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Stastny signing another win for Golden Knights against Jets

Lure free agent center from Winnipeg after ending its season in Western Final

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The first day of NHL free agency produced another win for the Vegas Golden Knights against the Winnipeg Jets.

The Golden Knights, who defeated the Jets in five games in the Western Conference Final, signed unrestricted free agent center Paul Stastny to a three-year contract Sunday. Financial terms were not released.

 

[RELATED: Stastny signs contract with Golden Knights | Bozak signs contract with Blues]

 

Stastny, 32, finished the season with the Jets after being acquired in a trade from the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 26. He had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 19 regular-season games for the Jets and 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games. He had 40 points (12 goals, 28 assists) in 63 games with St. Louis last season and has 646 points (220 goals, 426 assists) in 824 games with the Colorado Avalanche, Blues and Jets.

Stastny said the Golden Knights and Jets each made a strong pitch to sign him.

"It was crazy," he said. "Saturday, everything kind of picked up. I was in a unique situation on wherever I decide to go, I knew it was two great teams and two great opportunities for myself and my family. It was a win-win there. In the end, sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling. Sometimes, it's just one of those things that is the best fit, hockeywise, familywise and everything in between."

Video: Discussing Stastny signing with the Golden Knights

Stastny said he liked what he saw from the Golden Knights in their first NHL season.

"I think they play such a high-paced game, aggressive, and everyone is involved in the game, not just one line," he said. "It's all four lines. When you teach that philosophy, you create a lot of chances, you create a lot of turnovers, which gets you the puck. I like playing (on) teams that are aggressive and play on their toes and teams that aren't afraid to make mistakes. That was big.

"Just looking at the kind of players that they have, a lot of speed, a lot of goal-scorers, and that to me, I feel I fit well with that."

Vegas general manager George McPhee said he had coveted Stastny for some time.

"He's a really talented, skilled guy," McPhee said. "He's a playmaker and you always want playmakers. It's hard for goal-scorers to score if they don't have playmakers. He does that. He's a real good person, good solid pro. We do like having centers. You can move centers around the lineup, you can have centers on the wing, you can't get wingers to play center."

Stastny improves the center depth of the Golden Knights, who were fifth in the NHL in scoring last season (3.27 goals per game). William Karlsson, who's a restricted free agent, was center on the top line in 2017-18. Already signed for this season are Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan Carpenter.

Stastny played almost exclusively with wings Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers for Winnipeg.

Video: Paul Stastny on signing with the Golden Knights

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff tried to make his acquisition of Stastny more than just a rental but came up short, mainly because he has a limited amount of space under the NHL salary cap.

"I haven't had a chance to speak with Paul, but I know it was a very difficult decision for him given the length of time we talked about things," Cheveldayoff said.

The Jets have seven players who are RFAs, including goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who was a Vezina Trophy finalist, and top-pair defensemen Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey.

Cheveldayoff made a move Saturday to clear some cap space to help his bid to re-sign Stastny, trading goalie Steve Mason, restricted free agent forward Joel Armia and two draft picks to the Montreal Canadians for minor league defenseman Simon Bourque.

"We were able to cross the first hurdle and try and create the ability to just speak with [Stastny] when we made the move to clear some cap space," Cheveldayoff said. "If we were fortunate enough to have gotten him, there would have been a lot more surgery that would have been needed on the roster as well. It was never a situation about willing to pay or do anything like that. It was what we were able to do. While we offered the same term, obviously it wasn't the same money."

Cheveldayoff said the Jets went as far as they could to sign Stastny.

"We put our best foot forward and maybe even six inches beyond even our best foot to make sure that we would have no regrets if it wasn't good enough," he said. "Because at the end of the day, it was just a reality of what we could or couldn't do given the good problems that we have in front of us in keeping this solid team together."

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