Welcome back to Winnipeg, Paul Stastny. You too, Nathan Beaulieu. Hello again, Luca Sbisa.
Three familiar faces are back in the Jets fold after separate deals on Friday. First up was Stastny, the veteran centre, who was acquired in a trade with Vegas. The Jets sent a fourth-round draft pick and depth defenceman Carl Dahlstrom to the Golden Knights.
"We were ready for anything and then we kind of heard rumblings, so we figured something would happen. We were hoping that maybe if we did go somewhere, it would be back to the Jets and it came to fruition those rumours. We’re excited," Stastny said in a conference call a few hours after the deal was made official.
That was followed a few hours later by blue-liner Nathan Beaulieu inking a two-year deal that's worth US$1.5 million annually. The hard-nosed former first-round draft pick, acquired from the Buffalo Sabres during the February 2019 trade deadline, had an injury-plagued 2019-20 campaign, with one goal and seven assists in 38 games.
"We were hoping that maybe if we did go somewhere, it would be back to the Jets and it came to fruition those rumours. We’re excited." — Paul Stastny on being traded to the Winnipeg Jets
"Obviously this is a crazy day in the hockey world. So much goes on. In the week coming up to it, there were teams interested. Once I figured what the opportunity would be like, and staying in Winnipeg was always my No. 1 option, so I’m really excited to be able to be a Jet for a couple more years, at least," Beaulieu, 27, said via Zoom.
Then came the news that Sbisa, 30, had signed a one-year, US$800,000 pact as additional injury insurance on the back end. He was plucked off the waiver wire last season, appearing in 44 games with the Jets with two goals and eight assists.
And that, folks, was it on a day that was far from a free agent "frenzy" around here. It also follows a bit of a recent trend, with Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff signing backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit and defenceman Dylan DeMelo to new deals earlier in the week. Both could have tested the market.
"To me, it just feels like there's a lot of unfinished business. I do consider myself a leader and I do have a voice. And I felt like I really fit in in Winnipeg. And going to a whole new organization and building that trust and that respect and stuff that you need to earn is not easy. I feel like I've established that in Winnipeg, so being able to come back and do the same things is very appealing to me," Beaulieu said of staying put despite other offers on the table.
Vegas needed to trim salary to get under the cap, and the Jets were desperate to find someone to play up the middle on the second line behind No. 1 centre Mark Scheifele. In that sense, the Stastny swap was a match made in hockey heaven.
"To me, it just feels like there's a lot of unfinished business. I do consider myself a leader and I do have a voice. And I felt like I really fit in in Winnipeg." — Defenceman Nathan Beaulieu on signing a two-year deal with the Jets
"I think when you get older you realize it’s just a business, sometimes we’re just pieces of pawns on a chessboard. It is what it is, you can’t get too emotional wherever you are because you never know what’s going to happen," said Stastny.
Stastny was previously picked up by the Jets at the trade deadline in 2018 from the St. Louis Blues, with a first-round draft pick and prospect Erik Foley going the other way. He found chemistry with linemates Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers during the run to the post-season, which involved winning two rounds and advancing to the Western Conference final.
"I enjoyed playing with those guys a lot. For me, both guys want the puck, both guys can score, they’re very dynamic offensively and suit my game. Get the puck to those guys as quick as I can, find and create some room for those guys. If it is, I’m excited. If not, there’s a bunch of good forwards there, different combinations that will work out just fine as well," he said.
Stastny, who turns 35 in December, became an unrestricted free agent and signed a three-year deal with Vegas, the team that eliminated the Jets, that summer. He has one year left on that deal, which carries a US$6.5-million cap hit, but is actually owed US$5.5 million.
His game may be in decline, but he still had 17 goals and 21 helpers in 71 games for Vegas last season. Stastny chipped in three goals and six assists in 18 playoff games in the Edmonton bubble, with the Golden Knights losing to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference final.
"Everyone probably says that they feel better, but I’ve adapted and I’ve changed a few things in my game. I feel better, whether it’s changing my training regiment or changing my diet or changing what I do on the ice. You have to, you have to constantly adapt to the game. I feel like I’m a better player now than I was 10 years ago," he said.
"That’s also because the game has changed and it’s made me change as a player. I can adapt to a lot of different things. I’ve evolved as a person, not just as a player. I feel comfortable. Age is only a number and when your body feels good your mind feels good. That’s the most important thing."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.