At the start of the season, Paul Stastny was completely content entering the final year of his contract without a new deal with the Colorado Avalanche. He was 27 years old, had played in a total of 15 career playoff games and was getting to the point in his career where winning was the priority.
"Patty and Joe have done a good job bringing a winning culture back in here. It’s huge," Stastny said. "They see the chemistry with the guys -- whether it’s a first-line guy or a fourth-line guy, and re-sign those guys. They’re little pieces to the puzzle but they mean a lot away from the ice. That’s what good management sees sometimes. Stuff like that is important."
Now, he's had a chance to see whether this regime is capable of turning things around. That question has been answered.
His future with the team? That remains in doubt. While there were rumors at the trade deadline that Stastny was in play because his contract expires after this season, Roy said nothing ever came close.
Keeping him was smart. While the Avalanche are loaded with talented young forwards, including potential centers Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon, they’ve needed Stastny. He has been a steady veteran presence on a young team, and his performance without the injured Duchene in these playoffs is a big reason why Colorado is up 2-1 on the Minnesota Wild in the first-round series.
He's tied with MacKinnon for the NHL lead in playoff points with seven. Already one of the few impact centers to hit free agency in the past few years, his decision to be patient and play things out has worked just fine.
"I don’t want to deal with [contract] stuff during the year, I never wanted to. There’s too much going on," Stastny said. "The whole attitude is different. That's why I wanted to sit back and wait. That's why I didn’t want to rush anything."
The beauty of waiting in Stastny's case is that he just may be driving up his price in the process. He scored the most goals since his rookie season and his point production -- 0.85 points per game -- are the most for him since 2009-10.
The line of Stastny, MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog is an absolute powerhouse that Colorado would love to keep intact. They believe he'd like to keep it intact, too.
"We believe that Paul wants to stay with the Avalanche next year," Roy said. "We believe that there's a good chance for him to re-sign with us. Now, how it's going to happen, it will be up to Joe and his agent to discuss about what's going to be. But I think Paul has the Avs in his heart and I think he loves to be in this town, he loves those fans."
Stastny's contract was worth $6.6 million annually, making him Colorado's highest-paid player. But the Avalanche also have to work out a new deal with restricted free agent O’Reilly, which complicates things, as does the potential that each playoff point drives up Stastny's price tag even further.
Despite his longevity in Colorado, Stastny's playoff résumé was limited. A big postseason helps complete the picture, and it's something general managers certainly factor into the decision-making.
As the playoffs roll on, this is the time of year players can enhance their value. Last season, we witnessed Bryan Bickell drive his price tag up to the four-year, $16 million deal he eventually signed to stay with the Chicago Blackhawks.
This year will be no different for potential unrestricted free agents.