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Nikita Gusev Could Sign With Vegas Very Soon

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Like with many Russian players, the Nikita Gusev contract situation is a difficult one. From how I understand it (and I could be wrong, but I will show my work with all CBA excerpts cited at the end of this article), the Golden Knights have two options with Gusev.

But before we get to those options, let’s explain a few things first. First off, Nikita Gusev was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lighting in 2012 but never signed a contract. He was then traded to Vegas as part of the Expansion Draft. Because he never signed that first NHL contract, he remains property of the Golden Knights indefinitely. (Kelly McCrimmon recently confirmed this on the VGK Insider Show) In other words, when Gusev comes to the NHL, he’ll come as a Golden Knight, no matter when it happens.

Next, Gusev was born on July 8th, 1992, making him 26-years-old. Per the CBA Article 9.1 (c), Gusev is required to adhere to the NHL’s “entry-level system” if he signs a contract prior to turning 28. Therefore, if Gusev signs an NHL contract this year (2018-19) or next year (2019-20) he would be forced to sign a one-year contract with a max value of $925,000. (CBA 9.3 a)

There are some performance and signing bonuses possible, which do count against the salary cap, that could allow Gusev to earn an extra $825,000. The signing bonus is probable, which can be up to 10% or $92,500 (CBA 9.3 b). However, most of the performance bonuses are unlikely as Gusev would have to be an extraordinary player to receive them. Such options are 20+ goals, 35+ assists, and .73+ points per game. (CBA Exhibit 5-Performance Bonuses)

So, it’s reasonable to believe Gusev’s entry-level contract will be about $1,000,000 against the Golden Knights cap. Incredibly cheap for a player of his caliber.

Which brings us back to the two options on when the Golden Knights can/will sign him.

Option 1: If Gusev were to sign prior to the Golden Knights season ending this year, he would earn a pro-rated portion of the one-year entry-level contract for as long as he’s with the NHL club. The contract would end when the Golden Knights 2018-19 season concludes, thus it would “burn” his entry-level contract requirement. Gusev would not qualify as an unrestricted free agent (CBA 10.2 a, i). Instead, he would become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights and need to sign a new contract with VGK to remain in the NHL. (See CBA 12.1 A)

Option 2: If Gusev waits until after the Golden Knights season ends, he would have to sign the one-year entry-level contract worth a maximum of $925,000. However, when the year is up, he would be 27-years-old and thus qualify as an unrestricted free agent. (See CBA 10.2 a) He could not sign an extension with Vegas until January 1st, 2020, and could choose to reach UFA on July 1st, 2020.

This is where it gets incredibly tricky for the Golden Knights as both options have major benefits but also massive potential drawbacks. I’ll break it down the way I was taught by my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Pope, using a pros and cons list.

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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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Golden Knights Rough Patch Not Uncommon For Cup Finalists

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are currently in the midst of the worst slump in franchise history. They’ve lost eight of their last 11, five straight at home, and have gone from chasing down the top spot in the Pacific Division to looking over their shoulders to just stay in playoff position.

It’s often said (and Max Pacioretty recently said it to us) that most teams go through tough stretches. So, I decided to go back through the past 10 Stanley Cups to see if it is indeed the case.

The graph below shows the participants in the previous 10 Cup Finals with their worst losing streak, worst 10 game stretch, and where they finished in their division. The Golden Knights of this year currently have a worst losing streak of four and their worst 10 game stretch is 3-7-0.

TeamLongest StreakWorst 10Season PointsDivision Finish
17-18 WSH^L33-6-11051st
17-18 VGKL34-5-11091st
16-17 PIT^L44-3-31112nd
16-17 NSHL42-5-3944th
15-16 PIT^L52-5-31042nd
15-16 SJSL62-6-2983rd
14-15 CHI^L34-6-01023rd
14-15 TBLL23-5-21082nd
13-14 LAK^L51-8-11003rd
13-14 NYRL43-7-0962nd
12-13 CHI*^L25-5-077 *1st
12-13 BOS*L43-5-262*2nd
11-12 LAK^L52-6-2953rd
11-12 NJDL44-6-01024th
10-11 BOS^L43-4-31031st
10-11 VANL44-2-41171st
09-10 CHI^L33-5-21121st
09-10 PHIL52-8-0883rd
08-09 PIT^L52-8-0992nd
08-09 DETL53-6-11121st
*Lockout shortened season   ^Stanley Cup Champion

Four of the previous 10 Stanley Cup Champs have experienced five game losing streaks at some point during the season. Six of the previous 10 have had at least a four game losing streak.

