
"Yeah that would be fun. I enjoyed playing with those guys a lot. You know, you hear different things but for me both guys want the puck, both guys are very dynamic offensively," said Stastny.
"That suits my game getting the puck to those guys as fast as I can and kind of creating space and room to give them that extra step to make plays happen."
This is the second time that the Jets have traded for Stastny and it's also the second time he arrives with a contract that is going to expire putting him as an unrestricted free agent. However, his expiring contract wont necessarily be a motivating factor going forward.
"I'm always trying to get better, always trying to find something to fuel the fire. That's always there and the love of the game is always there," said Stastny.
"For me it's just about getting better every day and when you're around other guys and when you play for different teams and you play against other guys, you find different factors that help you become a better player."
Stastny played 121 regular season games with the Golden Knights and recorded 30 goals, 50 assists and 80 points. He averaged almost a point a game in Vegas in 2018-19 but slipped back a bit last season production wise. The 34-year-old centre felt the chances were there especially playing on a line with Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty for the majority of his time with Vegas and finishing with Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault.
"I started off slow. I think I had a little injury in the summer. I maybe kind of expected things to happen from the year before which was a successful year. Then after that kind of the second half of the season I just felt really good out there and sometimes they're just not going in," said Stastny.
"The game is all about creating chances. The more momentum, the more chances you get, eventually they are going to go in. When you play for such a long time, you know you are going to have a year where it just doesn't go in and then you have a year where you don't have as many chances but things just go in. You don't call that lucky, if you've been around a long time things even out eventually."