After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2020-21 regular season, which is targeted to start Jan. 1. Today, the Winnipeg Jets:
The Winnipeg Jets turned to a familiar face to help fill a significant need at center after a second straight early exit from the postseason.
Paul Stastny was acquired by Winnipeg for a second time, traded from the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 9 for defenseman Carl Dahlstrom and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. The center had a successful run for the Jets after he was acquired in a trade from the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 26, 2018, scoring 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 19 regular-season games and 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games when Winnipeg reached the 2018 Western Conference Final.
“I have a good bond with a lot of those guys in Winnipeg,” Stastny said. “I’m excited and to be able to play under Paul [Maurice]. I’ve always respected him a lot as a coach and have nothing but good things to say. I felt like for the three or four months I was there, I honestly learned and adapted as a player. When you have someone like that, you can always evolve and get better. That’s something that I like to do.”
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Stastny is expected to be the center on the second line after scoring 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists) in 71 regular-season games and nine points (three goals, six assists) in 18 postseason games for Vegas last season. Center Bryan Little, who sustained a head injury and perforated eardrum when struck by a shot Nov. 5, 2019, was advised by doctors not to play this season.
The Jets lost in four games to the Calgary Flames in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers last season after being eliminated in six games by the Blues in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round in 2018-19.
Here is what the Jets look like today:
Paul Stastny, F: The 34-year-old played with wings Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers during his previous stint with Winnipeg. His shot attempts percentage was 56.3 percent the past two seasons, the highest in back-to-back seasons in his NHL career. … Derek Forbort, D: The 28-year-old had one assist in 20 games for the Flames and Los Angeles Kings last season. … Nate Thompson, F: The 36-year-old signed a one-year contract Oct. 10 after scoring 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 70 games for the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens last season.
Anthony Bitetto, D: Signed a one-year contract with the New York Rangers on Oct. 9 after he had eight assists in 51 games last season. … Dmitry Kulikov, D: Signed a one-year contract with the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 22 after he scored 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 51 games last season. … Cody Eakin, F: Signed a two-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 11. He scored five points (one goal, four assists) in eight regular-season games and had no points in four postseason games for Winnipeg after being acquired in a trade from the Golden Knights on Feb. 21. … Nicholas Shore, F: Remains an unrestricted free agent. He scored three points (one goal, two assists) in 42 games last season. … Carl Dahlstrom, D: Had one assist in 15 games last season. … Logan Shaw, F: Signed a two-year contract with the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 9. He scored five points (three goals, two assists) in 35 games last season. … Gabriel Bourque, F: Remains an unrestricted free agent. He scored six points (two goals, four assists) in 52 games last season. … Mark Letestu, F: Remains an unrestricted free agent. He had no points in seven games, then missed the rest of the regular season with myocarditis. He was cleared to return for the postseason but did not play.
On the cusp
Dylan Samberg, D: The 21-year-old signed an entry-level contract April 7 after three seasons at the University of Minnesota Duluth, including two NCAA championships. Selected in the second round (No. 43) of the 2017 NHL Draft, he has the size (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) the Jets are looking for in a defenseman. … Ville Heinola, D: The No. 20 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft scored five points (one goal, four assists) in eight NHL games last season before being sent back to Lukko-Rauma in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league. The 19-year-old had seven assists in 29 games for Lukko-Rauma and one assist in three games for Manitoba of the American Hockey League. … Kristian Vesalainen, F: The 21-year-old scored 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in 60 AHL games last season.
What they still need
Another top-four defenseman. It’s unknown whether either Samberg or Heinola will be ready to play that role this season. Winnipeg also must sign restricted free agent forward Jack Roslovic.
Stastny scored 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 36 regular-season and postseason games combined for the Jets in 2017-18 before joining the Golden Knights. He will either be available late in drafts or on the fantasy waiver wire, has bounce-back appeal given his chemistry with Winnipeg’s top forwards, and should capture the No. 2 center spot after losing his top-six role with Vegas last season. — Pete Jensen
Kyle Connor — Mark Scheifele — Blake Wheeler
Nikolaj Ehlers — Paul Stastny — Patrik Laine
Andrew Copp — Adam Lowry — Jack Roslovic
Mathieu Perreault — Nate Thompson — Mason Appleton
Dylan DeMelo — Josh Morrissey
Derek Forbort — Neal Pionk
Nathan Beaulieu — Tucker Poolman