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This article was published 27/2/2018 (945 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Hours before Paul Stastny was set to make his Winnipeg Jets debut Tuesday night, the recently acquired centreman was careful to take a modest approach when assessing what his immediate impact might be.
"I just want to be myself: be a playmaker, distribute the puck and help those guys around me and not force myself into anywhere I’m not a fit," he told reporters, speaking to local media for the first time since being acquired by the Jets in a trade Monday with the St. Louis Blues.
Stastny was all of that and more by night’s end, showing off what looked like a seamless transition to his new team despite the Jets falling 6-5 to the Nashville Predators at Bell MTS Place.
He set up Mark Scheifele for his second goal with a nice feed to the slot on the power play to put Winnipeg up 3-1 late in the second. He then converted one of his own, beating Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne with a slick shot at the side of the net that gave the Jets a 5-3 edge midway through the third period. Nik Ehlers and Patrik Laine — Stastny’s new linemates — both earned assists on the goal.
"He’s such an easy player to play with," Ehlers said. "He has experience, he has hockey sense... he just does the right things. And me and Patty, of course, we’re trying to do the same. That’s a guy that we could learn from."
For Stastny, 32, the result wasn’t what he wanted but there was a sense of relief from ending what had been a hectic couple of days.
"It was good to get it out of the way," he said, noting an appreciation for the warm embrace he received from the home crowd. "This afternoon I didn’t sleep a wink. I was just more anxious, nerves and excitement."
Jets head coach Paul Maurice said he was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly Stastny was able to adjust to his new surroundings and linemates.
"The big question was how would Paul Stastny fit with the two young guys, and it was quite a bit better than I would have hoped for in the first game," Maurice said. "(Stastny) is a real smart centreman that can make some plays."
In exchange for the skilled centre, the Jets sent their 2018 first-round pick, a conditional fourth-round pick in 2020 and prospect forward Erik Foley, currently playing at Providence College in Rhode Island.
The Blues retained half of Stastny’s US$7-million contract that is set to expire at the end of the season. The Jets also added depth defenceman Joe Morrow in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens, sending a fourth-round pick this year in return.
Needless to say, the last 48 hours have been an emotional roller-coaster — one that, in some ways, was created by Stastny, who could have opted to stay in St. Louis but instead waived his no-trade clause.
Stastny has spent the last four seasons with the Blues, and this year had 12 goals and 28 assists in 63 games.
"There’s some details I won’t go into, but I think you can imagine," he said when asked about the weighty decision. Stastny spent his first eight NHL years in Colorado before joining the Blues.
"The easy decision, the comfortable decision maybe, would have been to not do anything. But then, all of a sudden, I don’t want to be looking back in 10 or 15 years… when you’re younger and you’re playing in this league, you have a certain perspective. As you get older, your perspective changes, and these opportunities don’t come up all too often, and it’s potentially 3-1/2 months out of an 80-year life. You don’t want to have any regrets, especially playing hockey.
"After waking up this morning, I feel a lot better. For a bit there yesterday it was a lonely time, just because I was travelling the whole time and then I got to the hotel. I think once I’m around the guys, once I’m around hockey, once I’m in this atmosphere, it will be like Groundhog Day for me, so I’m excited."
The idea Stastny would even be a in situation to be traded was almost unthinkable just weeks ago, when the Blues were still in a position to push up the Central Division standings and possibly go on a playoff run. A recent stretch of inconsistent play — the Blues had lost six straight games, including a 4-0 loss to the Jets — quickly turned whatever momentum had been built up into team looking to sell at the trade deadline.
At 34-25-4, the Blues were fifth in the Central Division heading into Tuesday night’s action, but just one point shy of the final playoff wild-card spot. Given how difficult the Western Conference has been, and will be throughout the post-season, the Blues ultimately made the decision they weren’t going to be able to keep up.
"We had a couple of games before the deadline, and you think if you win one of those two or you win both, you’re not even thinking about this," Stastny said.
"When we lost to Nashville (Sunday), then there is a couple texts, a couple phone calls and there’s a lot of thinking going on — a lot of talking to people I trust when it comes to hockey decisions. There are always certain people I have to talk to just before to make sure my emotions don’t cloud my decision-making, and we all thought it was the best.
"In the end, it was my choice."
Morrow, 25, who was pressed into the lineup Tuesday when Toby Enstrom couldn’t go, looks forward to seeing what the future has in store.
"It’s great to come to an organization like this that has been very successful this year and it seems like an awesome group of guys," said Morrow, who prior to joining the Canadiens this year played three seasons with the Boston Bruins.
"Exciting is definitely an understatement."
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
Updated on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 7:04 AM CST: Writethru
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