The Jets were having a good week as it was.
On Tuesday, Cole Perfetti fell to them at 10th overall in the first round
of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Then Wednesday, the Jets signed Dylan DeMelo
to a four-year, $12M contract.
With free agency kicking off Friday afternoon, the Jets continued their trend of a successful week in Winnipeg.
They began the day by acquiring Paul Stastny from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Carl Dahlstrom and a conditional fourth-round pick, marking Stastny’s second stint in Winnipeg.
He appeared in 19 games with the Jets in 2017-18 after a trade with the St. Louis Blues. In those 19 games, Stastny had four goals and nine assists for 13 points.
In his 19 games with the Jets, Stastny spent most of his time on a line with Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers. In 211:24 of five-on-five time together that season, the line accounted for 16 five-on-five goals.
Now, months away from his second go at it with the Jets, Stastny wouldn’t mind another crack at it with Laine and Ehlers.
“I enjoyed playing with those guys a lot. You hear different things, but for me both guys want the puck, both guys can score and both guys are very dynamic offensively” Stastny said Friday. “That kind of suits my game in getting those guys the puck as quick as I can, finding room for those guys to get that extra step to make plays happen.”
When Stastny was traded to Winnipeg in 2018, he had to waive his no-trade clause to do so. It ended up being a decision that Stastny was glad he made. With a lot of familiar faces still on the Jets roster today, the transition to Winnipeg should once again be a comfortable one.
“I had a good bond with a lot of those guys in Winnipeg, so I’ve already talked to a bunch of them, I’m excited,” Stastny said.
“Also being able to play under Paul [Maurice], I’ve always respected him as a coach and have nothing but good things to say and I felt that for the three-four months that I was there I learned and was able to adapt as a player. When you have someone like that you can always evolve and keep getting better.”
In his two years with Vegas, Stastny was solid, putting up 42 points in 50 games in 2018-19 before taking a step backwards in 2019-20 with 38 points in 71 games.
So at 34-years old, how much does Stastny have left in the tank?
Although he’s three years older this time around, Stastny feels better than he did in his first stint in Winnipeg
“I feel better, whether it’s changing my training regimen or changing my diet or changing what I do on the ice—because I feel you have to. You have to constantly adapt to the game,” he said.
“I feel like a better play now than I was 10 years ago, but that’s also the game changing--made me change as a player. I feel comfortable, age is only a number sometimes. When your body and mind feels good, that’s the most important thing.”
If Stastny can return to the 2018-19 version, and he does indeed get the chance to center Laine and Ehlers, the Jets could feature one of the league’s most dangerous second lines.
If that’s the role Maurice and the coaching staff have carved out for Stastny, he will be happy with that. If it’s a third line grind-it-out role that they see Stastny in, he will be happy with that, too.
“I’ve never been a guy to force myself or tell coaches what to do. I’ve kind of just go out there work hard, do my own business and then try to make those players around me better,” he said.
“Whatever role they put me in I’m comfortable. Whether it’s playing an offensive role, a defensive role, different things I just want to win. That’s the most important thing.”
After the Jets trade for Stastny, they made another move to bolster their blue line, re-signing Nathan Beaulieu to a two-year, $2.5M contract.
“Just having the opportunity to be able to come back to Winnipeg. That was always my first choice. When talking to my agent, it was always that’s where I want to be, that’s where I want to go, this is the best fit for me,” Beaulieu said.
“I believe in this staff and team. From Paul Maurice all the way down. The leadership of Blake Wheeler, it just feels like a good group, a good hockey team and for me to be a part of it is something I can’t turn down.”
Beaulieu appeared in 38 games last season finishing with eight points. There were a lot of reasons behind Beaulieu’s decision to return to Winnipeg. But by the sounds of things, the way last season ended and what he fells this team can do moving forward was the driving factor behind his choice.
“To me it feels like there’s a lot of unfinished business. I consider myself a leader and do have a voice. I felt like I really fit in in Winnipeg and to go into a whole new organization and building that trust and respect and stuff you need to earn is not easy,” Beaulieu said. “I feel like I’ve stablished that in Winnipeg. So being able to come back and do the same things was obviously very appealing to me.”
Last season was a difficult one for the Jets. From a blue line that got flipped upside down, to the injuries the team suffered throughout the regular season and then in their qualifying round series, things never really seemed to go the Jets way.
When it comes to building off of last season and working on being more successful in 2020-21, Beaulieu doesn’t believe much has to change.
“I feel we’re right there. I know you lose in the qualifying rounds and it doesn’t look good, it leaves a real bitter taste in your mouth. But look at the players we lost early on. The team was still there just grinding it out,” he said. “We’re a lot better I believe than what was shown or what happened. I believe in what we’re doing. There’s not much that we need to change, we just need to execute.”
With DeMelo back in the mix and the possibility of Dylan Samberg making the team,
Beaulieu is likely destined for a third pairing role.
Regardless of where he fits into the Jets puzzle, he’s just looking to improve and contribute as much as he can.
“I feel like I can improve in every aspect of my game. I’m working a lot on my skating right now,” he said.
“I feel like that’s the biggest thing in the way the league is going. You watch the playoffs and how defensemen move and there’s no such thing as a stay-at-home defenseman or just a pure offensive defenseman anymore. You just got to be able to do everything. You got to be able to be mobile.”
The Jets also signed Luca Sbisa to a one-year, $800K contract and Mason Appleton to a two-year, $1.8M contract.
As good of a week as it was for the Jets, the news Friday wasn’t all positive.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff revealed that doctors have recommended center Bryan Little does not play in the upcoming season.
Little appeared in just seven games last season before he was struck in the head by a shot, suffering a perforated ear drum.
“It’s emotional. You feel for him because he wants to play, he wants to play badly,” Cheveldayoff said. “But he has to make sure that he puts his family and his health ahead of everything. And we fully support him with that 100 per cent.”