Colorado Avalanche vs Paul Stastny: Who Won?


The Colorado Avalanche lost center Paul Stastny, currently in the third round of the playoffs with the St. Louis Blues, to free agency. Who was the ultimate winner of that move?

Whenever a team trades a player, the question inevitably comes up — who won the trade? In the case of center Paul Stastny, the Colorado Avalanche didn’t trade him. Rather, they let him walk away in free agency. Nonetheless, the question remains — who won in this transaction?

Paul Stastny Colorado Avalanche Background

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  • Paul Stastny had quite a history with the franchise — or, rather, his family did. Both his uncles, Anton and Marian Stastny, played for the Quebec Nordiques, which, of course, later became the Colorado Avalanche. So, too, did Paul Stastny’s Hall of Fame father, Peter.

    Though he grew up in St. Louis, Paul Stastny’s connection to Colorado started when he played two years of hockey for the Denver University Pioneers.

    The Colorado Avalanche selected Stastny in the second round of the 2005 NHL draft, 44th overall. He played his second year of college hockey for DU before turning professional in 2006.

    Stastny played 538 regular season games for the Colorado Avalanche across eight seasons. In that time he accumulated 458 points (160 goals and 298 assists). He also made three playoff appearances with Colorado for 22 games with eight goals and 10 assists.

    Paul Stastny finished second only to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin in voting for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year in 2007. Stastny also served as the Colorado Avalanche’s alternate captain.

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    Rationale for No Trade

    During the golden Why Not Us season of 2013-14, Paul Stastny had one of the best seasons of his career, scoring 25 goals and 35 assists. However, that was his contract season, the end of a five-year contract extension that saw Stastny making $6.6 million annually. (That’s right — more than Matt Duchene.)

    Colorado Avalanche executives had been talking to Paul Stastny since the preceding summer, but they weren’t coming to an agreement. Stastny said he’d give Colorado the “hometown discount” as the only NHL team he’d ever known. I don’t know if the team was already implementing the Matt Duchene Structure (Duchene is the leading scorer, so no one can make more than he does, $6 million) or if they simply didn’t want to offer the third-best center on the team a raise.

    That was the rub. In the first couple years since the Avalanche drafted Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, Stastny was finishing first or second in scoring every season. However, by 2012-13 he was third on the team for scoring. In the storied 2013-14 season, Stastny finished fifth and behind three other centers — Duchene, O’Reilly and the wonder-rookie, Nathan MacKinnon.

    Stastny saw the writing on the wall. Not only was he not going to get a big raise, if at all, he might not even continue as a top-six forward.

    From the Colorado Avalanche’s perspective, Stastny probably didn’t look deserving of a raise. I doubt they bought his pledge to give the “hometown discount” completely, and certainly not at the 2014 trade deadline. Indeed, it was widely thought that Stastny would get dealt so Colorado could get something in return for him.

    However, teams usually deal players at the deadline when they’re not making the playoffs. They acquire players at the deadline to make their playoff run stronger. The Colorado Avalanche were making the playoffs.

    Avalanche GM Joe Sakic and head coach Patrick Roy gambled. Stastny was a core player, and they didn’t want to upset the delicate balance as Colorado made its first playoff run in four years. They decided to keep Stastny even though they likely knew they wouldn’t be able to sign him in free agency.

    Was the gamble worth it that season? It’s hard to say. After the trade deadline the Colorado Avalanche went on a run and ended up winning the Central Division.

    Colorado didn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs, but that first round was glorious while it lasted for playoff-starved fans. And Paul Stastny was a large part of that. He scored five goals, including an overtime game-winner after having scored the game-tying goal late in the game. He earned a total of five assists and was leading the entire NHL in points during the first round.

    Stastny Since Free Agency

    colorado avalanche
    May 11, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny (26) celebrates after scoring a goal in front of Dallas Stars defenseman Kris Russell (2) during the first period in game seven of the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

    By now we all know what happened in the summer of 2014. Paul Stastny walked. He returned to his original hometown of St. Louis, but he definitely didn’t give them a discount. He signed a four-year contract worth $28 million with an annual cap hit of $7 million.

    Has he been worth $7 million annually? Hardly. One thing people don’t always realize about Paul Stastny is that he’s injury-prone. He’s only played one complete season in the NHL, and that was his rookie year.

    In his two expensive years with the St. Louis Blues he’s missed 26 games with injuries. What’s more, he’s only scored 26 goals — that’s between two years, not every year. (By contrast, Duchene has scored 51 goals in those two years.)

    In his first season with the Blues, when Stastny scored only 16 goals in 74 games, Blues GM Dough Armstrong criticized Paul:

    "“Paul Stastny needs to be a bigger part of our group. He’s our highest-paid player, we need him to be a bigger and better part of our team.”"

    I can’t imagine his opinion of Stastny improved with his 2015-16 performance — 10 goals in 64 games. His playoffs have been pretty ok, three goals and six assists in 16 games so far. Granted he did better for Colorado…

    Who Won?

    The Colorado Avalanche got nothing for Paul Stastny in free agency. However, it’s hard to say they got nothing from Paul Stastny. They got all those points and years of leadership.

    Indeed, Stastny was a prime leader responsible for helping Gabriel Landeskog transition into captaincy. He was also close friends with Matt Duchene and helped him with the intangibles of hockey.

    It’s hard to say the St. Louis Blues won out. They’re definitely overpaying Stastny. He finished third this season in points but seventh in goals.

    It seems as if Stastny was the ultimate winner. However, he’s been criticized in St. Louis like he never was in Colorado. What’s more, while St. Louis was his childhood home, he makes his off-season home back here in Colorado.

    Additionally, he doesn’t wear a letter for the Blues like he did for the Avalanche. What’s more, he’s often been forced into that third-line center role he was dreading here. Ironically, with Ryan O’Reilly traded, Colorado has more space for him in the top-six than St. Louis.

    Of course, St. Louis is currently on an epic run to win their first-ever Stanley Cup. If they do so, Stastny will absolutely be the ultimate winner.

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    That said, it’s all hindsight. Did the Colorado Avalanche make a mistake in not overpaying Stastny? No. There are bigger fish to fry — or pay — in Tyson Barrie and, especially, Nathan MacKinnon. Did they make a mistake in not trading him? No — it’s something that teams just don’t do when they’re making a playoff run.