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Fleury’s Agent Echoes His Client’s Desire To Stay Put; Even Though Both Know He’s Probably Not

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t new to the business side of the NHL. He knows what went down between the trade deadline and the end of the Golden Knights playoff run, he understands the Golden Knights salary cap situation, and he sees the writing on the wall. No matter what he says or does now, nothing is going to change what will happen in the coming weeks (or maybe months).

So, when placed in that situation, might as well say the right thing before the inevitable happens.

Marc said that he wants to stay in Vegas, and he’s not looking for or seeking a trade anywhere else. He’s perfectly happy to co-exist with Robin Lehner, if that’s what ultimately happens. To some extent the decision making is out of his hands. But he wanted everyone to know where he stands and that he loves Vegas. –Alan Walsh on TSN 690

Walsh, Fleury’s agent, backed up what his client said to The Athletic’s Jesse Granger last week. You should read that interview if you haven’t yet, but to sum it up, Fleury hasn’t and won’t asked to be traded, he hopes to retire in Vegas, and he’d be perfectly happy to share the goal with Robin Lehner in 2020.

It’s all true, but there’s a motive behind the message Fleury was trying to get out. Speaking optimistically about the uncertainty of his future was a tactic and a smart one at that.

By stating he isn’t asking for a trade, Fleury is wisely playing both sides of the fence. He’s showing his appreciation and fondness for the fan base and the city of Las Vegas, but the 35-year-old goaltender was also signaling if and probably when a trade happens, it’s on the organization, not him.

He has great connection to the community. He loves his teammates and he came on board as literally player number one and wants to finish the journey that he set out on when he went to Vegas. Ending with a winning cup. He’s not looking for a change or anything else. –Walsh on TSN 690

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Golden Knights Must “Churn” Roster In Order To Stay Good For Now And Later

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The Golden Knights are into offseason number three as they prepare for season number four. In season three, they began to work in some younger players like Nic Roy, Cody Glass, Zach Whitecloud, and Nic Hague, but the playing time was limited and the roles were certainly reduced.

As they move forward, especially with the cap staying flat, the Golden Knights must find more ways to save cap space by getting larger contributions out of younger players.

You can’t sit still. There’s a balance between having a real strong nucleus that gives you a chance to win but there’s also the importance of having enough churn that you give opportunities for new players. -Kelly McCrimmon

The question that will be answered this offseason is just how much “churn” is enough.

The Golden Knights prospect system has a heap of players that appear to be ready to break into the NHL. From the four that did in 2019-20 to Jack Dugan, Lucas Elvenes, Peyton Krebs, Jonas Rondbjerg, Dylan Coghlan, and Jimmy Schuldt the options are certainly there for Vegas.

Every one of the players mentioned carries a cap hit of less than $1 million, which means replacing just about anyone in the everyday starting lineup means cap savings.

But, how much is too much? Especially when considering the Golden Knights are a clear Cup contending team and have aspirations of lifting it in the very near future.

In 2019-20, when the Golden Knights were pushed up to the salary cap limit, they pretty much always had at least two entry-level contracts on the NHL roster. It started with Hague and Glass, then morphed into Roy and Whitecloud as the season went on and into the playoffs.

I’d guess that Roy and Whitecloud have become permanent members of the NHL roster moving forward and any of the other six players mentioned could easily make a case as well. But there has to be a spot for them and at the moment there don’t appear to be many open.

That’s where this offseason comes into play and why Vegas fans should be expecting at least a bit of a shakeup, if not a mega one, in the Golden Knights standard 18-man starting roster. McCrimmon and McPhee not only want to see what they have in the system, but they’ll need to get production out of these younger players if they want to continue to improve their team without the advantage of a rising salary cap.

Expect to see at least one player from the top-six to head out and a high probability of one of the six starting defensemen from the Dallas series no longer in steel grey and gold come opening night of season four.

