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Meet the New Guy: Getting to know Golden Knights center Paul Stastny

The Golden Knights signed center Paul Stastny to a three-year, $19.5 million contract Sunday. Stastny, formerly of the Avalanche, Blues and Jets, is coming off a solid 2017-18 campaign in which he scored 16 goals and 53 points in 82 games. Though he’s a bit older (he’ll turn 33 in December), Stastny figures to play a huge role for the Knights next season, especially with forwards James Neal and David Perron signing with the Flames and Blues, respectively.

With Stastny having played for two different teams last season, we reached out to Arctic Ice Hockey’s Derek Gagnon and St. Louis Game Time’s Dan Buffa for insight on what the veteran center brings to the table for the Golden Knights.

Gagnon’s thoughts

What are Stastny’s strengths?

The first two that immediately come to mind are his faceoffs and his ability to set up goals on the power play. He won 54.9% of the 1,515 faceoffs he took, which put him 20th in league efficiency for players with more than 400 faceoffs taken. His ability to play below the red line and set up one-timers in the slot or keep the cycle going on the power play is another strength. He is sound defensively, and doesn’t take many penalties.

What are his weaknesses?

He’s not getting any younger, turning 33 this December, and has not hit the 20-goal plateau since the 2013-14 season.

What’s he like in the locker room?

Highly intelligent, well-liked and respected. He stepped into a mentorship role with the Jets, playing between young stars in Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers, and that line was a thing of beauty. His knowledge, skill and experience are things anybody can lean on.

What made him expendable in free agency?

There was a lot of talk in the lead-up to July 1 that there was mutual interest in getting a contract done to keep him in Winnipeg. A trade was made to free up the necessary cap-space, but ultimately Stastny signed with Vegas. While Stastny was nice to have, Josh Morrissey, Jacob Trouba, Connor Hellebuyck and Patrik Laine are all due raises in the very near future, and the Jets are pretty close to the salary cap. So the summer time romance had to end.

How did Jets fans react to his departure?

I think there was a touch of resentment at first, especially with Vegas having knocked Winnipeg out of the playoffs, but once the details of the contract emerged, the consensus was that if the Jets were to offer Stastny that money and term, it would hamper their abilities to re-sign younger players who are RFAs or are soon-to-be RFAs.

Buffa’s thoughts

What are Stastny’s strengths?

Puck control and hockey IQ. For a center, Stastny always seems to control the puck, and that includes a 50% or greater faceoff win percentage in his last eight seasons. You don’t put up double-digit totals in goals and around 50-60 points over a career without being smart on the ice. Stastny doesn’t overextend himself, take bad penalties and leave his teammates out to dry. He’s still a valuable point guy and clubhouse leader.

What are his weaknesses?

He isn’t what he used to be, so expectations have to be tempered. Stastny is not going to be as explosive up the ice as he used to be, which comes with the age he’s in. Gone is the 70 point guy and settling in is a 50-55 point bet. When he came to St. Louis, Stastny was coming off a 25 goal season. Something he didn’t do with the Blues. So he is in decline. Keep expectations at a reasonable level.

What’s he like in the locker room?

When I got down there the past two seasons, he was always an inviting and open presence. Ready to joke around but also give a real and solid answer. Stastny doesn’t hide and isn’t afraid to crack a smile. With the family history and career he’s put together, this is a guy who walks into a locker room and respect is immediately given, but he doesn’t hold a ransom over a teammate to give it to him. Great guy in the room. Not as vocal as some, but present.

What made him expendable at the trade deadline?

Doug Armstrong saw a guy that he more than likely wasn’t going to re-sign or wasn’t immediately in his plans, so he wanted to find a way to get a return for a guy having a quality season. I do think there was a need to get him to a contender as well and get him in a good spot. The Blues weren’t in a surefire playoff spot, so I think Armstrong wanted to trade away a valuable asset while he had the chance. It wasn’t easy seeing him go.

How did Blues fans react to his departure?

Overall, I think they understood the reasoning behind it, but also regretted that he was going to a contender and not helping the Blues ascend. You’re talking about a team that fell one win shy of playoff entry. Towards the end, Stastny was missed out there, especially when other stars went into slumps. He was brought in to be that final piece for a Stanley Cup championship, but instead left before the end of his deal. Overall, Blues fans expected more from him and felt a little disappointed, but still were saddened when he left.

If you aren’t already, be sure to follow Gagnon (@DerekGagnon1) and Buffa (@buffa82) on Twitter for quality insight on the Jets and Blues.