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Vegas sends message with Stastny signing: 'we are Cup contenders, not one-year wonders'

The Winnipeg Jets moved as much money as they could to make room, but they still couldn’t retain Paul Stastny. He joins the very team that eliminated them in the Western Conference final: the Vegas Golden Knights .

Statsny’s new contract carries a $6.5-million AAV for three years, as reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Is he exactly what the Golden Knights needed? That’s debatable. They already have William Karlsson as a No. 1 center, and Erik Haula scored 29 goals in the No. 2 role. The deal relegates Cody Eakin to a $3.85-million fourth-line center. The Knights also lost one winger to free agency in David Perron, and it remains to be seen if they lose James Neal, so, from a pure hockey standpoint, the Knights are padding what was probably already their strongest position.

Still, championship teams this millennium share the common trait of having three or four good centers anchoring them, so the Knights appear to be following that template. After John Tavares, Stastny was easily the second-best pivot available on the open market. He can play in all situations and, working so well with Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine in Winnipeg, Stastny showed he still has the skill to hang with high-end linemates at 32.

The signing isn’t overly risky since the contract is just for three years, and it slows down the clock for 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki, both centers. The deal also sends a strong message from GM George McPhee: the Golden Knights aren’t treating themselves as one-year wonders. They are Stanley Cup finalists looking to get over the hump and win a championship. Stastny, such a useful all-around player, certainly helps them in that regard.

The scary thing about the Golden Knights right now as well: even with Stastny’s $6.5-million, they have $21.7 million in cap space. A big chunk of that most go to important RFAs Karlsson, Shea Theodore and Colin Miller, but there’s room to sign them and pursue another major name. That could mean re-signing Neal. It could mean resuming the winter’s pursuit of an Erik Karlsson trade, which may require taking on Bobby Ryan's contract. Stay tuned. Vegas doesn’t appear to be done making moves.

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