Striking fast like lightning, it certainly didn’t take the Winnipeg Jets very long to locate a second-line center to replace Bryan Little, who’s likely played his final NHL game, and the team was able to acquire a familiar face to take over that role.
Looking to make a move on the eve of free-agent frenzy, multiple reports started circulating about a potential reunion in Manitoba with center Paul Stastny and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff finalized the trade before free agency opened at 12:00 pm ET on Friday. Along with absorbing his entire $6.5 million salary, the Jets sent defenseman Carl Dahlstrom along with a conditional 2022 fourth-round selection to complete the deal with the Vegas Golden Knights.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) October 9, 2020
Even though taking on the final year of Stastny’s deal eats up plenty of Winnipeg’s cap space, this acquisition definetly fills a massive hole within the team’s top-six forward group, which was one of their major goals to accomplish this offseason. While the front office still has a ton of work ahead of them, it’s very impressive they found a way to address one of their biggest concerns on the first day of free agency.
Adding to this accomplishment, bringing the veteran center, who enjoyed a successful 2017-18 season with the Jets, back for a second tenure could prove to be extremely valuable for two of the team’s top young forwards. While the 34-year old only spent half a season in the “True North,” he was still able to create strong relationships with most of his teammates, especially with forward Patrik Laine.
Coming over from the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline, Stastny and Laine shared the same line together and quickly formed a solid bond, which undoubtedly helped the Finnish native generate the best statistical performance of his four-year career in the NHL. Since these two players are expected to be lined up alongside each other next season, along with forward Nikolaj Ehlers, the former Golden Knight admitted he’s excited to be back and will be doing everything he can to help his linemates improve on and off the ice.
"He's already taken his game to another level."
Paul Stastny says he'll do everything he can to help Patrik Laine but that Laine doesn't need him to be an impact player.
— Murat Ates (@WPGMurat) October 9, 2020
It’s no secret the Jets were listening to offers on Laine over the last few weeks and were willing to move him for the right price, likely for a top-two blueliner, but acquiring Stastny probably signals the end of those potential trade discussions, for now at least. While the former second-round pick is slated to enter his age-35 season in 2021, the Quebec City native certainly proved he still deserves to be considered a top-six forward and should be able to help this team moving forward, however long his tenure lasts.
Over his 71 games in 2019-20, the left-handed center averaged 17:08 minutes of ice time, producing 17 goals (most since 2016-17), 0.24 goals per game, 38 points, 0.54 points per game, 136 shots on net, 63 hits (most since 2010-11), 41 takeaways, 32 blocks, along with a 54.8% faceoff percentage.
Making an impact during Vegas’ playoff run, the 6-foot forward averaged 16:37 minutes of ice time, creating three goals, nine points, 45 shots on net (playoff career-high), 28 hits, 13 blocks, five takeaways, and a 50.8% faceoff percentage through 18 postseason contests.
Based on these results, along with his ability to stay healthy in two of his last three seasons, there should be very little debate about whether Stastny can make a positive impact during his 15th campaign in the NHL. Serving as a quality facilitator for teammates Laine and Ehlers, this should now provide Winnipeg with two equally impressive top lines that can carry the offensive load throughout next season.
Along with solidifying the Jets’ top two five-on-five lines, this trade also strengthens their special teams units, as Stastny is expected to center both of the team’s second powerplay and penalty killing lines. While his skating isn’t where it was earlier in his career, he’ll still be relied on during three-on-three action in overtime if those situations present themselves.
While this offseason is just a few weeks old, this trade could prove to be Winnipeg’s biggest move of the winter, as it puts them in a great position to compete for a playoff spot once again next season. Though the regular season is still months away, Day 1 of free-agent frenzy has certainly increased the anticipation for the 2020-21 campaign in Manitoba.