Mark Stone adapts to new surroundings with Golden Knights

Updated March 13, 2019 - 4:39 pm

Mark Stone doesn’t want his trade to the Golden Knights to change him as a person or a player.

That hasn’t stopped change from happening all around him.

Stone is learning a new system with new teammates in a new city, all while searching for a new neighborhood to live in. It’s been a whirlwind for the winger, who signed an eight-year extension worth $76 million with the Knights on Friday, as he navigates a situation unlike the one he left.

“I’m starting to settle in,” Stone said. “It’s been pretty easy so far. Teammates have been really good with me. You almost get that feeling that you’ve been here for a lot longer than you have. Even though I’ve been here for two weeks, I’m starting to get a lot of familiarity.”

Stone spent his entire career with the Ottawa Senators until the NHL’s Feb. 25 trade deadline, and he was prepared to stay beyond that. The 26-year-old had hopes the team that drafted him, that developed him, that celebrated him when he scored in Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final, was going to keep him.

That was not meant to be. The Senators, who are 51-84-17 since losing that series to the Pittsburgh Penguins, decided to move on. Stone sensed he was leaving by Feb. 22 and became excited once he heard the Knights were interested.

“I’ll always have a little soft spot in my heart for Ottawa, obviously,” Stone said. “But at the end of the day, not too many guys in this league get to play for the same team their whole career. I got pretty fortunate to be in the place I am now.”

Stone’s extension will make him the Knights’ highest paid player by $2.5 million next season, yet in many ways he faces less pressure with his new team. He’s no longer an assistant captain and he doesn’t have to face the scrutiny that comes with being a key player on a Canadian team.

Winger Max Pacioretty, who spent the first 10 seasons of his career with the Montreal Canadiens, called leaving a Canadian market “a huge change” and center Paul Stastny agreed.

“In Canada it’s always a little bit bigger, more intensified,” said Stastny, who spent part of last season with the Winnipeg Jets. “The biggest thing too in Canada is everything is hockey, hockey, hockey. Here, when the NFL is on the majority of ESPN is the NFL. It’s the exact opposite in Canada. The majority is about hockey.”

The Knights also don’t have to rely on Stone the way the Senators did. In Stone’s last game in Ottawa he skated on a line with two rookies, Brady Tkachuk and Colin White. With the Knights he’s played with Pacioretty and Stastny, who have a combined 24 seasons to their names.

“In Ottawa, those guys were relying on me to take charge in certain parts of the game, whether it’s faceoff plays, D-zone plays, things like that,” Stone said. “These guys just tell me, discuss what they want to do. It’s a little different in that aspect, but it’s nice to have a couple guys who can take charge.”

Stone doesn’t want to blend in just because he can, though. The winger knows his price tag, the 12th-highest cap hit in the league next season, comes with expectations. He’s ready to meet them.

“I still want to be relied upon,” said Stone, who has five points in seven games with the Knights. “I think every player wants to be like that. That part of the game doesn’t change for me.”

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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