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Category: Personnel (Page 2 of 21)

Recap Of George McPhee’s Presser On Max Pacioretty And The Impact Of What He Said

#67 is here to stay (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

George McPhee met with the media to talk about the trade for Max Pacioretty. Here’s absolutely everything you need to know about what he said and why it all matters.

  • Trade negotiations for Pacioretty began after the draft and it took a couple months to get done. It picked up considerably the last few days and then GM Marc Bergevin gave McPhee about seven hours to negotiate a contract with Pacioretty. The trade would not have happened at all if Vegas did not have a contract extension in place for Pacioretty. Trade with the team was contingent upon the deal with the player. The contracr extension was $28 million for 4 years or $7 million AAV against the salary cap.
    • Why it matters: This proves the Golden Knights would not have taken the risk to give up as much as they did if they did not have the guarntee that they would have Pacioretty for longer than just the one year. It also shows a bit of a template for what McPhee may be thinking in the Erik Karlsson deal. Not looking for a rental at this time, at least not at as steep of a price as he paid for Pacioretty.
  • McPhee confirmed a previous deal that Montreal had (reported as being the LA Kings) that did not work out because a contract extension could not be reached. Thus, Montreal was reluctant to allow Vegas to negotiate with Pacioretty before a deal was completed.
  • McPhee says he thinks Pacioretty fits well with the Golden Knights. Called him a scorer and a great two-way player that can play in all situations.
    • Why it matters: McPhee did not like the defense of the second line (Neal, Perron, Haula) last year. So he went out and acquired two strong defensive players that also have a lot of offensive potential. Pacioretty and Stastny will both help on power play and penalty kill. In McPhee’s mind the team is even better now than it was a year ago. (I agree.)
  • McPhee also specifically mentioned that Pacioretty has played for Gerard Gallant in the past (while Gallant was an assistant in Montreal).

We’ve added a couple of players in Stastny and Pacioretty that are very good two-way players, very good character people. So I hope that we are a better team than we were last year. Time will tell. -McPhee

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Rookie Game 1 Takeaways – Golden Knights 7 Avalanche 6

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There’s a lot to talk about after the first of three Golden Knights rookie games. When that happens, we tend to take the easy route and just chuck them all in one article using bullet points. So, here are 13 bullet points, one for every goal scored in the Golden Knights 7-6 win.

  • Erik Brannstrom is incredible. This isn’t new, but every time this guy steps on the ice he’s excellent. Tonight he tamed back a bit of his aggressiveness yet still found ways to make a bunch of offensive plays including a dandy of a goal.
  • The Golden Knights opted to put Brannstrom on the PK (something we wouldn’t project him to do much at the NHL level due to his size). Coach Rocky Thompson (Chicago Wolves) explained why they did it…
    • “Ultimately, it’s going to take time for him on the penalty kill, but we wanted to see some situations. We dialed it back a little bit later in the game, but we definitely wanted to see. It’s definitely a place where we see him in the future is being a top two defenseman. When you are a top two defenseman you have to be well-rounded, so you can beat those minutes.” -Thompson
  • Nic Hague had an interesting night proving something we haven’t gotten to see a ton of because we haven’t seen them play actual games against other teams, and that’s his PP prowess. Playing on the Golden Knights lesser talented PP unit, he scored twice from the exact same spot. (Also, I highly enjoyed the celly on the first one.)
  • The first period was a perfect example of a team playing “Golden Knights” style hockey. Incredibly fast in transition, pushing the puck out of the defensive zone quickly, and capitalizing on mistakes. It did in the rookie game what the Golden Knights did to many teams last year, overwhelm the opponent. Hence the five-goal lead after 20 minutes. Coach Thompson says they started to cheat out of the system a bit and that’s why the lead evaporated.

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A “Seasoned” Wong Is Ready To Prove He Can Take The Next Step

Another preseason hat trick would go a long way to proving his point. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Forward Tyler Wong is currently in the middle of his second rookie camp with the Golden Knights after spending last season in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves.

It’s a very hard league to play in. A lot of guys say that the jump from juniors to the American league is the hardest in hockey. -Tyler Wong

21-year-old Wong is right about the tough transition from major junior leagues to the AHL. A TSN study shows the percentages of late round draft picks to go from juniors to the AHL to the NHL is very low. A 7th round draft pick has less than a 10% chance of skating on NHL ice. For Wong the odds are even longer. He went undrafted.