Churn is normal every offseason, but the Golden Knights are ripe for a bit more than usual with the collection of factors the front office is up against in this one. The cap is at the top of it, but also a seven-game scoring drought that ended a promising playoff run, and a new coach behind the bench for his first offseason.

The Golden Knights will remain a very good team, and one most will project to win the Pacific Division once again when play gets underway. However, don’t expect that team to look too much like the one that just exited the bubble in Edmonton.

Ranking The 5 Goalie Options The Golden Knights Have From Best To Worst

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The clock is ticking on the “first order of business” for the Golden Knights this offseason. With the buyout period open and free agency set to begin on October 9th, the VGK front office will have to execute whatever plan they have in mind to solve their conundrum between the pipes soon.

Yesterday, in an interview with Jesse Granger of The Athletic Fleury indicated that he has not formally requested a trade, he would prefer to finish his career in Vegas, and he is not opposed to splitting time with Robin Lehner.

I want to stay in Vegas. I thought when I came here that maybe I could retire here. I wanted to end my career here. –Marc-Andre Fleury to The Athletic

That willingness leaves the door wide open for the Golden Knights. There are five options for Vegas. Some are great, some are ok, and some are downright terrible. I’ve ranked them, in order from best-case scenario to worst-case for the organization. We start with the best option.

Re-sign Lehner. Trade Fleury without retaining any salary

This is the best realistic result for the Golden Knights this offseason. There have been reports of a handshake agreement on a deal worth $5 million per year between Lehner and Vegas but both sides have denied such deal exists. But, where there’s smoke, oftentimes there’s fire, which means while that deal may not be final right now, it could in the near future. After signing that deal, Vegas would look for a landing spot for Fleury in which the team taking him on accepts 100% of his salary. Obviously, in a perfect world, the Golden Knights would get an asset in return, but in the current landscape, that seems fairly unlikely. So the hope would be that it wouldn’t cost more than a 3rd round pick to make it happen.

If it all goes down that way, Vegas will have saved $2 million at the goalie position, gotten much younger going from Fleury to Lehner, bought an extra three years of goalie contract, and turned their “rental” into a long-term piece making the initial trade for Lehner even more palatable than before. Even if Lehner’s number is closer to $7 million or if the term is shorter, the Golden Knights will have made out well.

Re-sign Lehner. Trade Fleury with a portion of salary retained (or take a player with a significant cap hit in return)

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Zach Whitecloud’s Emergence As A Consistent D-Man Is The Best Thing To Come Out Of 2020 For VGK

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Heading into season three one of the biggest storylines for the Golden Knights was figuring out which young defenseman was going to grab the open role and make an impact in 2019-20.

In camp, Nic Hague, Zach Whitecloud, and Dylan Coghlan raced to the top of the list making the decision a tough one on the front office and then coach Gerard Gallant. But an injury to Whitecloud and the need for a guy to play the left side helped allow Hague the first shot.

It took him a bit to get his feet wet and his offensive game never quite took hold, but he certainly held his own before the coaching change. Then, when Gallant was ousted and DeBoer came in, the switch was quickly made form Hague to Whitecloud. A few games and a pandemic later, and the Golden Knights had not only found the best of their five near-NHL-ready defensive prospects but they found themselves a player that appears to ready for a long career as a stalwart on the Golden Knights blue line.

I love the fact that we’ve had a young guy like Zach Whitecloud come in and we couldn’t give him enough. He never faltered, he never failed, he met every challenge, he’s established himself as a really good NHL defenseman so I think that’s really encouraging. -Kelly McCrimmon

Of course, Whitecloud’s season ended regrettably, but he was one of the most consistent defensemen for Vegas during the entire playoff run. His most impressive step forward was on the penalty kill where he literally became the Golden Knights’ top option.

Whitecloud led the Golden Knights with 66:05 of PK time in the playoffs, four minutes more than Brayden McNabb and 25 more than Alec Martinez, helping Vegas kill at an impressive 86%, the best of any team advancing beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Whitecloud also upped his offensive game, with two goals, an assist, and 20 shots over his 20 playoff games. Plus, there were many times in which he would properly activate off the blue line to extend an offensive shift or create a dangerous chance himself.

