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Category: Team Ops (Page 1 of 63)

History Shows Trading Young Talent For A Current Superstar Isn’t a Bad Move

Trades involving generational players in their primes are rare in the NHL. Over the course of the last 30 years, it’s happened about five times. Yet, with the Draft getting underway tomorrow and free agency on July 1st, Erik Karlsson’s name could be added to that list any moment.

It seems like Theodore might be on his way to Ottawa if McPhee can complete a deal for Karlsson. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When it comes to a unique talent like Karlsson, every GM in the league will show interest. However, most know they either don’t have the assets or the cap space to acquire the 28-year-old superstar defenseman. Ottawa shipped out Mike Hoffman which solved one problem but they took on salary in the deal, further indicating another deal may be on the horizon. At this point, unless Karlsson is demanding a trade they don’t have to move him. Unfortunately for the Senators, he probably is. Ottawa’s front office may continue to force Bobby Ryan’s hefty contract ($7.25M/4 yrs), forcing some teams to stay away. In the Senators eyes, if the deal isn’t right that’s not their problem.

Erik is a franchise player. We felt that there was no franchise deal out there that could satisfy us to make the best hockey deal. -Pierre Dorion at trade deadline

This may be an unpopular look at the Karlsson to Vegas trade rumors because I know how apprehensive Golden Knights fans are about saying goodbye to their favorite players. Hey, I hear ya. After all, I am the founding member of the Shea Theodore fan club, but it is a business, and if the Golden Knights make a move for Karlsson, their probably on to something.

History tells us teams that make the trade for a star player will usually see major dividends, while the players shipped out tend to have mediocre careers.

  • Los Angeles receives: Wayne Gretzky, Marty McSorley, and Mike Krushelnyski
  • Edmonton receives: Three 1st round picks, Martin Gelinas, Jimmy Carson, and $15 million

I won’t waste your time going over Gretzky’s statistics or influence after he was traded to LA. The Oilers were really only in it for the cash. They knew they would lose the trade no matter what, so the closest thing of value was millions of dollars. That being said, they did get two players in the deal.

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Western Conference Champions Plus Plenty Of Cap Space, A GM’s Dream

In physics, there’s a principle that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. When object A exerts force, object B responds with the exact same amount of force in return. If a person sits, the body exerts a downward force against the chair while the chair comes back with an equal upward force against the body. This is called Newton’s Third Law. In hockey, it’s called the salary cap.

Can’t say I’m entirely sure what Newton’s laws would say about this one. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The idea behind the salary cap is to restrain the best teams from going out into free agency, snapping up all the best (and highest paid) players, and becoming even better, all the while seeing the bad teams get worse. It’s designed to promote parity and it does so by creating an opposite force against teams that consistently win.

Luckily for the Golden Knights, the force exerted by the salary cap while opposite, does not have to be equal.

Instead, George McPhee and the Golden Knights sit in most envious of positions.

We have a good team and we don’t have any cap pressures, we’re not tight on the cap. That’s a position you like to avoid, but we’ll see how things shake out. -George McPhee

He’s actually understating it there. The Golden Knights have an elite team, good enough to amass 109 points in the regular season, win the Pacific Division in a landslide, and eventually be crowned the Western Conference Champions. At the same time, Vegas currently sits as the team with the 3rd most salary cap space. They have a whopping $26.475 million of projected available cap space plus the ability to utilize long-term injured reserve (LTIR) to gain another $5+ million.

Oh, and, the Golden Knights have three first draft picks from the top 15 in last year’s draft and 12 picks in the first three rounds of the next three drafts.

Add it all up, and the Golden Knights have absolutely everything necessary to turn a losing team into a winning one, except they weren’t a losing team, instead they were the second best team in all of the NHL.

It’s up to us to put a team on the ice that’s better. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don’t, but that’s the job, to make them better and to deliver a Stanley Cup, that’s why we’re here. -McPhee

This is where the story gets really good for those who are hoping the Year 1 trip to the Stanley Cup Final wasn’t an anomaly. I asked McPhee if he’s ever been in a position as good as the one he appears to be in right now as the GM of the Golden Knights. The answer I was expecting was “no.” The answer I got was much better.

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Offseason Outlook: Goaltenders

Never could anyone have imagined the Golden Knights goalie depth would be tested the way it was. Five goalies used in the first 17 games gave George McPhee a pretty solid look at the present and the future of the most important position on the ice.

It would seem not much needs to happen between the pipes for the Golden Knights with Marc-Andre Fleury the clear starter, Malcolm Subban a solid backup and Oscar Dansk plus Maxime Lagace manning the crease in the AHL. However, it’s not that simple, and in fact, McPhee has plenty of decisions in the net not only this offseason but moving forward.

