Free agency can lead to some laughably regrettable roster moves for even the best general managers.
By the time players hit the open market they have probably already played the best hockey of their career, and they sometimes tend to be signed based on what they did last. A big playoff showing can increase the price tag by an extra million or two while a down year could lower the term. We should know by now that what you saw last from a player is not necessarily what you will see next.
It is a hellacious landscape.
All of that made Paul Stastny an interesting player to watch when the free agent signing period opened on Sunday.
He’s 32 years old (going on 33 this season) and like most free agents at that age has probably already seen his most productive hockey, at least from an offensive standpoint. The fact he was coming off such a strong playoff showing with the Winnipeg Jets and was entering a relatively thin free agent market seemed to make him a candidate for a huge contract that would probably turn out to be very regrettable in just a couple of years.
That did not exactly happen as the Vegas Golden Knights — the team that eliminated Stastny and the Jets in the Western Conference Final — were able to get him on a three-year contract that will pay him $6.5 million per season.
It is a cap hit that the Jets probably could not afford given their current roster construction, but is easily manageable a Golden Knights team that is swimming in salary cap space (even after signing Stastny they are still $18 million under the cap with 21 players already under contract) and will have a lot of offense to replace this summer.
David Perron is already gone after signing with the St. Louis Blues, while James Neal also seems like he is likely to find a new spot. They also have to be planning for some regression from players that are returning (See: Karlsson, William). They are going to have to replace that offense somewhere, and Stastny should be able to help with that.
Even at 32 he still performs like a strong second-line center (and maybe even a fringe first-line center) and can still be counted on for 55 points and strong two-way play. I don’t think anyone should expect Karlsson to score 40 goals again but if he can be somewhere between that and what he was during his time in Columbus they could have a pretty formidable duo at the top of their lineup.
When the Golden Knights entered the league at the start of the 2017-18 season nobody anticipated they would be buyers at the trade deadline and dipping into the free agent market for a veteran like Stastny in their second offseason. Expectations can change quickly, though, and the Golden Knights have already set a pretty high bar for themselves going into year two. It is going to be difficult to match it after what they did this past season, but Stastny is a really strong addition at a fair price to help them try and get there again.