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Team Reset

Golden Knights sign Stastny, aim to build off historic inaugural season

Center projected to skate on second line, help replace Neal, Perron

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Vegas Golden Knights:

The Vegas Golden Knights added free agent center Paul Stastny this offseason after losing top-six forwards James Neal and David Perron from the most successful expansion team in NHL history.

Nick Holden replaces Luca Sbisa at defenseman, but the rest of the roster remains the same after Vegas lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Washington Capitals in five games.

 

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Leading scorer William Karlsson, who had 78 points (43 goals, 35 assists), remains a restricted free agent with an arbitration hearing scheduled, and defenseman Shea Theodore also is an RFA. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury signed a three-year, $21 million contract extension after the 33-year-old had his NHL bests in goals-against average (2.24) and save percentage (.927).

Here is what the Golden Knights look like today:

Key arrivals

Paul Stastny, F: The 32-year-old signed as a free agent July 1 and slots as the second-line center behind Karlsson. That could bump Erik Haula to left wing, replacing Perron. Stastny is skilled, cerebral and strong at both ends of the ice. He had 53 points (16 goals, 37 assists) for the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets last season, and won 53.8 percent of his face-offs, better than any Vegas player who took more than 65. … Nick Holden, D: The 31-year-old signed as a free agent July 1 and takes Sbisa's spot on the third pair. He had 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 73 games with the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins last season after setting NHL career highs in goals (11), assists (23) and points (34) with the Rangers in 2016-17.

Video: Stastny on inking a deal with the Golden Knights

 

Key departures

James Neal, F: He'll be missed as a leader on and off the ice. Not only did he score 25 goals in 71 games, he helped give the Golden Knights an identity when he dubbed them the "Golden Misfits" after the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft and set the bar high when he talked about making the Stanley Cup Playoffs as early as training camp. But Vegas was reluctant to give long-term contracts to older skaters, and Neal, who turns 31 on Sept. 3, signed a five-year, $28.75 million contract with the Calgary Flames as a free agent July 2. … David Perron, F: He led the Golden Knights with 50 assists and had an NHL career-high 66 points despite missing 12 games. The 30-year-old signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Blues as a free agent July 1. … Luca Sbisa, D: The 28-year-old had 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 30 games for the Golden Knights. He remains an unrestricted free agent.

 

On the cusp

Erik Brannstrom, D: The No. 15 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft is probably the closest to the NHL of the Golden Knights' prospects. But the 18-year-old is unlikely to make the NHL this season, and it is unclear where he will play. He had 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in 44 games for Jonkoping of the Swedish Hockey League last season.

 

What they still need

Another scoring forward. The risk is that Stastny and Tomas Tatar, who was acquired in a trade from the Detroit Red Wings prior to the NHL Trade Deadline last season, won't offset the loss of Neal and Perron, and others won't score like they did last season.

 

Fantasy focus

The Golden Knights were one of the most surprising fantasy storylines last season with forwards Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault (75 points; 27 goals, 48 assists) having breakout performances. They each finished ranked among the top 30 in Yahoo despite going undrafted in most leagues. The question is whether they'll be able to sustain their success this season. Karlsson scored 43 goals last season, shooting an unsustainable 23.4 percent, meaning a natural regression is likely. Karlsson (selected 56th) and Marchessault (86th) each fell in NHL.com's first mock draft and could see similar results in their Yahoo average draft positions. The two will likely return fair value if selected outside the first five rounds. -- Rob Reese

 

Projected lineup

Jonathan Marchessault -- William Karlsson -- Reilly Smith

Erik Haula -- Paul Stastny -- Tomas Tatar

William Carrier -- Cody Eakin -- Alex Tuch

Tomas Nosek -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Ryan Carpenter

Brayden McNabb -- Nate Schmidt

Shea Theodore -- Deryk Engelland

Nick Holden -- Colin Miller

Marc-Andre Fleury

Malcolm Subban

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