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On Paul Stastny and his impact with the Jets

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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

MORE:

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NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Winnipeg Jets fill need with Paul Stastny acquisition from Blues

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This is what six losses in a row and contract talks going nowhere gets you. St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is shaking things up and hoping this is a soft retooling.

The trade: Winnipeg Jets acquire Paul Stastny* from the St. Louis Blues for a conditional 2018 first-round pick, a conditional 2020 fourth-round pick and Erik Foley. (*St. Louis retains 50 percent of Stastny’s salary. If the Blues fail to sign Foley before Aug. 16, 2019 they will get the Jets’ fourth-round pick in 2020. Should Winnipeg somehow end up with one of the top three picks in the 2018 draft, St. Louis gets Winnipeg’s first-round pick in 2019. If not, they will get that pick in 2018.)

Why the Blues are making this trade: Stastny had to waive his no-move clause in order to make the deal happen. Like Armstrong did last year at the deadline with Kevin Shattenkirk, Stastny probably wasn’t going to re-sign, and considering the Blues’ recent slide, it’s better to get something for an asset now than let him walk for nothing in the summer. St. Louis still made the playoffs last season and are only a point out of the wild card in the Western Conference right now. If Jake Allen and Carter Hutton can get their games straightened out, a similar situation could play out again this spring.

Let’s check in on how the deal is going over in the room:

Per Cap Friendly, this move means the Blues have just under $4 million in cap space to play with, so Armstrong could ideally add if there’s a deal out there to be made.

Why the Jets are making this trade: Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff tried to sign Stastny four years ago when the 32-year-old forward was an unrestricted free agent. It didn’t pan out then, but now he gets his man, who’s set to become a UFA this summer.

Stastny is still a fancy stats darling with a 55 percent Corsi and 5.29 percent Corsi Relative, per Corsica. He has 40 points in 63 games this season. He’s the center Cheveldayoff was looking for and is a nice addition for the Jets’ playoff run. He also played with Blake Wheeler in Germany for a short time during the lockout, so there’s some familiarity there.

Who won this trade: The Jets missed out on several players over the weekend and finally land a center they’ve been searching for. Stastny won’t need to be the main attraction in their lineup, which should suit him well. He’s also a big-time setup man, so having him center Patrik Laine and dishing out one-timers to the young Finn will be a delight to watch. Tough to definitively say that the Blues are sellers right now, but it’s clear that Winnipeg sees an opportunity out West this season and are going for it.

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Blues’ biggest question: Are they good enough down the middle?

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Jonathan Toews. Anze Kopitar. Jeff Carter. Patrice Bergeron. Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin. Pavel Datsyuk. Henrik Zetterberg.

Teams that win the Stanley Cup almost always have an elite center. As you can see, some of them even have two.

Do the St. Louis Blues?

The answer to that will depend on your definition of elite. If it’s a generous one, then maybe Paul Stastny gets the nod. Otherwise, it’s hard to answer yes.

Next season, the Blues’ top two lines could look something like this:

Alex Steen – Paul Stastny — David Backes
Jaden Schwartz — Jori Lehtera — Vladimir Tarasenko

If one of Dmitrij Jaskin, Ty Rattie or Robby Fabbri can step into a top-six role, coach Ken Hitchcock has said that Backes could be moved to the third line.

Regardless of how the lines shake out, it’s no surprise that the Blues were left wanting more from Stastny, their big free-agency signing from last summer.

“Paul Stastny needs to be a bigger part of our group,” GM Doug Armstrong said. “We need him to be a bigger and better part of our team.”

Stastny had 46 points in 74 games last season. He then managed just one goal, with no assists, in the Blues’ six-game playoff loss to the Wild.

Not enough from a player who was supposed to be a difference-maker in the tough Western Conference.

“I think in every sport if you’re strong up the middle you’re usually a strong team,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, per Yahoo Sports. “The center icemen seem to be the catalyst, usually offensively. They’re the guys who have the puck the most and make maybe the most decisions on the ice based on the number of touches they have in a game.”