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A Memorable Off Day That May Change The Golden Knights Season

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. You have the day off at a five-star oceanside resort in Fort Lauderdale. It’s a beautiful 80 degrees and sunny. Plus, a bunch of your co-workers/friends are there with you. So, what do you do?

Beach day!

We all spent our time together. We went to breakfast and then we met at the beach, played volleyball, a big tournament. Then we went and watched the Super Bowl, it was just the perfect day for our team. -Jonathan Marchessault

Last week after the Saturday game in Florida, nearly the entire team gathered for a meal, put on the swim trunks, and hit the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. It was unscheduled, it was completely voluntary, and apparently, it was a blast.

I think me and Reilly (Smith) were like, we need to go play volleyball that day, it’ll be fun. I think we played for 3 or 4 hours. -Marchessault

There are a few moments where you can really tell how close a group was, but with this, it was not mandatory, and everybody showed up, everybody came, it says a lot. Guys were free to do whatever they wanted (that day), but guys wanted to come and wanted to enjoy a day with the boys. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

Get some Vitamin D, get in the ocean, pretty good workout, yeah it was good. We all just ended up in the same place and had a good time. -Max Pacioretty

It was the only true off day during the longest remaining road trip of the season. The Golden Knights had just taken frustrating losses in back-to-back nights in Carolina and Florida and were mired in the worst losing streak in franchise history. All eyes back in Vegas were on a Tuesday showdown with the best team in hockey, the Tampa Bay Lighting, but amid the panic at home, the Golden Knights had a different focus, a better one.

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Would A Trade Deadline Acquisition Even Be Enough To Fix The Third Line?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights top six has returned to normalcy for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, with Gerard Gallant’s decision to put Reilly Smith back on the line with Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson.

There’s no debating it, a top six of Karlsson, Marchessault, Smith, Alex Tuch, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Stastny is as good as the Golden Knights can do. And, if you compare it against other top sixes in the NHL, it’s right there with the best of them.

The return of William Carrier appears to have re-stabilized the fourth line as well. Again, one of the best in the NHL.

But, this lineup leaves a void. It leaves a line with Cody Eakin as the center and a revolving door of Tomas Nosek, Valentin Zykov, Ryan Carpenter, Oscar Lindberg, and Brandon Pirri on his wings. Let’s just be frank for a second, there’s not a combination of three guys that make a legitimately dangerous line.

So with the trade deadline a mere 14 days away, it begs the question, how much should George McPhee be willing to give up to fix it?

However, I’m here to pose a different question. Can it actually be fixed without breaking up the top six?

Just play along with me for a second here. Let’s say the Golden Knights acquire the best player available, Artemi Panarin. You liking a line of Eakin, Panarin, and Zykov? Does Eakin, Panarin, and Carpenter float your boat? What about Eakin, Panarin, and Pirri, that giving you the tickle?

Me neither.

Now, if they do something like…

Marchessault-Karlsson-Zykov
Pacioretty-Stastny-Tuch
Panarin-Eakin-Smith

or

Panarin-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Tuch
Marchessault-Eakin-Zykov

or

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Panarin-Stastny-Pirri
Pacioretty-Eakin-Tuch

Now you’re talking!

What if they get Mark Stone? Wayne Simmonds? Matt Duchene? Jimmy Hayes? Michael Ferland?

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The Pirri Dilemma

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When Brandon Pirri isn’t scoring what does Gerard Gallant and the Golden Knights organization do with him? Well, we got one answer last night when Gallant healthy scratched Pirri in Detroit, the first game he’s missed while on the active roster.

While filling in for injured top six forwards, Pirri was as hot as any player in the NHL, but that dried up in a hurry.

