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How George McPhee Used The Expansion Draft To Yield Mark Stone And Max Pacioretty (And Still Has Assets To Burn)

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the Expansion Draft was over and the dust had settled a bit, the Golden Knights walked away with much more than just the 30 players made up of one from each team.

By July 5th, George McPhee had “harvested” (his word, not mine) a bushel of assets that were expected to help reach the stated goal of reaching the playoffs by year three and lifting the Cup by year six. Here’s the full list of what the Golden Knights were sitting on a little over two weeks after the Expansion Draft.

Acquired
2017 1st round pick (Nick Suzuki)
2017 1st round pick (Erik Brannstrom)
2017 2nd round pick (Jake Leschyshyn)
2017 5th round pick (Jack Dugan)
2017 6th round pick (Jiri Patera)
2018 4th round pick (Paul Cotter)
2018 5th round pick (Brandon Kruse)
2019 2nd round pick
2019 2nd round pick
2019 3rd round pick
2019 3rd round pick
2019 5th round pick
2020 2nd round pick
2020 2nd round pick
Shea Theodore
Reilly Smith
Alex Tuch
Jake Bischoff
Keegan Kolesar
Dylan Ferguson
Nikita Gusev

Gave Up
2017 2nd round pick (Alexandre Texier)
2018 3rd round pick (Connor Dewar)
2018 4th round pick (Jack Gorniak)
2018 7th round pick (Riley Hughes)

Since then, things have changed a bit. The Golden Knights started out on fire and it’s never really slowed down. They won the Pacific Division, the Western Conference, and are in line to make the playoffs again in year two. Since July 5th, 2017, the Golden Knights have made nine more trades.

Acquired
Mark Stone
Max Pacioretty
Ryan Reaves
2018 4th round pick (Slava Demin)
2018 6th round pick (Peter Diliberatore)
2019 5th round pick
Tobias Lindberg
Zachary Leslie
Tye McGinn
Philip Holm

Gave Up
Brendan Leipsic
Calvin Pickard
Oscar Lindberg
Brad Hunt
Nick Suzuki (2017 1st round pick)
Erik Brannstrom (2017 1st round pick)
2018 1st round pick (Joe Veleno)
2019 2nd round pick
2019 2nd round pick
2019 6th round pick
2020 2nd round pick
2021 3rd round pick
Jimmy Oligny
(Tomas Tatar was acquired and then traded so he does not appear on either side of this list.)

Here’s the craziest part, look what happens if you add up all the picks.

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Salary Cap Implications For The Golden Knights In The Aftermath Of The Mark Stone Trade

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the dust settles on the Mark Stone trade, it’s time to start looking at the future of the Vegas Golden Knights as it relates to the salary cap.

The salary cap was set at $79,500,000 this season. The normal increase in salary cap from year to year is about 2-5%. Last season the cap increased by $4.5M. It should be expected that the cap increase from this season to next will be in the neighborhood of $4M to $7M.

Thus, we can expect the salary cap to be somewhere around $85,000,000.

According to CapFriendly.com, the best salary cap site on the Internet, the Golden Knights projected cap hit for 2019-20 is $72,875,000 without Stone’s imminent $9.5M AAV extension. So, just with Stone, the Golden Knights are looking at a projected cap hit of just under $82,375,000.

The Golden Knights still have David Clarkson on the roster. His contract can be placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) next season. There are some oddities to that rule, but for simplification sake, Vegas can get around $5.25M in salary cap relief by making this move.

Therefore, if nothing changes, Vegas should have around $7,875,000 left to work with.

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McPhee Doesn’t Want Rentals, But Shouldn’t He? (Plus Four Trade Options With Term)

The company line out of Vegas is that George McPhee is not interested in taking on players without term left on their contract.

We have cap space to do things, but the inclination is to not take on rentals. –McPhee to LVRJ

However, one has to ask if maybe McPhee is missing out on a trade market by not maximizing the draw of his home market.