There are a lot of older players that make your life hard. There’s lots of guys with kids, they’re fighting for their livelihood. Being a 21-year-old trying to jump right in there is eye-opening. -Wong

I would consider myself a helicopter Dad, and I’d probably be a helicopter GM as well. The AHL has progressed drastically over the years but like Wong mentioned, older journeymen type players are fighting for ice time or even a spot with the team. Sometimes that means literal fighting, but I also equate it to heavy (dirty?) hits, banging along the boards, and overly physical play. That makes me nervous for highly invested prospects. However, the AHL is the definitely right league for a player like Wong to develop and beat the odds.

You have to find a whole nother level that you have to sacrifice and compete in order to be a contributing player. It was a learning year. I had to battle to stay in the lineup. I had to battle for everything I got. -Wong

And that’s what Wong plans on doing in camp, battle, and convince the team he’s not only a pro player but an NHL player.

The biggest thing for me is to show them I’ve progressed since last year and continue to progress into an NHL player. That’s my goal. I played a year in the American Hockey League, and I want to show Mr. Gallant, and Mr. McPhee, and all the people up stairs that a year as a pro seasoned me. I know what it’s going to take to make the next step to the NHL from the AHL. -Wong

While his stats weren’t great last season with the Wolves (54 Games, 3 Goals, 4 Assists, -11) the Alberta native is confident there’s plenty of room for improvement.

I’m not going to quit. I’m going to keep fighting for every inch. That’s what I’m going to do here in camp and in the season. Wherever I end up I’ll keep fighting. -Wong

He may not be one of the Golden Knights coveted prospects but Wong is out to prove he can be.

Luca Sbisa Could Be The Perfect Stop Gap

He was good enough to get a start in the biggest game of the year, he’s certainly good enough to plug a hole. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Luckily, it’s only a quarter of the regular season that top defenseman Nate Schmidt will miss action. But, while that story continues to unfold, Vegas’ other top defender Shea Theodore also remains unsigned and the possibility of a holdout is real.

With one defenseman guaranteed to miss a large chunk of time and another sitting in contract purgatory, what are George McPhee’s options? He can ride it out with organizational depth like the team did last season when Marc-Andre Fleury was injured. The GM could make a move for a defenseman, and not necessarily Erik Karlsson. Maybe, McPhee will wait it out and hope a desirable defenseman will pop up through waivers. Or, he can reach out to an available old chum.

It’s hard for the other team to match lines. A lot of teams only have one superstar line and then it kinda goes down a bit, but for us, on any given day we have lines that can step up and chip in any which way. -Luca Sbisa

In 30 regular season games, Luca Sbisa averaged 19:31 TOI, and averaged 2:22 shorthanded minutes per game. Many of those games he was paired with Schmidt and drawing the opposing teams best players. Although Sbisa was injured for much of the 2017-18 regular season, he added defensive impact when he hit the ice. Some credit the Swiss defenseman for helping Schmidt convert to Vegas’ top d-man. Also, the veteran Sbisa was a strong, protective teammate that held a presence on the ice.

With Schmidt’s guaranteed 20 game absence, signing Sbisa could be a move Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant would appreciate. The 28-year-old UFA was heavily used early on in 2017-18, and after returning from injury, the coach used him in the lineup, including the Stanley Cup Final. At this time, Gallant could use a familiar veteran like Sbisa to help right the defensive ship. The former Golden Knight knows the organization, system, players, and city. Most importantly the coaching staff is comfortable playing Sbisa.

Depending on Sbisa’s demands, the Golden Knights should be able to re-sign the left-handed defenseman to a deal comparable to what Jon Merrill and Deryk Engelland make per season. This late in the game they might even be able to get him on a one-year deal.

It could be well worth the low money risk for a recognizable insurance policy like Sbisa. Not only will he fill the burden of Schmidt’s suspension, Sbisa would also secure a roster spot in preparation for Theodore’s possible holdout. He’s not a replacement for either but Sbisa could effectively fill important minutes for twenty or more games.

Where Does The Blue Line Stand Now With Schmidt Out Of The Picture?

It’s the obvious question to ask following the stunning news of Nate Schmidt’s 20 game suspension, what now? It gets even worse when you consider the possibility of Shea Theodore missing games, but for the purpose of this article (and because this isn’t the time of year for doom and gloom), we’re going to assume Theodore is on the ice on October 4th.

According to offseason quotes by George McPhee, the Golden Knights are expected to keep eight defensemen on the roster out of training camp. With Schmidt out, the roster has a total of 15 available players to fill those eight spots. Five names can probably be safely cast aside as longshots to make the roster (Zac Leslie, Dylan Coghlan, Jimmy Oligny, Jake Bischoff, and Nic Hague) leaving 10 players to fill the eight places.

