It’s the deadline deal that materialized underneath the noses of everyone in the hockey world.
No one thought about it. Why would they?
The St. Louis Blues, despite a couple of bad losses starting with the one at home to the Winnipeg Jets, was still in the thick of the playoff hunt.
No one had the scoop, either. How could they?
Both teams displayed an impressive level of leakage control, rumored to be due largely in response to the Vegas Golden Knights (Winnipeg’s opponent in the Western Conference Final) meddling in a deal that may or may not have sent Derick Brassard to the Jets in the days leading up to Feb. 26.
The deal also happened very quickly.
The Blues dropped back-to-back 4-0 decisions, the aforementioned one to Winnipeg that put Blues GM Doug Armstrong’s hand on the phone and the other to Nashville, which made him pick it up and dial Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s number.
Paul Stastny, the centerpiece of the deal, didn’t have much time to review the situation and even less to make a decision.
To head to Winnipeg, he’d be essentially giving up on the Blues and waiving his no-trade clause.
“I knew we had a good team, knew that if we were going to do anything, we were going to play Nashville in the second round,” Stastny said on Thursday following Winnipeg’s Game 7 win against the Nashville Predators that thrust Stastny’s team into the Western Conference Final. “I think you knew that was going to be and we came out on the winning side. I had faith, playing against both these teams, both top-notch teams, I fit in nicely here in Winnipeg. When you have four different lines that can play, there are nights I play 10 minutes and there are nights where I play 20 minutes. A lot of teams just can’t do that because they’re not as deep.”
Stastny was the depth the Jets needed down the middle. But perhaps most importantly, Stastny provided a perfect fit in between two of Winnipeg youngest and brightest stars — Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers.
“The first word would be ‘hoped’ … and ‘are ecstatic about’ would be (next),” Jets coach Paul Maurice said about the before-and-after of the trade. “He’s produced big numbers and big plus-minus with two very young players on his wings, and played against good lines. His hockey sense is just off the charts on how to play under guys, when to get above them, when to make a play, when to not make a play. It’s a great learning experience for those two young players.”
Stastny’s impact has certainly been far-reaching.
“The biggest thing he brought to this team is just (he’s) a great professional,” Jets forward Mark Scheifele said. “Obviously, he can share his stories, he can share his experiences with all of us, especially the young guys. His game did all the speaking, especially [in Game 7]. He played unbelievable. That line got us going in the game and got a big goal on the power play as well. I think it’s just the person he is. He leads by example, does all the right things on and off the ice and that stuff just gets rewarded.”
Stastny had earned the nickname Mr. Game 7 prior to Thursday’s win with his five points in three games and a 2-1 record, the only Jets player to with more Ws than Ls. And he lived up to his billing after his three-point performance that helped send the Predators crashing out of the playoffs. Stastny has four goals and four assists in his four Game 7s now, a remarkable two points per game average.
Simply, he’s clutch, both on the ice, as evidenced in Game 7 and well before that, and off it, as echoed by Cheveldayoff.
“Some of his best performances are things none of us get to see and really happen inside the dressing room and on the plane and sitting beside the players, just the experience that he has,” Cheveldayoff said of Stastny, who played a big role in helping Laine to a 15-game point streak earlier in the season. “We knew we were getting a quality player, obviously you can see that on the ice. A quality person, we knew that from our due diligence in the past. But what he can bring inside the room, until you have a player, someone like that who can provide those experiences, you don’t really appreciate until you have.”
If Vegas didn’t want Brassard in Winnipeg, they sure as hell didn’t want Stastny there. Now, Stastny, who had 10 points in the second round, is fixing to be a thorn in the Golden Knights’ side beginning on Saturday.
Stastny helped the Jets win at the trade deadline. Now he’s trying to help them win a Stanley Cup
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