The Golden Knights have only been around for two years, and just one offseason, but every unrestricted free agent in that offseason went on record saying they wanted to come back. Multiple free agents from other markets made it clear they wanted to play in Vegas, and Max Pacioretty couldn’t stop gushing about the city when the trade was completed to bring him here.

McPhee’s unwillingness to bring in a rental makes sense for the long term future of the team. Giving up an asset for a guy to be with the team for two or three months isn’t a wise move for a budding franchise. However, a rental could easily turn into a long-term (or even shorter term) deal for the Golden Knights just by getting the player in the door.

Rentals are cheap compared to players with term. Might it be wise for McPhee to pay the bargain price for a player like a Marcus Johansson, Kevin Hayes, or Micheal Ferland and then bank on the city of Vegas to seal the deal of locking them into an extension?

There’s no doubt it’s risky and bold, but isn’t that what this team was built on in the Expansion Draft, and even more so, isn’t that the entire point of Las Vegas?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Plus, buying the rental helps to avoid the Tomas Tatar situation. If the player Vegas acquires doesn’t work, you let him walk and aren’t on the hook for years of salary.

Again, I understand where McPhee’s coming from, but it’s certainly something to think about as the deadline approaches and the prices come down.


Say McPhee is indeed out on rentals. So, no Panarin, Stone, Johansson, Ferland, Simmonds, Nyquist or any other UFA. Let’s take a look at some of the other options that could be on the table.

Alexander Wennberg (Columbus Blue Jackets, C, 24 y/o, $4.9M thru 22-23)

One of William Karlsson’s best friends in the hockey world, the 24-year-old is a Gallant type player. He’s defensively sound with the ability to create scoring chances for teammates. At the Expansion Draft, the Blue Jackets went above and beyond to protect Wennberg, but having a down season and needing to free up some money to try and re-sign Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel (and maybe Panarin and Bobrovsky) they could use some cap freedom. Wennberg has been held out of each of the last two games so the price may be at its lowest ever. Vegas turned around one Blue Jacket center, maybe they can do it again.

Andre Burakovsky (Washington Capitals, LW/RW, 23 y/o, $3M, RFA w/ arb this offseason) 

Any time a Capital comes available you have to think McPhee is interested. Burakovsky was a 1st round pick by McPhee in the 2013 Draft and simply hasn’t found a home in the Washington lineup. He’s having the worst season of his career, but there’s no questioning the talent and skill level he possesses. He helps fill Vegas’ age gap and the cost shouldn’t be too prohibitive. Washington is without its 2020 2nd round pick, Vegas has a trio of them. Might they be able to start there?

Vladislav Namestnikov (New York Rangers, C, 26 y/o, $4M thru 19-20)

The Rangers are clearly in a fire sale, everything must go. They acquired Namestnikov at the deadline last year in the Ryan McDonough deal but he hasn’t fit in well in New York. With the Rangers rebuild still probably a few years away, Namestnikov could be an unrestricted free agent before they are ready to win. The Golden Knights have another Russian player they are trying to lure over from the KHL, Nikita Gusev, and having a third Russian might help the transition. The Rangers want picks and prospects, and it shouldn’t take a 1st to get this done.

Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers, LW, 25 y/o, $5.9M thru 22-23)

A former top-liner for Gerard Gallant, McPhee may be willing to take on the added salary if he’s able to get Huberdeau for a bargain price. Florida only has its own picks in 2020, so Vegas’ extra 2nds could come in handy to pull this one off. If Florida is interested in Colin Miller, this one could really have legs.

Deal or No Deal? Should The Golden Knights Make A Move?

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

From Feb. 1 through Saturday night, there had been 20 trades consummated in the NHL.

The Golden Knights were not a participant in a single one of them.

The trade deadline is 24 hours away. And it begs the question: What will George McPhee do?

Will he make a major move? Will he make a couple of small deals? Will he stand pat?

