Golden Knights land veteran center Paul Stastny, re-sign Ryan Reaves
LAS VEGAS — One year ago, the Vegas Golden Knights were in the midst of forming their first team. On Sunday, they were in the middle of the free-agent market as they look to fine-tune the roster for another run at the Stanley Cup Final.
The defending Western Conference champions signed veteran forward Paul Stastny to a reported three-year, $19.5 million contract, hours after losing David Perron.
Stastny totaled 53 points (16 goals, 37 assists) in 82 games last season, appearing in 63 games with the St. Louis Blues before being acquired by the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 26. During the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, the 32-year-old Quebec City native recorded 15 points (six goals, nine assists) and helped Winnipeg reach the Western Conference final before losing to Vegas in five games.
“Sometimes you gotta go with your gut feeling. Sometimes it's just one of those things that it's best fit hockey-wise, family-wise and everything in between,” Stastny said during a conference call Sunday. “They always played such a high, kind of fast-paced game, aggressive, everyone involved, not just one line, all four lines involved.”
During his 12-year NHL career, Stastny has 220 goals and 426 assists, with the 646 points ranking 33rd among active players.
The addition of Stastny figures to take some pressure off top-line scorers William Karlsson, a restricted free agent who is expected to ink a new deal with Vegas, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith.
“We have had our eye on him for quite a while. He's a really talented, skilled guy. He's a playmaker, and you always want playmakers,” Golden Knights general manager George McPhee said. “We do like having centers, because you can move centers around the lineup, have centers on the wing. You can get wingers to play center ... but they're not very good.”
The second-year team also locked up bruising forward Ryan Reaves, who was acquired in a trade with the Penguins in February and proved to be an asset during the playoffs, and came to terms with free-agent defenseman Nick Holden, who McPhee said will fit in nicely after the departure of free agent Luca Sbisa.
“It basically keeps the construction of our defense intact,” McPhee said. “Luca has moved on, we thought (Holden) would fit really well in that spot. Everything stays the same on our defense. We have our shut down guys, we have our speed guys and we're deep.”
Both Reaves and Holden's two-year contracts are reportedly worth a little more than $2 million per season.
McPhee said the team also has signed forwards Brandon Pirri, Daniel Carr, Alex Gallant and Curtis McKenzie, defenseman Jimmy Oligny and goaltenders Maxime Lagace and Zach Fucale.
Meanwhile, after turning in a career season with the Golden Knights, Perron agreed to a four-year, $16 million contract to return to the St. Louis Blues, while veteran forward James Neal, an unrestricted free agent, remained in limbo. Neal, who finished with 25 goals and 44 points in 71 games at the end of his six-year, $30 million deal, is 31 years old and is looking for a longer-term contract than the Golden Knights were reportedly willing to offer.
“We're still talking to people and we'll see how things develop,” said McPhee, who added the team is still negotiating with the 31-year-old Neal. “We're trying to be a little more circumspect, and it looks like the league is trying to do that. That's why we went three years on Stastny, Reaves was two years. We're okay giving term to younger guys but older guys you gotta be careful.”