Don’t be surprised if Gallant leans heavily on Engelland with Schmidt out. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It really comes down to Brad Hunt, Jon Merrill, Griffin Reinhart, Zach Whitecloud, and Erik Brannstrom fighting for three spots and one starting role. The odds on favorites are Hunt and Merrill with them splitting time as the six starter spot to go along with Deryk Engelland, Brayden McNabb, Colin Miller, Shea Theodore, and Nick Holden.

Engelland and Miller are the only two right-handed defensemen of the group of five highly likely to crack the starting lineup, but Holden has played most of his career on the right side. Thus, in theory, there are the beginnings of each of the three pairs.

That leaves Theodore, McNabb, and Hunt/Merrill as each’s partner. Last year Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant used both Theodore and McNabb with Engelland quite a bit. Assuming he returns to those familiar pairings, we’re left with four potential sets of pairings.

Option A
McNabb-Engelland
Theodore-Holden
Merrill/Hunt-Miller

Option B
McNabb-Engelland
Theodore-Miller
Merrill/Hunt-Holden

Option C
Theodore-Engelland
McNabb-Miller
Merrill/Hunt-Holden

Option D
Theodore-Engelland
McNabb-Holden
Merrill/Hunt-Miller

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McPhee Spending Time In Russia With Eyes On Vladimir Tkachyov

Apparently, Golden Knights GM George McPhee likes to spend his summer vacation in Russia.

According to NHL.com’s Igor Eronko, Vegas’ head honcho was in Russia to check in on prospect Nikita Gusev, and meet with at least one other KHL’er.

First off, let’s identify the right Vladimir Tkachyov. Vegas has interest in the 24-year-old left-handed center, not the 22-year-old right-handed forward. The older Tkachyov is bigger, listed at 6’0″, 200 lbs and is a successful two-way KHL player.

KHL Statistics
•2013-14: 52 Games, 1 Goal, 9 Pts, (0.17 PPG)
•2014-15: 30 Games, 6 G, 9 Pts, (0.30 PPG)
•2015-16: 48 Games, 12 G, 20Pts, (0.42 PPG)
•2016-17: 58 Games, 15 G, 32 Pts, (0.55 PPG)
•2017-18: 53 Games, 22 G, 36 Pts, (0.68 PPG)

Tkachyov has improved offensively every season in the KHL, and plays in all situations. In 2017-18, the center averaged 16:41 per game, scored seven power-play goals, and logged penalty kill minutes. Add in a 55% career faceoff win percentage, and Tkachyov fits nicely on an NHL team’s third or fourth line. Possibly the Golden Knights.

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Stastny Mentions Tuch And Haula When Asked About Potential Linemates

The number one storyline (maybe number two behind Theodore’s contract) heading into the 2018-19 season is the mystery behind the third center spot. With the signing of center Paul Stastny it’s assumed either Erik Haula or Cody Eakin will no longer man the middle of the ice for the Golden Knights.

Haula has said in the past that he “obviously likes playing in the center” and his career year statistically backs up his claim.

Appearing on the Golden Knights official podcast, SLGND, Stastny was asked by Gary Lawless, “Is there a player you think will fit nicely with you?” Stastny was anything but committal in his answer, but the names he mentioned, and more importantly the one he didn’t, might give us a little preview into the Golden Knights’ plans for the second line heading into training camp.

Yeah, I don’t know… From what I heard, Tuch kind of came into his own as the season went on. I thought he blossomed really well and did really good the second half of the season. And then if potentially they might put Haula on the wing, and I wouldn’t mind that because someone like that with so much speed… sometimes it’s easy to play with those guys. Especially who has a background at center because you don’t have to be the first guy back all the time. It’s easy to kind of switch positions and always be moving and play on the fly.

This picture shows he at least knows Tatar exists. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It comes across much stronger as a transcribed quote than it does actually hearing him say it, so be sure to give it a listen, but Tomas Tatar’s name is nowhere to be found in that answer.

If indeed Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant chooses to put Tuch, Haula, and Stastny together, that would leave Tatar to play with Eakin and another winger like Ryan Carpenter, Daniel Carr, Curtis McKenzie, Oscar Lindberg, Tomas Hyka or another “bottom-six” type player.

After coming to the Golden Knights at the deadline, Tatar never quite found a home in the Vegas lineup and his stats suffered mightily. Heck, he couldn’t even get in the lineup during most of the playoff run. Putting him back on a third line without bonafide playmakers like Stastny, Tuch, and Haula likely sets him up to struggle once again.