You can make an argument for any of the above and have a valid point. My gut is telling me he is listening about participating in a big deal, one that perhaps could have multiple teams involved. Whether he takes action, only he knows. He doesn’t share his thoughts with me, though sometimes it would be nice to have a general philosophical conversation with GMGM about hockey and take his temperature on various topics surrounding the game in general and his team in particular.

But that’s not his style. So that leaves me to guess what I think he’s going to do, which is a dangerous, and most likely, inaccurate game.

A week ago, I proposed making a serious run at Ottawa forward Mark Stone, the team’s leading scorer. I cited several reasons why Stone should be McPhee’s target with the caveat being he has to have a guarantee Stone would agree to a long-term deal to play in Vegas. No rentals here.

As of this morning, Stone was still with the Senators while Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel are no longer in Ottawa, both having been dealt to Columbus in separate trades. I have no doubt Sens GM Pierre Dorion is going to demand a ton for his best remaining player and the price may simply be too steep at this point for the Knights.

But if you’ve watched this team perform the past three weeks, it’s not just scoring that they need or a boost to its anemic power play.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The defense has struggled, particularly Colin Miler and Brayden McNabb. McPhee watches the same game we all do and while he may view things through a slightly different prism, he no doubt sees some sketchy play from his blue line corps and perhaps his attention may be shifting from looking to trade for some scoring to shoring up his defense.

He has been quoted recently that he likes this team the way it is currently constructed and that when they are playing the right way, the Knights are a very good hockey team. But the reality is Vegas has not been on the right side of things lately. They were on Feb. 16 when they dominated Nashville, 5-1. They played O.K. in losing to Boston in a shootout last Wednesday, 3-2.

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Just How Close Were The Golden Knights To Getting Erik Karlsson And How Might It Effect This Deadline

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Every trade deadline is its own separate crazy event, but because the decision makers are indeed human, often times emotions from one can spill over into another. That certainly may be the case with the Golden Knights and Ottawa Senators following last year’s trade negotiations for Erik Karlsson.

Those negotiations from a club vs. club perspective can be a little bit damaging. The general manager is always going to do what is going to make his club better, but if we want to look at that Vegas/Ottawa scenario last year… when you don’t get that player, can you imagine the level of frustration from that management group because you feel you pissed away a better part of your day. And then they end up making the Tatar trade as a knee-jerk, right? -Darren Dreger, TSN

I happened to be walking into George McPhee’s office half an hour after the San Jose Sharks acquisition of Erik Karlsson got announced during training camp… George McPhee was very careful with what he said but the steam coming out of his ears could not be hidden. Because they tried at the deadline, then they tried again all summer, and they didn’t get him. -Pierre LeBrun, TSN

Three of the most connected insiders in the world of hockey are Bob McKenzie, Pierre LeBrun, and Darren Dreger. They all got together for an episode of McKenzie’s podcast, the BobCast.

The conversation was certainly not centered on the Golden Knights, and while being used as an example, the three shared some intriguing info on just how “close” the deal was.

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“They Literally Tried To Give Him Away At The Draft And No One Would Take Him.”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

UPDATE (11:08 AM, 2/21/19) – Jesse Granger of The Athletic asked McPhee about the details of this story.

ORIGINAL STORY

Almost a year ago the Golden Knights pulled off one of the biggest trade deadline deals of the season acquiring Tomas Tatar from Detroit for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick. Tatar came to Vegas, made almost no impact, was a healthy scratch through much of the Golden Knights run to the Cup Final (he played eight of the 20 playoff games and only two in the Final), and then he was gone. Shipped away as part of the trade that brought Max Pacioretty from Montreal.

The deal was Tatar, Nick Suzuki, and a 2nd round pick for Pacioretty, and at the time, it appeared Tatar was a key piece in what the Canadiens were getting for trading away their captain.

Tatar has gone on to do great things in Montreal, scoring 19 goal and posting 44 points (both would be leading the Golden Knights). Pacioretty has been good for Vegas as well, with 18 goals and 32 points despite missing significant time due to injury.

Here’s the problem, we’re now learning that this wasn’t exactly a player for player deal.