Marc-Andre Fleury

It’s a bit of a shame Fleury will not win any awards after that incredible season. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After posting Vezina quality numbers in the regular season and then racing out to become the Conn Smythe favorite before the final series of the playoffs, it appears Fleury’s days as a full-time starter aren’t as numbered as they appeared during the last days in Pittsburgh.

He’s mentioned playing for many more years and recently said he wants to finish his career in Vegas. Fleury has one more season left on his contract scheduled to pay him $5.75 million. Then he would become an unrestricted free agent, something the Golden Knights probably aren’t interested in letting happen.

Things do get a bit tricky though when dealing with the long-term future of a 33-year-old goalie. While it certainly appears his age isn’t getting in the way at this point, that could change at any moment. Signing Fleury to a four or five year deal is risky as his production could slip at any moment, but letting him constantly play on expiring deals keeps the control in the hands of the player rather than the organization.

If Fleury is being completely honest that he wants to finish his career with the Golden Knights, they should play the short-term contract game with him on a gentleman’s agreement that he’ll get a new deal every time he wants one and the price will be fair. There aren’t many players who any GM would be willing to go down that road with, but if there’s one, it’s probably Fleury.

There’s one concern there though, and that’s Pittsburgh. What if they come calling at some point? It’s easy to say he wants to finish his career in Vegas while sitting on stage in the same building as the Campbell Bowl, but if the idea of going back to the Penguins ever became a realistic possibility, he’d likely want to hear it out.

The best course of action for the Golden Knights is likely to keep him one year away from free agency at all times. Extend his contract each offseason so he feels comfortable, while also protecting the organization against the inevitable father time induced decline.

Malcolm Subban, Oscar Dansk, Max Lagace

Only one of these three players currently has a contract with the Golden Knights and that’s Subban. Dansk remains under Golden Knights control as he’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Lagace is an unrestricted free agent set to hit the open market on July 1st if he doesn’t reach a deal with Vegas before then.

Subban still seems to be the clear #2 behind Fleury, but his injury-riddled season has to bring pause to the organization’s desire to commit to him as the heir-apparent. Subban was hurt once during a game early in the year and then found himself unavailable two more times due to injuries that occurred during practice. Subban missed a majority of the postseason and the team opted to use Lagace as the backup over Dansk.

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Golden Knights Announce Preseason Schedule

A trip to the Stanley Cup Final means a very short offseason for the Golden Knights. The NHL Entry Draft starts Friday with Development Camp shortly behind that. Then there’s a bit of a down period through July and August but we now have the dates for the next time the Golden Knights will be on the ice.

Vegas will play seven preseason games, four of which will take place at T-Mobile Arena. Here’s the schedule.

Hockey is back… in September! (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

9/16 – Arizona Coyotes
9/18 – at Colorado Avalanche
9/20 – at Los Angeles Kings
9/22 – at San Jose Sharks
9/24 – Colorado Avalanche
9/28 – Los Angeles Kings
9/30 – San Jose Sharks

Prior to the first preseason game, Rookie Training Camp will begin on September 7th with full Training Camp getting underway a week later on the 14th.

Offseason Outlook: Defensemen

Through the course of the playoffs, the surprise unit for the Golden Knights were the defensemen. They completely shut down the Kings, they stifled the Sharks, and they bent but didn’t break against the Jets. Then, in the Stanley Cup Final, it kind of fell apart for the Vegas blueliners.

So, as we head into the offseason the burning question for George McPhee and the Golden Knights front office is whether or not they need to add to bolster their defense or of the missing piece is already on the roster.

Here’s a look at who the Golden Knights currently have under their control.

Nate looks like he’s become a star in the NHL. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Established and Signed
Brayden McNabb, Nate Schmidt, Deryk Engelland, Jon Merrill, Brad Hunt

While this list contains 310 games played and three players who played all 20 playoff games, there are really only two fully reliable options as full-time starters moving into 2018-19. McNabb and Schmidt are expected to be stalwarts on the Golden Knights blue line this season and moving forward. They may not be paired together again next season, but they’ll certainly be in the top four.

Engelland is a bit of a mystery as he probably had the best season of his career at the age of 35. The question is can he continue playing at that consistent level as he heads into the final few seasons of his career.

