With the free agency set to open on Friday morning, the Jets appear to strike a deal with veteran center Paul Stastny of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Teams don’t often get the chance to rewrite history, but a possible move by Stastny is interesting as he almost stayed with the Jets in the summer of 2018 before signing a three-year contract worth $ 19.5 million with the Golden Knights as an unrestricted free agent after helping Winnipeg reach the Western Conference final.
The Jets have put together a competitive package to retain his services, but Nevada is a tax-free state and the Golden Knights have satisfied another important category as a contender – having beaten Winnipeg in five games in that final of the Western Conference before losing the Stanley Cup to the Washington Capitals.
Fast forward two years and the Jets are still looking to fill a void with a second-row center.
Kevin Hayes and Cody Eakin were acquired on the last two NHL trade deadlines, but neither have enjoyed the same level of success as their predecessors.
While Cole Perfetti plans to eventually fill that second-row center role after the Jets picked him 10th in the 2020 NHL Draft, the addition of Stastny would provide a perfect bridge in the short term.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff took care of an important task on Wednesday, signing defenseman Dylan DeMelo to a four-year contract with a $ 3 million AAV to help stabilize the hindquarters.
Earlier this week, Cheveldayoff said the Jets still plan to be involved in trade talks and will explore the free agent market for potential additions and possibly a bargain or two of the deep variety.
Instead of going after a stand-alone agent like Alexander Wennberg, Erik Haula or Vladislav Namestnikov, the Jets appear to be focusing on a proven product at Stastny.
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The Golden Knights are facing a salary cap crisis, so the Jets are likely looking for a sweetener in the deal – which could delay things.
The Jets are familiar with such a deal, as they sent Joel Armia back to the Montreal Canadiens with goaltender Steve Mason in the summer of 2018 in a move that was designed to create the cap space needed to try and keep Stastny.
Vegas is also actively seeking a new home for goaltender Marc-André Fleury, with hopes the organization will race against coveted blue free player Alex Pietrangelo.
Moving Stastny is a logical way to do it, especially after the Golden Knights signed Chandler Stephenson to a four-year extension on Wednesday.
Vegas also has 2018 first round Cody Glass set to become a full-time NHL player and eat up some of the first six minutes available that Stastny’s departure would create.
With 17 players signed, the Jets have around $ 10 million in cap space, so they could absorb the $ 6.5 AAV remaining in the final year of Stastny’s deal.
Stastny was an unexpected addition for the Jets in 2018, when Blues general manager Doug Armstrong made the controversial decision to relocate the veteran with his team within reach of a playoff berth.
The move raised eyebrows at the time, but it accelerated a central overhaul for the Blues that included a trade for Ryan O’Reilly and the addition of Tyler Bozak in free agency.
St. Louis won the Stanley Cup in 2019, so Armstrong obviously knew what he was doing, even though it wasn’t a popular movement in Missouri at the time.
As for Stastny, he was a perfect fit in Winnipeg, making a smooth transition while playing mostly on the second row with Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers.
After giving up his no-move clause to join the Jets, Stastny scored four goals and 13 points in 19 games before adding six goals and 15 points in 17 playoff games.
For a young team with limited playoff experience, Stastny brought a lot to the table and one of his most important moments came on the road in Game 7 of the second round series with the Nashville Predators.
Stastny scored twice and added an assist in a decisive 5-1 victory over the Predators, who had won the Presidents’ Trophy.
A move for Stastny is not without risk, as he is set to turn 35 at the end of December.
Still, Stastny has produced 17 goals and 38 points in 71 games this season averaging 17:08 ice time (which was two minutes short of his career average).
A year earlier, Stastny averaged nearly one point per game (42 points in 50 games), but had missed 32 games with injury. But throughout his career, Stastny has been enduring and his intelligence allows him to be an effective player.
An exchange for Stastny in an attempt to rekindle some chemistry with Laine and Ehlers is a much better alternative for Cheveldayoff than moving Laine into a profession he might end up regretting.
Stastny is a highly analytical player who loves to talk about the game, which allowed him to quickly forge a friendship with Jets top center Mark Scheifele. Stastny is also close to Jets captain Blake Wheeler, and it’s possible these two could play together on a line at some point, much like they did in the 2012-13 lockout when they were teammates in Germany in the DEL with Munich EHC.
The importance of this in regards to Laine should not be overlooked.
This move would likely mean that Laine will be reunited with someone he’s been successful with, albeit in a limited sample.
While Laine probably still prefers the first few minutes (and still could get them), the gesture of acquiring Stastny would be appreciated.
The Jets’ power play has also been incredibly effective with Stastny playing on it – and it’s an area the team are looking to improve on again next season.
Add it all up and bringing in Stastny looks like a move that could end up paying some serious dividends for the Jets.
When you have a Vezina Trophy winning goalie in Connor Hellebuyck and many other important core elements locked in contracts that expire in four seasons, the time to try and build a winner is now and the addition of Stastny would speed up. this process.
This type of preemptive strike likely means the Jets will focus primarily on the periphery of the roster, although it is possible that they will be looking for additional help on the blue line to provide a safety valve for top prospects Dylan Samberg and Ville. Heinola – both. will be looking for a place in the top six this season.
In what is arguably his most important week at work since becoming general manager of the Jets in 2011, Cheveldayoff has already met his two most pressing needs.