(Tatar) had 20 goals last year, but 16 of them were in Detroit playing a lot on the power play. He goes to Vegas. He does nothing. They try and give him away at the Draft, no one wants him. They literally tried to give him away at the Draft and no one would take him. So he becomes a mandatory in the Pacioretty deal. You have to take Tatar’s contract. -Gord Miller, TSN

Miller appeared on TSN 690 in Montreal with Melnick in the Afternoon yesterday.

To further prove the point, the Golden Knights retained $500,000 of Tatar’s salary for each of the next three years as part of the trade.

As if the deadline deal wasn’t bad enough, this makes it even worse. McPhee not only gave away three draft picks for a piece that didn’t help his team at all, but then he forced the contract upon someone else making the cost on Pacioretty even higher than it already was!

And all the while, the guy McPhee tried to give away and then forced upon Montreal is outperforming every forward on his current roster!

Yikes.

How Often Do The Golden Knights Coaches Talk About Changing Lines?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If you are anything like me, every conversation you get into about hockey ends up turning into a pseudo coaches meeting where you consider all the different line combinations and what might be better than what the team is doing right now.

We’re fans though, that’s what fans do. Guess, second guess, armchair quarterback, and criticize when the team isn’t winning. But how often do the Golden Knights coaches actually talk about switching up the lines?

45 minutes this morning. We were going over the lines and that. We do it a lot. I mean obviously when you are winning you just keep rolling the same lines but when you’re not winning and you want to change some things you (go through) who will work with who and what will fit. Sometimes you overthink it but for the most part that’s what our job is, trying to get the best line combinations out there. -Gallant

Tonight, Gallant and Co. will run the lines out the same way they’ve started the last two games.

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pirri-Stastny-Tuch
Pacioretty-Eakin-Lindberg
Nosek-Bellemare-Reaves

If you ask me, it’s time to break up the top line. I’ve thrown out ideas such as matching up Marchessault with Reaves, swapping Stastny and Karlsson, or even completely dismantling the top line onto three separate lines.

Gallant isn’t known for radical line changes, but that doesn’t mean they never come up in their daily discussions.

Not too often. Very seldom. I mean we’ve been pretty fortunate for the last year and a half that things are going pretty good. So when you hit a rough patch you try to say the same but sometimes you have to switch up the lines a little. -Gallant

The Golden Knights are searching for answers. They’ve found them temporarily here and there (see Nashville, Detroit, and Tampa) but all in all, they haven’t found the perfect combination.

We know now though that the discussions are happening. If the losing keeps up, it’s only a matter of time before we see something a bit more drastic than what we’ve seen already.

Low-Risk, High-Reward Trade May Be The Better Way To Go At Deadline

On Sunday here on SinBin.vegas, Steve Carp suggested the Golden Knights make a run at Mark Stone. Other big names like Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Wayne Simmonds, Mats Zuccarello and many others have also been linked to the Golden Knights.

While Jason and I are certainly not opposed to a splash move, we both have the same concern (which you know is rare if you listen to our podcast).

Is this team good enough to risk selling multiple high-end assets to make a run this year? Or, phrased differently, will adding a star player be the difference between the Golden Knights regaining their dominance?

Carp was offering Colin Miller, a 1st, and a prospect like Ivan Morozov for Stone. The package to get Panarin would be even higher. Heck, even guys like Kevin Hayes appear to be primed to fetch significant returns.

The return for (Hayes) should be far more substantial, though we have argued for months that the typical 24-31 draft pick plus a B-level prospect or two doesn’t move the needle dramatically enough. –Larry Brooks, NY Post 

I believe the Golden Knights are a very good hockey team stuck in a rough patch. However, I also understand the consistency issues and seriously question if they can flip the switch and keep it turned on for an entire playoff run.

This Golden Knights team is good enough to win the Western Conference. They can beat San Jose, Calgary, Winnipeg, and/or Nashville in a seven-game series. But, they’ve got to play much better than they have, and it has to come from the guys currently on the roster. It’s in there, we know it is because we’ve seen it, they just have to bring it back out.