Which is why there’s so much excitement in Washington about young Evgeny Kuznetsov.

But we digress.

The Blues are obviously a strong team. Their regular-season record is proof of that. But they haven’t been able to win that elusive Cup, so it’s only natural to pore over their roster in search of why.

Their lack of a truly elite center — and this goes for good teams like the Wild, Predators, Canadiens, Rangers, and Jets — may be as good an answer as any.

Related: Doug Armstrong is under pressure

It’s Colorado Avalanche day at PHT

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As the Colorado Avalanche enter their third year of the Joe Sakic-Patrick Roy front office era, they seemingly remain a lab test for the league’s stat debates.

The Avalanche were once again a squad whose possession stats peaked at “really bad, but at least not Buffalo Sabres bad” in 2014-15.

The difference between missing the postseason this past season and 2013-14’s triumphant run may have just been some combination of Semyon Varlamov being less superhuman and Colorado experiencing bad luck.

To the stat-leaning public, this was an example of a team playing over its head one year and then crashing to reality last season.

To Roy, it was a rare failure, as he explained to NHL.com.

“I’m here to win the Stanley Cup,” Roy said. “I’m not in Denver to see us missing the playoffs, I’m here to see us winning. I really want to make sure that’s the last time we’re missing the playoffs. It makes you very humble. First time I missed the playoffs as a coach in junior and the NHL.”

The Avalanche might be humbled, yet they’re also sticking to their guns by defying conventional wisdom as far as strategies and team-building go.

Off-season recap

A year after respectable possession player and scorer Paul Stastny left town, the Avalanche traded away their other forward best known for being a rare beacon of light on a team that’s a fancy stats nightmare: Ryan O’Reilly.

One cannot totally blame the Avs for parting ways with a player who seemed out the door for some time, yet it perpetuates the theme that the Avalanche are bucking growing trends around the league.

That said, Carl Soderberg isn’t chopped liver, although he – like O’Reilly – will fetch quite a bounty for his work next season.

Actually, the haul for O’Reilly is quite intriguing: could Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko pay immediate dividends for the Avs? Considering how often this franchise invests in fading veterans, nabbing a couple potential blue chips could be crucial.

Francois Beauchemin is a fine defenseman, yet at 35, many wonder if he’ll be a letdown along the lines of Brad Stuart. Again, many of these moves ultimately fit into Colorado’s M.O.

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The Avalanche seem content to do things their way, which makes them polarizing for some. However you feel about management’s broader moves, it’s foolish to count out a team that still boasts fascinating prime-age talent in Varlamov, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Tyson Barrie and more.

Stastny ready to take on leadership role in St. Louis

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With T.J. Oshie dealt to the Washington Capitals in the offseason, Paul Stastny is ready to embrace more of a leadership role in second season with the St. Louis Blues.

“By the end of the year I started speaking up. The first year with a new team, you kind of fly under the radar and be quiet,” Stastny told The Denver Post. “As you get older you have to speak up. You want to win. If you see something go wrong, you’re not going to sit there and not say anything.”

The 29-year-old scored 16 goals and 30 assists in 74 games last season. He added one goal in six playoff games.

Following the Blues’ first round loss to the Minnesota Wild, GM Doug Armstrong said he needed more from Stastny moving forward.

“Paul Stastny needs to be a bigger part of our group,” Armstrong said. “He’s our highest-paid player, we need him to be a bigger and better part of our team.”

Heading into the second year of his four-year $28 million deal, Stastny feels better settled in his new surroundings.

“This summer and going into next season, we’re a lot more comfortable,” he said. “You see that in all sports. You move forward. You still have three or four of your best friends on your old team, but for us going forward we’re just a lot more comfortable. Last summer was just hectic with bachelor parties, weddings, and July 1 (free agency). There was a lot of traveling and this summer is a lot more low-key.”