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Erik Haula: “I think of myself as a top-six forward” for Golden Knights

Despite additions of Stastny, Pacioretty, Vegas center doesn’t see himself playing any other position or dropping a line.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Winnipeg Jets at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights now have Max Pacioretty on their roster. We’ve covered that adnauseam over the last few days. He’s also getting a hefty payday of $7 million per year over the next four seasons. He’s expected to be a top-six player for Vegas.

Couple that with the addition of Paul Stastny this summer, and the Golden Knights have presented themselves with an interesting predicament — what to do, and where to play, Erik Haula.

Haula is coming off a career-high 29 goals last season as Vegas’ second-line center. The addition of Stastny (a center), Pacioretty (a scoring wing) and the development of Alex Tuch (a power forward) has created a logjam at the line Haula centered last year.

Participating at the Golden Knights’ charity golf tournament at Bear’s Best Las Vegas on Tuesday, Haula spoke for the first time since the end of last season. He said he’s a fan of Vegas acquiring Pacioretty, but hasn’t even thought of changing positions with the first day of on-ice training this Friday.

“I’ve always been a center,” Haula said. “I’m not going to go into training camp thinking anything. I think of myself as a top-six forward and that’s my mindset going into camp.”

Haula was selected by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft from the Minnesota Wild. He capitalized on the increased role given to him last year, totaling 55 points and led the Golden Knights with 12 power-play goals.

Vegas had to fill the voids left by Haula’s linemates, Jame Neal and David Perron, when they signed with Calgary and St. Louis respectively this summer. General manager George McPhee was not pleased with the overall effort of the Golden Knights’ second line last year, prompting those acquisitions.

“I think we worked well together,” Haula said of he, Neal, and Perron. “We played well together and had some success. We definitely complemented each other well.”

There is a chance Haula will drop to the third line, and could possibly switch to wing if coach Gerard Gallant feels Cody Eakin is a better two-way option in the middle. Haula goes from playing with two proven veteran playmakers, to not knowing where he’ll lineup or who he’ll play with.

“It’s fun to find new ways to make that chemistry with new guys,” Haula said. “From what I’ve seen from Paul and seeing him as a player, and Max, however it’s going to shape out, there’s a lot of good players to play with.”

Haula has two years remaining on his current deal with an AAV of $2.75 million. He hasn’t been linked to any other Vegas trade discussions, but it’s a situation to monitor if the projected new role doesn’t fit.