That’s why adding a major piece scares both Jason and I. If the current roster doesn’t figure out their issues, adding Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby wouldn’t even be enough to fuel a run to the Cup. But, if they do get it together, they may not even need to add much of anything. So, is it really wise to throw caution to the wind and swing for the fences?

Instead, there’s a much smaller move we’d like to advocate for. A move that if it were to happen could certainly make them better while not breaking the bank along the way.

This isn’t actually Marcus Johansson, but you get the point. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

That move is acquiring New Jersey Devils winger Marcus Johansson. With New Jersey, the 28-year-old Swede has totaled 39 points in 75 games, which has been considered underperforming. He has 118 career goals, 29 power play goals, and averages 0.57 points per game. Johansson racked up 58 points and 24 goals in 2016-17 before being traded to New Jersey. He also posted four straight years of 40+ points and received Lady Byng and Selke votes along the way. He’s a power play threat with a strong career shooting percentage (13.8%).

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Gallant Happy With Third Line; “Want Them To Keep Doing What They Are Doing”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With the trade deadline fast approaching, the buzz around the Golden Knights is almost squarely focused on the third line. It’s a line with only one stable piece, the center, Cody Eakin, and filled with imperfect wingers such as Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov, Tomas Nosek, Ryan Carpenter, and Oscar Lindberg.

Most, including all three who write on this website, believe for the Golden Knights to reach the top of the mountain, something needs to change with that line. Whether it’s an addition from within, a piece added at the deadline, or reinforcements from the current top six, here at SinBin.vegas, we see the third line as the primary weakness for the Golden Knights.

The head coach, who happens to be the reigning Jack Adams award winner, does not agree.

I want them to keep doing what they are doing. People make a big deal of it that supposedly they don’t score enough. I don’t. We’ve got guys who can put the puck in the back of the net. Those guys have to come out and play their roles. I love a lot about our hockey team, I’m not too concerned at all. -Gerard Gallant

Gallant, speaking on the VGK Insider Show with Frank Harnish and Ryan The Hockey Guy on Fox Sports 98.9 FM, says he thinks his team is just fine offensively, even with the third line as currently constructed.

Well you know what, I think people overreact a little bit saying ‘oh this line needs to be better’ or ‘you’ve got to make that line better.’

I’m not worried about scoring. I know we’ve got the scoring in there. I’m worried about team chemistry and making sure we’ve got the right players playing at the right time. -Gallant

In fact, he went on to make an even bolder statement, declaring this year’s team as good as last year’s.

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Former NHL Star and Czech Juniors Coach Evaluates Vegas’ Top Prospects

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Patrik Elias is one of the finer European players to ever play the game. The future Hall of Famer was considered a highly smart two-way player with elite skills. The two-time Stanley Cup champion is New Jersey’s franchise leader in points, goals, and assists, which is doubly impressive since Elias played a good chunk of his career in the Dead Puck era.

Elias was in town last month to assist with the NHL’s new player tracking technology, and to watch his Devils face off against the Golden Knights. So, I tracked down the retired star to get his thoughts on the youngsters in the Vegas pipeline.

After all, the Czech was an assistant coach for his home country at this past World Junior Championships. Elias was enthusiastic by what he saw from the Golden Knights prospects.

Cody Glass

Before I could finish my question, Elias cut in…

He’s an NHL player no question about it. I watched not only minutes but a couple of hours of video on him because of the way he runs a power play. He’s got a great poise. Obviously, right handed shot. Hockey smarts, great skater. He was one of the better, most fun players to watch. He’s going to be an NHL pro. -Elias

Elias wasn’t committing to a timetable for Glass but he expects it won’t be long.

You see a lot of the guys making the jump quickly. If they work hard, they’ll get the chance. It is a young man’s league. But nothing wrong with playing in the minors for a little bit. Adjust to it a little, even though it’s a different game. -Elias

Erik Brannstrom

Just as he was with Glass, Elias was incredibly high on Vegas’ spitfire defenseman.

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