How do you solve a problem like Paul Stastny? That is a dilemma the Vegas Golden Knights will have to try and find a solution to and soon.
After shocking the sporting world by making a stunning run to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, the Vegas Golden Knights decided to gear up for another run by signing Stastny in free agency during the summer of 2018.
They signed the veteran center to a three-year, $19,500,000 contract with an Average Annual Value of $6,500,000.
Although not team-friendly by any stretch of the imagination, it was a smart deal given that Stastny was coming in as a top-six center with a proven pedigree.
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With 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 17 playoff outings for the Winnipeg Jets in 2017-18, the Golden Knights were also getting a proven postseason performer.
And Stastny had a solid debut year with Vegas in 2018-19, putting up 13 goals and 29 assists for 42 points in 50 games with a plus / minus rating of +14.
He caught fire in the playoffs after meshing perfectly on a second-line with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, posting eight points (two goals, six assists) in seven games during the painful First Round loss to the San Jose Sharks.
However, Stastny regressed somewhat in 2019-20 after recording 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists) in 71 regular-season games prior to the NHL going on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Granted, Stastny was bumped down to the third-line on occasion this year, but that was only a ploy to spark the forward into life.
With one year left on his current contract, Stastny is almost certain to be present at the start of Training Camp for the 2020-21 season.
Whether he finishes the year with the Golden Knights remains to be seen, however, and there are a few different paths Vegas could head down…
What To Do With Stastny
Stastny would be an incredibly expensive third-line center, especially if he doesn’t produce on a consistent basis as was the case this year.
Glass in particular is a perfect fit for that second-line center role after displaying promising chemistry with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, although the prospect will need to bounce back from a tough rookie year.
Granted, Stastny is still a useful commodity and he absolutely has a role to play for the Golden Knights.
But there are a couple of intriguing caveats to consider, mainly the fact that by removing Stastny from the roster would not only free up the second-line center role for Glass, but it would also free up some much-needed cap space.
With around $8 million in which to re-sign seven pending free agents and fill out the rest of the roster, should the salary cap for 2020-21 be frozen at $81.5 million as expected, the Golden Knights would likely have to kiss goodbye to Robin Lehner.
However, if Vegas could persuade a fellow contender to take on Stastny’s hefty cap hit via a trade then that would give them the freedom to be able to re-sign Lehner should they so wish.
Or, if the front office go down the Buyout route then that would also work given that the Golden Knights would save $3,666,667 in 2020-21, although it would impact them the following season according to the Buyout Calculator on CapFriendly.
General Manager Kelly McCrimmon could wait of course until the Trade Deadline, and see if there are any interested parties in Stastny then.
Given that Stastny can still be a productive top-six center when he’s on his game, there will be no rush from the front office to sever any ties.
But, with all teams set to take a hit in a post-COVID-19 world, and if trading or buying out Stastny allows the Vegas Golden Knights to hand more prominent roles to high-end prospects and strengthen other areas of the roster, then that could be a very tempting road to head down.
It would mean taking a still valuable body away from the roster, one with playoff experience, so any decision the Vegas Golden Knights make regarding Paul Stastny will need to be a measured one.