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October 18, 2018

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The New Guys: Longtime friends Stastny, Pacioretty join forces on Golden Knights’ second line

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Steve Marcus

Vegas Golden Knights’ Paul Stastny, center, (26) practices at the City National Arena in Summerlin Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018.

It was just past 10 p.m. in Las Vegas—and 1 a.m. in Montreal—when Golden Knights’ newcomer Paul Stastny heard the trade rumors. He immediately grabbed his phone and texted his longtime friend—Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty.

Incoming

• Daniel Carr (wing): Signed as a free agent to a one-year, $750,000 deal.

• Nick Holden, (defenseman): Signed as a free agent to a two-year, $4.4 million deal.

• Max Pacioretty, (wing): Traded from Montreal, signed a four-year, $28 million extension.

• Paul Stastny, (center): Signed as a free agent to a three-year, $19.5 million deal.

“Is it true?” Stastny asked.

“What are you talking about?” Pacioretty replied.

Outgoing

• James Neal (wing): Signed with Calgary as a free agent on a five-year, $28.75 million deal.

• David Perron (wing): Signed with St. Louis as a free agent on a four-year, $16 million deal.

• Luca Sbisa, (defenseman): Signed with New York Islanders on a one-year, $1.5 million deal.

• Tomas Tatar (wing): Traded to Montreal.

• Nick Suzuki (center) Traded to Montreal.

“Don’t be yanking my chain,” Stastny laughed. “I just heard something.”

Pacioretty wasn’t sure if the news was out about a deal sending him to Las Vegas in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a second-round draft pick. Once Pacioretty confirmed the trade was public knowledge, he answered Stastny with similar glee. The two couldn’t be happier to join forces with the Golden Knights.

On July 1, Stastny signed a three-year, $19.5 million deal with the Golden Knights. The 32-year-old center was the prize acquisition for Vegas this offseason … until the team traded for Pacioretty on September 9.

Stastny has amassed 220 career goals and 426 career assists during 12 seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets. Pacioretty racked up 226 goals and 222 assists during his 10 seasons with Montreal.

The two have only played together on Team USA in the World Championships—but they’ve known each other since before they were NHL stars. The American hockey community is tight-knit. Stastny was close with veteran defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk when they played together in Colorado and St. Louis, and Shattenkirk grew up playing with Pacioretty. Through Shattenkirk and a number of other mutual friends, Stastny and Pacioretty connected and often met up for dinner after games between their teams. Their wives and parents even joined in and became friends along the way, so it’s safe to say they’re closer than most players who have competed on opposing teams throughout their careers.

“Selfishly, I’m really pumped,” Stastny says. “[Even] more off the ice than on the ice. In the locker room I have another forward that I’m familiar with. We’re both learning new faces together. We’re both going through the learning experience together.”

The two have leaned on each other as they’ve moved their families to Las Vegas, gotten their kids enrolled in school and learned coach Gerard Gallant’s system every day in practice. The pair is expected to play together on the second line, and will be a key in determining the Golden Knights’ success this season.

“[Ending up in Las Vegas] was something this summer that we talked about when I was a free agent—where I might sign, where he might get traded or, down the road, if he doesn’t re-sign with Montreal,” Stastny says. “You never believe it’s going to come true, but when it actually came to fruition we were both excited.”

One signed as a free agent and the other got traded from Montreal, but somehow the two ended up in Las Vegas together. “Once he had signed here, he saw trade rumors and potential trade destinations, [for me]” Pacioretty says. “We spoke many times about how great it would be if I ended up here. I had to sign an extension in order to come here, and there were many reasons why I signed it. But Paul Stastny was definitely one of them.”