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Golden Knights can use Cup Final loss as motivation, Haula says

Forward hopes addition of Stastny will help Vegas remain contender

by Jessi Pierce / Correspondent

EDINA, Minn. -- Erik Haula said he wants the Vegas Golden Knights to use the disappointment of losing in the Stanley Cup Final as extra motivation this season.

"It's kind of one of those things you don't even want to talk about," the forward said this week of the five-game loss to the Washington Capitals. "You just go about your days, but it's always going to be there. It's going to be in the back of your head until next season starts.

"But we just have to use it as fuel and get excited for next year."

Vegas, a group team made up largely of players discarded by other teams, won the Pacific Division and set several NHL records for first-year teams, including wins (51) and points (109). Haula said the chip on the Golden Knights' shoulders made them a team and gave them their own identity. But this season they will have a new look and may have to forge a new identity.

They signed center Paul Stastny but lost forwards David Perron and James Neal, who each played on a line with Haula but left as free agents. Perron signed with the St. Louis Blues, who selected him in the first round (No. 26) in the 2007 NHL Draft. He led the Golden Knights with 50 assists and had an NHL career-high 66 points (16 goals), then had nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 15 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Video: Haula on the Golden Knights' first season

Neal signed with the Calgary Flames. He had 44 points (25 goals, 19 assists) last season and 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 20 playoff games.

Perron and Neal, who have a combined 21 seasons of NHL experience, had 110 points (41 goals, 69 assists) last season for Vegas, which scored the fifth-most goals in the NHL (268).

"They were my linemates most of the year, so it's obviously tough to see them leave," the 27-year-old Haula said at Da Beauty League, a 4-on-4 summer league for players with connections to Minnesota (he played for the Minnesota Wild from 2013-17). "They helped build and lead this team in a lot of ways, so it's hard to replace. But that's how it goes, and everybody moves on. I'm happy they both got what they deserved, and just wish them well.

"Now we focus on next year and move on."

To that end, Haula said Stastny will add experience and offense. The 32-year-old signed with Vegas after he had 53 points (16 goals, 37 assists) with the Blues and Winnipeg Jets last season. He had 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 17 playoff games to help the Jets reach the Western Conference Final, where they lost to the Golden Knights in five games. Stastny has 646 points (220 goals, 426 assists) in 12 NHL seasons.

Vegas also signed defenseman Nick Holden, who replaces the departed Luca Sbisa.

The Golden Knights do have plenty of familiar players. Their top scorer, forward William Karlsson (78 points; 43 goals, 35 assists), is a restricted free agent with an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 4. Vegas returns forwards Jonathan Marchessault (75 points; 27 goals, 48 assists) Reilly Smith (60 points; 22 goals, 38 assists), goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who signed a three-year contract extension through the 2021-22 season, and forward Ryan Reaves, who re-signed.

"That's what we have to focus on right now, the strength and skill from the guys we do have," said Haula, who had NHL career highs in goals (29), assists (26) and points (55) last season. "[With Stastny] I don't know him personally, but just playing against him, he's hard to play against and he shows up in big games and he plays well, so he's a great veteran to add to our team.

"Plus we have some of the top forwards in the game. We'll have to see how it all goes. Just take it little by little and just try to get [off to] a good start. It'll be interesting to see. Last year nothing really got to us, we just kept playing hockey and hopefully we can continue that."

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