Knights land Paul Stastny, Nick Holden to open free agency

Updated July 1, 2018 - 8:00 pm

Ryan Reaves helped protect playmaker Paul Stastny for three seasons in St. Louis.

The Golden Knights reunited the pair Sunday.

Stastny was the biggest acquisition announced on a busy first day of NHL free agency and gives the Western Conference champions depth and productivity at center.

The team also re-signed Reaves, who became a fan favorite in Vegas after being acquired at the trade deadline in February, and added veteran free-agent defenseman Nick Holden.

“I’d like to think we’re in a pretty good place,” general manager George McPhee said. “The issue is, do we sit back, see what develops, and if there’s anything that comes to us or there’s other opportunities? Or, do we dive into something else? I don’t know the answer to that right now.”

Stastny signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract, which makes him the Knights’ highest-paid player by annual average salary. Winnipeg tried to clear cap space but ultimately couldn’t afford to keep the 32-year-old.

Stastny posted 16 goals and 37 assists in 82 games with St. Louis and Winnipeg. He had six goals and 15 points in 17 playoff games with the Jets after being acquired at the trade deadline.

The Knights defeated Winnipeg in five games in the Western Conference Final.

”I was in a unique situation on wherever I decide to go,” Stastny said on a conference call. “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 hockey-wise, family-wise and everything in between.”

Stastny was regarded as the top free-agent center after John Tavares, who signed a seven-year, $77 million contract with Toronto in a blockbuster move Sunday.

Stastny spent his first eight seasons with Colorado before he signed as a free agent with the Blues in 2014. He has 220 goals and 646 points in 824 career NHL games.

Stastny’s father, Peter, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998.

“To have a guy like that come into our team, I’m excited,” Reaves said. “I think, the way he slows the game down, it opens ice up for his linemates. He’s going to do really well with whoever he plays with.”

Reaves turned down a three-year offer, believed to be from Calgary, to sign with the Knights for two years and $5.5 million.

McPhee said the Knights took the money the 31-year-old would have received in a three-year deal and gave it to him over two years.

“I had some good offers on the table,” Reaves said. “But I think, at the end of the day, I told management in Vegas during my year-end meeting that I wanted to be back. I like the culture of the team. I like where the team was headed.”

Reaves had 10 points and 94 penalty minutes in 79 games with the Knights and Pittsburgh last season. He added two goals in 10 postseason games, including the Game 5 winner at Winnipeg that sent the Knights to the Stanley Cup Final.

“He keeps the flies off the honey,” McPhee said. “When we first started with our club, I didn’t feel we needed that because we didn’t have stars to protect. And as the season got going and progressed, we had some players that turned out to be real good players.

“Some teams were playing us a little harder and a little chippier, and I thought we’re going to get something to make sure people don’t get too overzealous with our players.”

Holden, 31, was acquired by Boston from the New York Rangers a week before the trade deadline in exchange for defenseman Rob O’Gara and a third-round pick in the 2018 draft.

The 6-foot-4-inch Holden had four goals and 13 assists in 73 games and should compete as one of the Knights’ bottom six defensemen after the departure of free agent Luca Sbisa. The Knights also remain involved in trade talks with Ottawa to acquire all-star defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Holden signed a two-year contract worth $4.4 million.

“Everything stays the same on our defense and we like our defense,” McPhee said. “We have our shutdown guys, we have our speed guys, and we’re deep. We’d like to carry eight guys this year as we did last year because the young guys that we have need to play in the American (Hockey) League.”

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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