He played his ass off and played big and played heavy and played big minutes for us. He’s got a bright future ahead of him here. -Pete DeBoer

His elevation to full-time player gives the Golden Knights a huge advantage on the blue line they have not had before. In each of the first two seasons, the defense was littered with players making north of $2 million and even a few pushing upwards of $5 million. Whitecloud is locked in at under $1 million for each of the next two seasons allowing the Golden Knights flexibility.

Also, being right-handed, Whitecloud currently stands as Vegas’ only full-time righty d-man which means he can literally be paired with anyone else on the current roster.

A lot from the 2019-20 season will go down as a disappointment, but if there’s one thing that Vegas can take out of it moving forward, it’s that they discovered Zach Whitecloud’s ability at the NHL level. A luxury they’ll lean on a ton as they toss and turn the roster trying to get better in the era of the flat salary cap.

What VGK’s Blue Line Would Look Like With Alex Pietrangelo Or Torey Krug

Yesterday we went into potential alternatives for the big-time add on the blue line for the Golden Knights. Today, we’re diving into what the Vegas defensive unit would look like if they do indeed land Alex Pietrangelo or Torey Krug.

There’s been a lot of rumblings about Alex Pietrangelo and Vegas, and someone told me today they were wondering if Vegas might take a run, if it’s not Pietrangelo, at Torey Krug. –Elliotte Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

Before we get into the pair combos, let’s start with what the Golden Knights would have to do to make it happen. Pietrangelo is likely going to command somewhere around $8-9 million where Krug will likely fall a bit lower at around $7-8.5 million. Either way, with the Golden Knights looking at about $1 million or so in available cap space currently, they’ll have to get to work.

The whole offseason must begin by settling the goalie situation. In a perfect world, Vegas would find someone to take Marc-Andre Fleury’s complete contract off their hands without forfeiting much more than a lower round pick. Then, they’d sign Robin Lehner for between $5-6 million and earn themselves a bit of relief (Fleury’s cap hit is $7 million). However, it’s more likely there will be at least a bit of Fleury’s salary retained on the Golden Knights books, or they’ll have to buy him out, and they will hope to be back at $7 million in goalies after signing Lehner long team.

The next decision would be at the center position. If the Golden Knights believe they can replace Paul Stastny with Cody Glass (or Stastny with Stephenson and Stephenson with Glass) then that would be the least invasive start to finding the cap space. That’s $6.5 million which would essentially offset the majority of the space needed to sign either defenseman.

If they don’t trust that route (which I wouldn’t), then you look to the wings. Max Pacioretty’s $7 million and Jonathan Marchessault’s $5 million are the two that jump out.

Finally, if VGK add a defenseman, they would likely be looking to move at least one of the existing ones out. The leading candidate being the $5.95 million owed to Nate Schmidt. Otherwise, Alec Martinez’s $4 million could be an option, but after trading two 2nd round picks for him, they better be able to recoup at least one, if not both of them to make that route worthwhile.

So, you can pick the path you like the most with the understanding that if they save money on the goalie exchange, it would only have to be one player, while if they don’t, it’s likely one forward and one defenseman that must go.

Now let’s get on to the fun part; what the Golden Knights look like on the blue line if they add a big-ticket defenseman this offseason. Let’s start by assuming the Golden Knights make it happen without getting rid of any current defenseman on the roster.

Add Pietrangelo / Subtract No One

Schmidt-Pietrangelo
Martinez-Theodore
McNabb-Whitecloud

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Familiar Alternatives To Free Agent Big Game Hunting

The Golden Knights offseason plans are underway and time for the front office to try and improve the club for next season.

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is the big fish in free agency and as we’ve seen before, the Golden Knights aren’t afraid to hand out a massive contract. At 30-years-old, management might be cautious before handing out an expensive seven-year contract. The right-handed Pietrangelo will come at a premium, so Vegas will have to be creative matching the asking price or find other alternatives.