Then there are Merrill and Hunt. Hunt is a player that’s bounced around the NHL and AHL and has never really gotten a full-time shot to prove himself. The reason for that is because he’s a bit of a liability defensively due to his size. He’ll have to play well in camp once again to make the roster, but even if he doesn’t, Hunt will be a good option in the event that a puck-moving defenseman becomes unavailable during the season. Merrill is a bit of a different story as he’s more of a defensive-minded player but has the ability to pinch in and help out offensively. The Golden Knights signed Merrill to an extension last season which indicates they believe in him, but it’s still not probable that he’s a 60+ game defenseman next season.

Established and under VGK control
Colin Miller, Shea Theodore

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Revisiting Erik Karlsson To Vegas Rumors

Erik Karlsson needs out of Ottawa, this is clear.

No matter what comes out of this really sad situation, the damage is done. Karlsson can’t trust the Senators front office after covering up harassment allegations.

It’s time for the Swede, his wife, and the Senators to move on. Possibly, starting with one of the teams that wanted the Superstar defenseman at the deadline.

Various reasons were reported why the Karlsson flip didn’t happen. In Ottawa, the belief was the Golden Knights wouldn’t take on Sens forward Bobby Ryan’s contract. The once 35 goal scorer has four years left at a whopping $7.25M per season. Ryan scored 30+ in four straight seasons, he’s greatly underachieved since combining for 64 goals in the past four seasons. I understand George McPhee’s hesitations. -Elliotte Friedman

On Karlsson, my sense is the Vegas trade fell apart because of how the purchase price would be adjusted by Bobby Ryan’s inclusion. I’m not 100 per cent sure if it was Ottawa’s ask or Vegas’s offer, but one of the rumblings is that the teams were talking two first-rounders, a high-level prospect and a conditional pick for Karlsson — the condition being whether or not the Golden Knights re-signed him. Whatever the case, it didn’t happen and I can’t imagine Vegas would have been willing to do all that if they were taking Ryan’s contract, too. -Friedman

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“Not Everyone Will Be Back”; A Look Into VGK’s Free Agency Situation (Plus 9 Predictions)

Reading between the lines, either Neal or Perron likely won’t be back. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights were close to the ultimate goal, but in the end, they fell three wins short. So, they now head to the offseason with a plan in mind, make the team three wins better than they were a year ago.

There are plenty of decisions to be made with the roster as currently constructed and oodles of cap space available to bring in outside help.

The reality is in a salary cap world you have to make some tough decisions, and with this team, not everyone will be back. We’ve all learned lessons over the years, if you examine what happens in the salary cap world you have to be smart about what you do and the contracts you hand out or it hurts your team. We’ll do our best to keep this group together but there are always three or four changes. -George McPhee

The Golden Knights have four major unrestricted free agents (UFA’s) which are set to hit the open market on July 1st. They are James Neal, David Perron, Ryan Reaves, and Luca Sbisa. Also, Maxime Lagace, Jason Garrison, Brandon Pirri, Mikhail Grabovski, Clayton Stoner, Chris Casto, and Paul Thompson will become UFA’s in 20 days.

It doesn’t matter where in the lineup, you have to be smart about what you do. -McPhee

Then there are the restricted free agents (RFA’s) of which the Golden Knights have plenty. The most notable is William Karlsson. In short, Karlsson is not going anywhere. Unless something unprecedented happens, he’ll absolutely remain the first line center for Vegas next season. However, the projections on his contract are all over the map.

Technically, the Golden Knights only have to extend a “qualifying offer” to Karlsson of $1 million. This will happen soon and then Karlsson and his agent will request arbitration. An arbitration date will be set sometime in late July to early August. That will basically be the deadline for the Golden Knights and Karlsson to reach a long-term extension.

Tomas Nosek, Colin Miller, Oscar Dansk, Teemu Pulkkinen, Stefan Matteau, and Philip Holm are also all arbitration eligible and would follow the same process.

Finally, there are the two younger players who are RFA’s in Shea Theodore and William Carrier. Due to their age, neither are arbitration eligible. Thus, the Golden Knights can simply extend them a qualifying offer (Theodore -$874,125, Carrier – $787,500) and the player will have to sign it and remain with the team through next season. However, especially with a player like Theodore, this offseason may be a good time to lock him up long-term before he gets arbitration rights and has more negotiating power. The two sides can come to an agreement on a long-term deal at any time.

That brings us to the magical world of unrestricted free agency which opens on July 1st. Names like John Tavares, James van Riemsdyk, and John Carlson will be thrown around with basically every team that has cap space. The Golden Knights have plenty of cap space so get used to seeing the big names linked to Vegas, but the Golden Knights also have a GM that’s historically not a big spender in free agency.

