There was a time not long ago when Paul Stastny seemed a near-sure departure from Colorado once his contract expired following this season, or even sooner via a trade.
Today, the 27-year-old pending unrestricted free agent has 21 points (four last night) in 30 games and would be missed if he left the Avalanche, a team on pace to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
All of which begs some tough questions for Avs management. If the club wants to re-sign Stastny, how much is it willing to give him? His current cap hit is $6.6 million, a high number for a franchise with a budget, but one he’d probably get, or least approach, in free agency.
If, on the other hand, the Avs don’t feel they can get Stastny under contract at a number that works for both sides, do they try and get something for him prior to the trade deadline, or do they keep him for a playoff run and bid adieu in the offseason?
If Stastny stays, that means Nathan MacKinnon has to either play as a third-line center, or on the wing on a higher line. Either he won’t get great ice time as a third-liner, or he’ll get more, but play at an unnatural position.
The Montreal Canadiens have been scouting the Avs heavily all season, and I’m told they have been looking hard at Stastny. The Toronto Maple Leafs need a center badly, too, and you have to believe they’ve thought about making an offer. The list of teams who might give up a lot to get a potential UFA, though, is probably very small. It’s a tough thing, to get much in return unless the player is a bona-fide big star. Stastny doesn’t quite rise to that level.