First 9 Games
10 Points (6 Goals, 4 Assists)
4-Game Point Streak (5Pts)12/20-12/27
5-Game Point Streak (8Pts) 12/30-1/11
2 Game-Winning Goals
2 Power Play Goals
29 Shots on Goal (3.22 per game)
+10 Rating
9 Games Played
Team Record 6-1-2

Last 9 Games
2 Points (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
0 Point Streaks
0 Game-Winning Goals
0 Power Play Goals
19 Shots (2.38 per game)
2 Games With No Shots on Goal
-4 Rating
8 Games Played/1 Healthy Scratch
Team Record 3-5-0 *Healthy Scratch 1-0-0

As you can see, the 27-year-old forward’s production has dipped significantly. If he’s not adding offense, he’s hard-pressed to find a place in the lineup. Neither the club or the player wants that. If Pirri continued his point pace, it solves a roster spot, adds desperately needed third line scoring, and the flexibility to pass on a possible rental at the deadline. But if he doesn’t, because he doesn’t kill penalties, he’s not used in a defensive role, and he often can’t be trusted to help protect a lead, George McPhee might be forced to find a replacement.

I feel like Nashville and Winnipeg will be the most aggressive. Then I would rank it Vegas next, Calgary, followed by San Jose. -Pierre LeBrun, TSN Winnipeg

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George McPhee Expansion Draft Interview Transcripts

The other day I was asked to do an interview for an upcoming documentary on the Golden Knights magical season. It’s called Valiant and it’s supposed to be released by the Summer of this year, but more on that when it comes out. I knew I would be asked plenty of questions about the Expansion Draft, so I was going through some of my notes, reading some of the articles we published around the time, and trying to relive the entire thing so I’d be prepared.

Looking back, that whole week was a complete blur, and I’m assuming it was for everyone as the Golden Knights went from having Reid Duke, Tomas Hyka, and Vadim Shipachyov to building an entire roster which would eventually go on to win the Western Conference all within about five days time.

While going through everything I found something interesting, transcripts from George McPhee’s press conferences during the three days of the Expansion Draft. If you don’t remember, teams submitted their protection lists, and then Vegas had 72 hours to submit its list of 30 selections to the league. The next day each of the 30 players were announced to a massive crowd at T-Mobile Arena and Marc-Andre Fleury, Jason Garrison, Brayden McNabb, and Deryk Engelland donned Vegas jerseys after being selected. Each morning during those 72 hours, McPhee met with the media to take questions and his answers were pretty amazing now that we have context.

It truly was a wild time and as always, time gives us perspective on things. The entire transcripts from those press conferences are below (plus a video of the Expansion Draft), but I wanted to highlight a few comments McPhee made during a time when everyone believed the Golden Knights would be among the worst teams in the league.

I think it’s going to be a pretty good team. We’re happy that, you know, we got a lot of defensemen, we got really good goaltending, we’ve got a lot of centers and we’ve got scoring on the wings. Should have good speed, so it’s going to be a good team. -McPhee on 6/20/17

Actually, I think we’ve done pretty well in all the positions. We have lots of defensemen lined up, we have lots of centers and we have scoring on the wings, a little more scoring than we anticipated. The goaltending is going to be pretty solid. It’s looking pretty good. It’s what we’ve been trying to accomplish and that is have a competitive club that people are going to enjoy watching play, and then having the draft picks to be able to draft our way to a contending team, a championship team. -McPhee on 6/20/17

Most mock drafts were full of players even fans of the teams they were being selected from had never heard of, yet McPhee was confident in speed, scoring, and goaltending. Not sure he ever thought he had just selected one of the fastest teams in the NHL, but the foresight is pretty cool.

Also, the plan was to draft the way to a championship team. Instead, they went to the Stanley Cup Final and have a chance to do so again, and not a single drafted player has stepped on the ice for the Golden Knights. Things changed quickly.

We’ve got all kinds of different screens that we’re working off of that were getting us different kinds of data that we needed. And just in terms of trying to put the team together, again, it’s not easy, because you’re trying to put all of these bodies together and you have to meet all these requirements, and again, as I mentioned yesterday, if you move one, if you make one change, it sort of changes the whole matrix. So, we just designated certain people in blue and I always use blue sort of as a ‘blue chip’ in ratings, and we usually have lots of different ratings. But, blue in this case was, this was probably a player that we’re claiming and keeping and don’t have interest in moving, and we used a different color for a player that we would claim and may have to move, just to allow us to see what the team sort of looks like as we’re making all the deals. -McPhee on 6/20/17

The mental image of that war room with names like Marchessault, Schmidt, Tuch, and Theodore highlighted in blue as “blue chip” guys is fascinating. We have a sense of which ones they got right based on long-term contracts, but it makes you wonder if there were any major misses among the blue chips. Griffin Reinhart? Oscar Lindberg? Brendan Leipsic? All were selected and kept following the Expansion Draft. Heck, Lindberg even signed a contract the next day.

