11:20 AM: TSN’s Darren Dreger reports (Twitter link) that Stastny has agreed to sign a three-year contract with Vegas, while McKenzie later adds that the deal will carry an average annual value of $6.5MM.
8:13 AM: Even though there was a ton of speculation that Paul Stastny was headed back to Winnipeg—especially after the Jets cleared room by moving out Steve Mason’s $4.1MM cap hit—it seems there is a new contender for the veteran center. Bob McKenzie of TSN reports that the Vegas Golden Knights are the frontrunners for Stastny, who is one of the top free agents set to hit the open market.
Stastny, 32, is hitting free agency at a perfect time as he’s one of the few real top-six center options available behind John Tavares. That earned him a third-place finish on our Top 50 Free Agent list, and should provide a huge contract that will likely take him close to retirement. After being acquired midseason by the Jets, Stastny showed why he was well respected around the league with a solid 15 points in 17 playoff games. The veteran pivot anchored the team’s second line, and provided a boost to their special teams units. If he does end up in Vegas, he’ll be asked to do much of the same and replace some of the offense that the team seems set to lose with David Perron and James Neal.
With 53 points in 2017-18, Stastny actually registered a better offensive season than he’d had in several years, which may give pause to someone offering him a multi-year contract. There is a solid argument that Stastny will never hit the 50-point or 20-goal mark again, which adds some doubt to his effectiveness for Vegas or any other team going forward. The Golden Knights though shouldn’t be doubted, as under head coach Gerard Gallant last season almost every player on the roster achieved new heights in terms of offensive performance.
If Stastny does turn down Winnipeg and head to the desert, it will be interesting to see where the Jets move next. While they have plenty of cap space, they also have a huge amount of restricted free agents to sign this year and next. It’s possible they jump in on one of the other top free agent names, or potentially get involved in some of the high level trade discussions. Make no mistake, the Jets are in a win-now mode after their young team came together in 2017-18. Even without any additions they should be considered contenders, and with the prospect pool and cap space they still have, would be a tough team to write-off in any negotiation.