Gallant is in a tough spot at the moment, basically with seven forwards to fill six slots. There are a lot of different combinations in which he can go, the question will be, does he try to find the best combination of three without any worry of what happens to the leftover player, or will he attempt to return to a more balanced lineup and possibly break the four non-first line guys into two pairs? Or, will a player or two emerge in camp to help fill the offensive void currently left on the third line?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m ready to be done with the speculation and get some answers. Unfortunately full training camp is still three weeks away. So, let the speculation continue.

What To Expect From Nick Holden

Most of the Golden Knights offseason headlines have been focused on the addition of Paul Stastny, the departures of James Neal and David Perron, and the re-signings of Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Reaves, and William Karlsson. But, the player who will likely see more ice time than everyone mentioned above, expect Fleury, has kind of flown under the radar.

Defenseman Nick Holden signed a two year, $2.2 million deal with the Golden Knights. With it, he instantly projects to be in the Vegas lineup and possibly even the top four. At first glance, and coming from the mouth of the GM, Holden is simply a replacement for Luca Sbisa.

It basically keeps the construction of our defense intact. Luca has moved on, we thought he would fit really well in that spot, and we like him a lot. We got the deal done on the terms we liked. Everything stays the same on our defense and we like our defense. -George McPhee

However, there’s a real chance Holden can become much more than that. Holden is a 6’4″215-pound stay-at-home style defenseman who is reliable on the penalty kill. With New York and Colorado, he was primarily used as a shut-down defenseman starting over 58% of shifts in the defensive zone. His career average of 20:01 TOI puts him right in line with Shea Theodore, Deryk Engelland, and Brayden McNabb.

I’m a little more of a simple player. Try to move the puck to the forwards and make a hit when I can. I’m not going to skate through anybody or go end to end, I’m kind of just a simple solid player. –Nick Holden to BostonBruins.com

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Time To Start Considering The Possibility Of Shea Theodore Missing Camp, Or Even Games?

Theodore started last year in the AHL, this year he might start it on his couch. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In 50 days, the Golden Knights will be back on the ice playing the first regular season game of their second season. In 29 days, training camp opens for the entire roster at City National Arena. That much we know, but what we don’t know is if Shea Theodore will be there to participate in either.

As of this moment, Theodore does not have a current NHL contract. Thus, he cannot play or even practice in an official manner with an NHL team. The restricted free agent, who did not have arbitration rights, has been extended a qualifying offer of around $1 million for one year, but he has yet to sign it because he and his agent are hoping to sign for more.

However, the clock is ticking and it’s starting to look like a realistic possibility Theodore misses a portion of training camp, preseason games, and maybe even regular season games.

We’ll continue to discuss and see if something can be done that makes sense for both parties. We’re still (four) weeks away from camp and two months away from the season, but it’d be nice if we can reach an agreement there and know what to expect going forward. -George McPhee to LVRJ

RFA’s missing time is not uncommon in the NHL. Jacob Trouba, Hampus Lindholm, and Rickard Rakell all missed at least portion of training camp and a few games in the past two years. Superstars P.K. Subban, Drew Doughty, Jamie Benn, and Alex Pietrangelo all missed time due to contract negotiations as RFA’s as well.

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McPhee Didn’t Think 2nd Line Was Good Enough Defensively, So He Blew It Up

Most of us remember moments like this, McPhee remembers much more. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Last year the Golden Knights second line was Erik Haula, David Perron, and James Neal. They netted 70 goals and put up 165 points, excellent offensive production for a second line. However, they posted a -26 rating despite taking just 26.3% (including neutral zone draws) of their faceoffs in the defensive zone.

We did have to change the second line from what it was last year because as far as second lines go it wasn’t good enough defensively. It produced, but the goals against per 60 minutes was not good enough. We were actually dead last for second lines in the league. -George McPhee on VGK Insider Show

We can’t find the exact stat showing Haula, Perron, and Neal but if McPhee uses the phrase “dead last” he’s got to be confident in the numbers. We could find this stat, however.

LineTOIGAGA/60
71/81/19722:34241.99
56/57/18554:37283.03
21/89/13261:10112.53
41/92/28152:1251.97

Those numbers are calculated based on the total time when all three players were on the ice together at even strength. As you can see, the Haula, Perron, Neal line was horrendous defensively, especially when compared to the Golden Knights first and “fourth” lines.

You can either look the other way on that or you can try to address it, so we are trying to address it. -McPhee on VGK Insider Show

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