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Stastny ready to help Jets soar

After waiving no-trade clause to join Winnipeg, center already fueling hopes of long playoff run

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- Center Paul Stastny wasn't only traded to the Winnipeg Jets on Monday; he waived his no-trade clause with the St. Louis Blues to make it happen.

That's a big deal to the Jets.

"It's huge for the team, for the city, for the organization," Jets center Mark Scheifele said. "I think it just shows by us playing well, it's going to attract players.

"That's something that speaks for the organization, for the guys that have been playing this year. It shows we have a good team, a tight-knit team, a good organization behind us. To pull in someone to waive his no-trade clause is big for us as a group."

Stastny, 32, came to the Jets for a first-round draft pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, prospect forward Erik Foley and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft.

Video: How do you feel about Stastny moving to Winnipeg?

Winnipeg, which has made the playoffs once since relocating from Atlanta before the 2010-11 season, has not been considered an attractive destination for players with no-trade clauses.

"It's not an easy decision," said Stastny, who had a goal, an assist and won 14 of 19 faceoffs in 14:23 of ice time in his first game with the Jets, a 6-5 loss against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. "As you get older, you realize you want to win and you have to make tough decisions in life.

"I honestly believe something good is going to come out of this. I won't have any regrets. When you have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup and win, you've got to take that opportunity."

The Jets are second in the Central Division (37-17-9, 83 points), four points behind the first-place Predators and four ahead of the third-place Minnesota Wild.

"The sales pitch was good, but I didn't need that," Stastny said. "I know what I'm getting into. I've played against teams and talked to different players, talked to [Jets forward Blake Wheeler]. They all have the mindset that they want to win and they want me here. If I can be a piece to that puzzle, I'll be happy."

When Stastny was trying to decide to waive his no-trade clause, he spoke with Wheeler, his United States teammate at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

He also had others he could talk to; Stastny played with Jets forward Matt Hendricks with the Colorado Avalanche during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. His best friend on the Blues, forward Alexander Steen, is the son of former Jets center Thomas Steen, and was born in Winnipeg. Another former Blues teammate, forward Chris Thorburn, played for the Jets from 2011 until last sesaon, when he signed as a free agent with the Blues on July 1.

Stastny's older brother, Yan Stastny, 35, played part of the 2009-10 season in Winnipeg with Manitoba of the American Hockey League. His father is Hall of Fame center Peter Stastny, and his uncles, Anton Stastny and Marian Stastny, are former NHL forwards; the three were linemates for four seasons with the Quebec Nordiques from 1981-85.

"I think it was good to have family that I could sit back and talk to about different things, whether it was my dad or my brother or [Alexander Steen], or talking to Thorburn," Stastny said. "It's a small hockey community, right? Word travels fast and I know a lot of different people in this League that reached out to tell me things."

He said the first game should clear the way for a better comfort zone with his new team in the final five weeks of the regular season.

"I didn't sleep that much last night," he said. "This afternoon I didn't sleep a wink.

"I was more anxious, nerves and excitement. I was just happy once I got that first shift out of the way. Then to me, it just felt like home."

On a second-period power play, Stastny made a perfect pass to set up Scheifele, who scored his 21st goal of the season.

Video: NSH@WPG: Stastny scores his first goal with the Jets

In the third period, Stastny took linemate Nikolaj Ehlers' pass low near the goal line and beat Predators goalie Pekka Rinne on the short side for his 13th goal of the season.

Stastny took his even-strength shifts with Ehlers and Patrik Laine.

"The big question was how Paul Stastny fit with the two young guys," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "It was quite a bit better than I would have hoped for in the first game. And it's not the goals, it's that they were really good at both ends of the rink.

"Face-offs obviously really help and real smart centermen can make some plays, but as they got a little more comfortable with each other, I think they also got a little excited. [Nashville is] a tough team defensively. They don't give you a whole heck of a lot, but they were able to generate some pretty good looks and some pretty good chances."

Wheeler said he thought Stastny played great.

"They moved the puck well, seemed to read off each other well," Wheeler said. "To come in, after what he's been through in the last 48 hours, and play the way he did, unreal on draws, goal and an assist. What more can you ask for?"

Stastny said results will be his focus in Winnipeg.

"I'm happy with my play, but there's obviously parts where it could have been better," he said. "I'm always going to critique myself like that, but in the end, I judge our play by getting wins or losses, or at least forcing that point."

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