In their biggest offseason move, the Winnipeg Jets acquired Paul Stastny in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights, bringing the veteran center back to the team. He had a memorable stint with the Jets in 2018 after he was acquired from the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline. He helped the Jets reach their first Western Conference Final, picking up 13 points in 19 regular-season contests and 15 points in 17 playoff games.
Having turned 35 on Dec. 27, Stastny is in the twilight of a career that has lived up to the lofty reputation of his family name.
It was a little more than 40 years ago, just prior to the 1980-81 NHL season, that Paul’s father, Peter, and uncle, Anton, defected from their native Czechoslovakia and joined the Quebec Nordiques. The story of the brothers’ escape reads like the pages of a Hollywood script.
A season later, 1981-82, Anton and Peter were joined by their older brother Marian on the Nordiques. They were the first star players to defect from Europe’s communist Eastern Bloc, and the third group of three brothers to play on the same NHL team, after the Chicago Blackhawks’ Bentley brothers, and the Plager siblings in St. Louis.
Peter became the first Slovakian NHL player to have a son make the NHL when Paul’s older brother Yan suited up for Boston in 2005-06. Paul joined the Colorado Avalanche (the former Nordiques) the following season and has for the last decade and a half been one of the most reliably productive centers in the NHL.
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Now, as he embarks on his 15th NHL season, Paul is set to pass his HOF father for most games played and overtake uncle Anton in career goals. While he cements his status as part of the Stastny dynasty, it warrants reminding just how special that family is.
Peter was a superstar upon arrival in Quebec City, winning the Calder Trophy in 1981 after a spectacular rookie season in which he scored 30 goals and added 79 assists, beginning a streak of six straight seasons with at least 100 points. Over a decade with the Nordiques, the center made six All-Star games and finished top six in the NHL in points six times. Peter finished second in the NHL with 92 assists in 1981-82, and second with 47 goals in 1982-83, trailing only Wayne Gretzky on both occasions.
Peter was traded to New Jersey at the trade deadline in 1990, and remained with the Devils until 1993, before closing out his career with two seasons in St. Louis. A first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1998, Peter ranks 35th in assists and 40th in points on the NHL all-time career list. He also is the leading point scorer in Nordiques history (prior to the franchise’s move to Colorado) with 1,048 in 737 games.
Anton spent all nine of his seasons in the NHL with the Nordiques, often playing left wing on a line centered by Peter. While he never piled up points at the level of his older brother (few players did), Anton was an offensive threat in his own right, notching at least 26 goals and 62 points every season from 1980-81 through 1987-88. He registered a career-high 92 points in 1982-83, ranking eighth in the NHL in assists that season with 62.
Alongside Peter, Anton shares a place in the NHL record book, under the category for most points in a road game; at Washington in February 1981, the two brothers each registered eight points. Anton is third in Nordiques history for goals, assists and points, behind only Peter and another Hall-of-Famer, Michel Goulet.
The youngest of the Nords’ Stastny trio, Marian arrived in Quebec for the 1981-82 season and made an immediate impact, racking up 35 goals and 54 assists in 74 games. He was selected to play in the 1983 All-Star Game, where he and Peter became the first European siblings to play together in the mid-season classic.
But the right-winger suffered a devastating shoulder injury in the latter part of the 1982-83 season and was never quite the same player. After two more seasons with the Nordiques, he signed in Toronto and spent 1985-86 with the Maple Leads before ultimately hanging up the skates.
The first of the second generation Stastnys to reach the NHL, Yan played less than 100 games over parts of five seasons in an NHL career that is most remarkable for its transactions. Drafted by Boston in 2002, he was traded three years later to Edmonton, where he made his NHL debut with the Oilers in 2005-06 before being shipped back to Boston after only three games. He also spent three seasons with the Blues.
Drafted by the Avs out of the University of Denver with the 44th pick in 2005, Paul – much like his father nearly four decades earlier- exploded onto the NHL scene. Paul registered 78 points in 82 games with the Avalanche en route to an All-Rookie Team selection in 2006-07. Paul played his first All-Star Game in 2008 and was again named an All-Star in 2011.
Paul spent eight years in the Mile High City, scoring at least 20 goals six times. Following the 2013-14 season, he signed as a free-agent in St. Louis, becoming the third Stastny to play for the Blues. In the 2016 playoffs, Paul became the first member of his family to reach the conference finals, where St. Louis was beaten by San Jose.
On February 26, 2018, with designs of a deep post-season run, Winnipeg acquired Paul from St. Louis in exchange for Erik Foley, a first-round draft pick in 2018 and a fourth-rounder in 2020. Paul’s stay in Winnipeg would last just 36 games and be over within a few months, but it is pivotal to the most memorable days in team history.
He scored in his Jets debut, against Nashville on February 27. Two games later, Paul notched the game-winning goal at Carolina. He had another game-winner, on April 5 versus Calgary, part of Winnipeg’s 11-1 surge to end the season.
Paul continued to be clutch in the playoffs. He scored the winner in Game 2 of Winnipeg’s 4-1 first-round thrashing of the Minnesota Wild, the first post-season series win in franchise history. In Round 2 against Nashville, Paul started strong and finished stronger. He had the game-winning goal in Game 1, and then again in Game 7, one of two goals in the series clincher that lifted the Jets to their first conference championship appearance.
Like most of the Jets, Paul struggled offensively in that series, mustering just one point in the five-game series loss to the Golden Knights. He headed into the off-season a free-agent, and while the Jets were thought to be the front-runner to re-sign Paul, he elected to join Vegas to the tune of $19.5 million over three years.
And now, with one year remaining on the aforementioned deal, he’s back. Stastny had 30 goals and 80 points in 141 regular-season games with the Golden Knights. He added 17 points in 25 post-season games and helped Vegas reach the West Final in the Edmonton bubble during the 2020 playoffs.
Though he’s made three conference finals appearances in the last five seasons, Paul has yet to play for the Stanley Cup. A trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2021 would be a first for the Stastny clan.
It would also be the first for a Winnipeg NHL team.
In his second-round with the Jets, Stastny has a chance to author history, both for franchise and family.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.