The Review-Journal presents its “Roster Review” series, which will examine each Golden Knights player’s current production and future outlook in alphabetical order. Thursday: Center Paul Stastny.
The Golden Knights looked across the ice in the 2018 Western Conference finals and saw something they were missing.
The Winnipeg Jets had an unselfish center who could provide value at both ends of the ice, help on all special teams units and take important faceoffs at the end of games. The Knights didn’t. So they signed him.
Paul Stastny got a three-year deal to come to Las Vegas last summer and made an immediate impact. He and longtime friend Max Pacioretty — another Knights newcomer — formed the backbone of a solid second line. It got even better when Mark Stone arrived at the trade deadline.
Stastny, Pacioretty and Stone were unstoppable in the 2019 playoffs. Their line combined for 13 goals in a seven-game series against the San Jose Sharks, with Stastny scoring two.
The rest of the team had 12.
Stastny, despite his line’s April dominance, was separated from Pacioretty and Stone when the season began.
The veteran was instead moved to third-line center with Cody Eakin injured. The shift, while not ideal for Stastny, gave the lineup more depth and helped rookie Cody Glass acclimate to the NHL between Pacioretty and Stone.
Stastny’s offensive numbers suffered because of the lesser role. He also hinted in December that he was slowed early by an offseason injury. But when he returned to the top six, the 34-year-old showed he’s still as effective as ever.
Stastny, Pacioretty and Stone had spectacular numbers when they reunited. Their line has a 63.61 scoring-chance percentage and 65.50 high-danger scoring chance percentage at five-on-five this season.
Stastny also has been plenty good with a different top line. Coach Pete DeBoer put him between Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith on Jan. 31, and they have outscored opponents 12-5 at five-on-five.
“He’s the kind of guy that has success with anybody,” Marchessault said after Stastny moved to his line. “He’s so smart, so poised with the puck. He makes your life easier on the ice. He’s always in the right spot. He’s a world-class player. We’re lucky to have him.”
The Knights might stop and think about Stastny’s future this offseason.
He’s under contract one more season with a $6.5 million cap hit. That’s fine for a still-productive player in a top-six role, but the team has shown in the past year that it’s unafraid to trade centers — a current organizational strength — for salary cap relief and draft picks. Erik Haula and Cody Eakin were traded in the last year of their deals.
Stastny might be different. He’s the best of the three and is still playing well on a Stanley Cup contender. And Glass, his possible successor, is recovering from a right knee injury.
It would make sense for both sides to play things out for another year. But that doesn’t mean alternatives won’t at least be explored.
Paul Stastny file
Birthplace: Quebec City, Canada
2019-20 stats: 71 games, 17 goals, 21 assists