Another notable UFA is Boston defenseman, Torey Krug. The expected price on Krug is around $7.5-$8M per season. He’s a year younger but unlike Pietrangelo, he’s a left-handed shot, and we’ve seen Vegas target right-handed defenseman in the past. Krug’s offensive production is worth the expense, but Vegas may lean to the much taller and right-handed Pietrangelo.

There are plenty of alternative defenseman in the market this offseason, some are less-skilled but cheaper and younger. If Vegas can find the defenseman that fixes their exact deficiency they won’t need to break the bank. However, that takes great awareness and pro scouting finding that right fit. That’s when the familiarity factor comes in handy.

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Bubbles Offered Unique Challenges And Benefits In Player Evaluation

Aside from the format of the 16 team tournament, not much about the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs was like any year in the past. As hard as the NHL tried, and they made the absolute best of the situation they could, the culmination of this season will always be viewed as an outlier.

That shouldn’t be used to take anything away from the team that ultimately wins, nor the players who put in the effort to make the playoffs the best they could be. But, simply put, this postseason was completely different in so many ways that moving forward, while it shouldn’t have an asterisk in the record books, it absolutely should in terms of player evaluation.

Likely there will be some players that struggled with the challenge of the bubble a little bit more than others and there might be a handful of players that having no distractions and only hockey to worry it about helped. -Kelly McCrimmon

The 2020 Playoffs offered different challenges both mentally and physically than any other in the league’s 100+ year history. It’s impossible to put a value on the sum of all of these aspects, but it’s clear it must be considered when projecting future performance.

58 or 59 days is a long time. It’s a hard situation to describe to somebody unless you are there doing it… I think in general terms it’s always a body of work you use when you make decisions on players and we have a pretty good takeaway of what players actually were by the time we were done our work there. -McCrimmon

This is much more likely to be used in giving a player a pass for a poor playoff season as opposed to praising a breakout year. Everyone who watched the Golden Knights in the playoffs this season knows there were a handful of guys who didn’t quite play to the level we’ve come to expect.

The challenge for the front office lies in weighing those underwhelming performances against the “body of work” they’ve seen historically from each player.

Decisions must be made every offseason and they’re never easy, but this one is set to be especially tricky due to the oddity of the 2020 Playoffs. In that way, the bubble may offer one of the greatest player evaluation challenges front offices have ever faced, however, there was one major benefit the bubbles did offer in that respect.

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Rattled By Thatcher Demko?

Following their Western Conference Final loss, Pete DeBoer made a puzzling comment about his team’s mentality.

There’s no doubt that the last couple of games in the Vancouver series against Demko probably rattled our confidence a little bit. -DeBoer

DeBoer casually revealed one of the reasons Vegas struggled to score on Dallas was a rookie backup goaltender from a previous series living inside of his players’ heads.

We’ve heard coaches reference past series to account for injuries or even style of play differences, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard one admit his team was psychologically fractured by an individual performance in a prior round. We applaud the honesty, but what is he saying about his team… or maybe even his own coaching job?

Another learning lesson for our guys at this time of year; fighting through, persevering, finding a way to get yourself out of a slump. Getting your confidence back quicker. -DeBoer

What happened to the mentality this team had?(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

These are all things the Golden Knights clearly did not do well inside of the bubble, that they must improve upon if they are to hoist the Cup in the future. But one has to wonder about the fragility of the locker room if they did indeed allow the ghost of Thatcher Demko to ruin their chances to win a completely new series.

What happened to “one game at a time?” To “I’m not worried about the offense?” To “the worst thing we can do is change?”

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Offseason’s “First Order Of Business” Is Between The Pipes

The weirdest season ever is over which means the weirdest offseason ever has now begun. According to the Golden Knights’ GM, the issue on the top of mind for every fan is the same as the front office.