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Step In The Right Direction, But VGK Running Out Of Steps

The Golden Knights are down, not out. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Just over a minute into Game 4 a puck caromed off Erik Haula’s skate and hit the post. Two minutes later Reilly Smith had a wide-open look at an empty net and put it wide. Then, on a power play, James Neal was fed a pass which found him staring at a net even more open than the Smith shot, and Brayden Holtby made another unbelievable save. Finally, 20 seconds later Neal hit another post.

Four chances, less than five minutes into Game 4, and the Golden Knights had absolutely nothing to show for it.

Obviously it’s frustrating but even if the pucks didn’t go in we were creating a lot of chances after. Next thing you know it’s 3-0 and we were still pushing but they were scoring goals tonight and we were not. Sometimes it’s just the way it is. -Tomas Tatar

The “way it is” is cruel, it stinks, it’s frustrating, but there is a positive. The Golden Knights did get back to what they’ve done well all season in this game. They created chance after chance after chance but they just didn’t go in the net. If one does, the game might be different, but more importantly, maybe the next one will too.

It would have given us momentum, but we can’t worry about that. We’ve just got to move on, take what we did well in this game, forget about the bad, and worry about Game 5. -Alex Tuch

Game 4 wasn’t like Games 2 or 3. The Golden Knights did not fall into the same traps. In fact, tonight’s a game they feel like they have a good shot to win more often than not.

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Vegas’ 2nd Line Not Producing On Either End Of The Ice

There hasn’t been enough of this lately. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Heading into Game 3, Erik Haula, James Neal, and David Perron had been fairly flat in the Stanley Cup Final. Then Game 3 happened, and second line struggle has turned to second line disaster.

We have to put pucks in, you have a little bit of time, you think you can make a play, have some room to skate, and then it gets clogged up pretty quick. For us, we have to simplify. It’s something we talked about. But I just think we’re just not there. We’re a second late on pucks. Or support. We’ll fix it. -James Neal

In 180 minutes of hockey, the trio has a combined three points (1 goal, 2 assists), just 10 shots on goal, seven shots blocked, seven missed shots, and a whopping -9 rating. All three are under 45%, they’ve allowed 12 high dangers chances while creating just three, and worst of all, they were on the ice for all three goals in Game 3.

It’s big, obviously the matchups. We did a really good job getting lines out there when we needed to. -Jay Beagle, Washington forward

It was glaringly obvious that the second line was having trouble creating any real threat. Neal’s laser of a goal in Game 2 is the line’s only goal, and it took an incredible individual effort rather than team play to score it. Plus, even that lost its luster after Don Cherry pointed out Neal’s shot was slightly deflected off Washington’s Michal Kempny’s stick.

They’ve had their moments, and yeah, we know they’re going to get chances. The more we can keep them off the scoreboard and frustrate them as much as possible. -John Carlson, Washington defenseman

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Golden Knights Didn’t Solve Problems Like They Normally Do

When the Golden Knights have lost in the playoffs, and it hasn’t been often, they’ve always found a way to correct their wrongs. They’ve learned from their mistakes, fixed them, and have not fallen into the same traps that saw them on the wrong end of the scoreboard the previous game. Many times in the postseason they’ve even won games, still realized their errors, and cleaned them up the next time out.

Another new problem was Shea Theodore’s ineffectiveness. A bad time for his worst game. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Tonight, they did not.

They fell into a hole, they didn’t get enough traffic in front, they didn’t forecheck as a unit, they couldn’t break through the clogged up neutral zone, and they didn’t finish the chances when they were there. Problems in Game 2 were problems in Game 3 and that is not normal for the Western Conference Champions.

They’re winning a lot of the battles, blocking a lot of the shots and we haven’t been good enough at finding a way to be successful against it. Just go home, evaluate and get better. -Cody Eakin

In addition to the “old” problems of Game 2, there were a few new ones as well.

We aren’t getting enough shots at all. It doesn’t cut it, it’s not good enough. -Alex Tuch

They’re battling hard and we weren’t. -Derk Engelland

We’re not used to seeing this with this group. It’s not just the back-to-back losses, it’s the similarities in them. Once again the Golden Knights did not play like the Golden Knights, and once again they fell victim to the same issues that hanted them in Game 2.

We gave them some chances again, we’ve got to fix it… As offensive guys, we’ve got to make plays. -David Perron

Falling behind didn’t help either.

They came out in the 1st period and set the tone real good and again we were chasing them all night. -Gerard Gallant

Game 4 is about finding a way to correct these issues. They’ve done it all year, they’ve got to do it again.

We’ve got to be better and we will be better for Game 4. -Tuch

The “must-win” Golden Knights need to show up to Capital One Arena on Monday.

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