Negotiating with GMs has been the same, but maybe the best way to put all of it on this whole experience, there’s just a glow about it. You know? It’s been such a positive experience for all of us that I’m keeping my fingers crossed, hoping it can continue to go the same way. -McPhee on 6/18/17

Hopefully, those fingers are still crossed.

Click through for the full transcripts.

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“Would Have To Go Out And Find Another Better Kelly McCrimmon”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The hottest name to fill any open position on the GM market is Golden Knights assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon.

McCrimmon stepped away from being the owner, GM, and head coach of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings in 2016 to join the Golden Knights staff as second in command behind George McPhee. Since then, he and McPhee took what was supposed to be a bottom of the barrel expansion team to the Stanley Cup Final and have them headed towards the playoffs and potentially another run in year two.

Now, with Seattle entering the league and in need of a GM and the Edmonton Oilers parting ways with Peter Chiarelli, McCrimmon’s name is at the top of the list of potential candidates to fill either role.

Speaking on a recent episode of the NHL Executive Suite podcast, The Creator sounded like he and McPhee are prepared to be without McCrimmon in the near future.

I certainly wouldn’t want to lose Kelly, he’s helped build a great team here along with George. He’s a different kind of personality than George so they are great together. But you know you can never stand in someone’s way. -The Creator

McCrimmon is a laid back, cerebral person who always comes across as the smartest guy in the room, probably because he is. According to reports, he masterminded “the pledge,” which forced teams engaging in an Expansion Draft trade with the Golden Knights to pledge not to make any other moves that could effect Vegas, thus limiting the roster distribution McPhee feared.

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The Fictional Curse Of The Backup Goalies

It’s not a curse, it’s just good goalies being good against Vegas. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Before the break, Juuse Saros played an excellent game in net against the Golden Knights, his second such terrific start facing Vegas this season. About a week prior, Laurent Brossoit played the game of his life for the Jets against the Golden Knights.

These three performances have led to a common belief that back-up goalies dominate the Golden Knights.

Honestly, going into the research, I kind of expected to find exactly what everyone has been saying, that backups do indeed play better against Vegas than they do normally. However, after looking up the numbers it’s much more of a case of the Saros and Brossoit curse than it is all backup goalies.

(For the purpose of this article, a backup goalie is defined as a goalie who does not lead his team in starts or wins.)

The Golden Knights have faced 12 backup goalies this season. Their record in those games is 5-4-2. In the 12 games, the backups have recorded a .920 save percentage and have allowed 32 goals for a goals against average of 2.86 (Cory Schneider was pulled early so the GAA number is a bit inflated).

The backup outperformed his season averages in five games, underperformed in four, and hit the averages in three. Aside from Saros and Brossoit, Jack Campbell (LAK) and Philipp Grubauer (COL) were the other two to over perform, both games Vegas went on to win.

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Nate Schmidt Wants To Be A Star

We know he has pretty good feet. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Nate Schmidt is a character. Yet even amongst all the crazy stuff he’s said or the wacky situations he’s placed in on national TV, he always finds a way to surprise us. The most recent revelation is something you would probably never expect.

I love dancing. I used to (take lessons). I haven’t been taking them. It’s been probably 2 years since I’ve been. (My girlfriend and I) go to swing dancing where you dance to jazz music. I like high intense jazz. -Nate Schmidt

He says it’s a great work out and he has fun doing it.

The first time I went I made a mistake, I only brought one shirt. The second time I brought three. -Schmidt

So, obviously, the next step for an athlete on a high profile team with a personality made for TV… Dancing with the Stars!

I would love to. If you can run it by George (McPhee) and he would allow it I would do it for sure. -Schmidt

Posting this article is our way of “running it past George.” Schmidt would be tremendous on the show and I can almost guarantee the producers would love to have him. So, if anyone has any connections to ABC, hit us up, we want to make this happen, it would be a great thing to distract us from how awful offseason is.

Plus, Schmidt actually thinks he would fare pretty well on the show.

I have decent rhythm, great energy, and excitement and facial expressions. -Schmidt

I can already envision it. The ridiculous costumes, the terrible dancing (at least in the first few episodes), Fleury and Reaves in the crowd rooting him on. Schmidt holding up the mirror ball trophy.

This needs to happen.

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