We don’t have those answers for you right now but the first order of business in many respects is to sort (the goalie position) out. -Kelly McCrimmon

The future appears to be heading in the direction of Robin Lehner. From being handed the starting role to the Allan Walsh tweet to the reported long-term contract negotiations with Lehner, all signs point to a parting of ways with Fleury.

No one has more respect for Flower as a person or a teammate or his resume and what he’s done for this franchise and through his career but we made the decisions that gave us the best opportunity to win and we’re going to do that again going forward. -Pete DeBoer

Both Lehner and McCrimmon have denied the rumors of a handshake agreement on a 5-year $25 million ($5M AAV) contract.

It’s not true. Nothing is finalized. It’s kind of annoying that we are here in the conference final and people are saying things they don’t know. If it would have been finalized it would have been finalized. -Lehner on 9/11/20

The goalie situation will be the driving force behind all of what the Golden Knights do this offseason.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If they decide to go with Lehner only, where does Fleury end up and what are the cap ramifications that go with it?

If they decide to keep both, where will they trim to make it work?

Can they go back to Fleury after all that’s happened? Does Fleury even want that?

They are all questions that will be answered quickly as the offseason truly ramps up in just a few weeks. The Draft is scheduled for October 6th and 7th and unrestricted free agency opens up two days later on the 9th. The Golden Knights will likely reveal their answers before the latter.

The NHL’s salary cap is set to remain at $81.5 million heading into next season and is likely to stay there for at least one more year after that. That makes life a little more difficult on the Golden Knights as they were pushing (actually went over) the Cap in 2019-20.

There are decisions to be made on plenty of free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, but the offseason starts and ends with what shakes out in goal. It will shape the present and future of the organization and until it’s figured out, not much else really matters.

2019-20 Season “Locker Room Cleanout Day” Quotes

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights held their final media availability of the season today, a day commonly known as locker room cleanout day. Today’s was a bit different than the norm though due to the ongoing pandemic as all interviews were conducted on Zoom. That left us without many of the incredibly truthful comments we are used to on locker cleanout day, but there was plenty to chew on nonetheless.

Kelly McCrimmon on Goalie deployment in playoffs

Good question and an obvious one I expected would come up today. Marc-Andre Fleury has been the face of the franchise and is a tremendous goalie and an even better person. He’s led our team from its inception. I was very transparent at the Trade Deadline why we added Robin Lehner. I think I was real clear about that without going through it again. Interestingly at that time, it was management and the pro staff that felt the strongest about improving our goaltending. If anything happened with Marc-Andre, we felt we had done a really good of building our team we liked a lot of things about our team but we felt we were at risk. Which we were of course trying to minimize.

The first seven games, the only seven games after the trade deadline, Peter rotated the goalies, and who’s to say if we had finished the regular season and the playoffs began in April like they ordinarily would, I don’t know what would have happened. But as a manager your last chance to improve your team is at the trade deadline. When you look at the 10 days leading up to the Deadline it was a trade for Alec Martinez who was a great contributor to our team. We added Nick Cousins right at the deadline to give us more depth at forward and the morning of the deadline we of course added Robin. From there, you hand the team to the coaches and they coach the team. I don’t think it’s wise or healthy to have management making lineup decisions, I don’t think that’s how it works in the NHL. I don’t think it’s how it should work.

Peter felt really confident after we went through Phase 2 and Phase 3 that Robin was the guy that was going to give us the best chance to win. That’s his job. That’s his job. Was it unfortunate for Marc-Andre Fleury and his situation, it really was. To have empathy for him and how that played out I really do.

But it was not, as some are suggesting, it was not the master plan, in fact Pete was not even that interested in us acquiring a goalie at the deadline. It was more management and our pro scouting staff that felt real strongly about it. That’s how it played out and I support Peter fully. He’s our head coach and he makes those decisions. I know exactly what his reasons are for picking his lineup any night that we play. It’s about winning and icing the lineup that you feel gives you the best chance to win. I respect those decisions and that’s the history of the motivation behind the deal and what happened along the way. -Kelly McCrimmon

More will be added to this page as the interviews continue.

 

 

 

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