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Arbitration For Golden Knights: Good? Bad? Neither?

All three of… (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights made “news” yesterday by confirming William Karlsson, Colin Miller, and Tomas Nosek have all filed for arbitration. In reality, this isn’t really news at all. However, based on the wide range of reactions we received on Twitter, Facebook, and face-to-face, it feels like a good time to explain how this all works and why the three Golden Knights filing for arbitration is not a good or bad thing for either the player or the team.

In the NHL, when a player reaches the end of a contract they are placed into one of three categories.

  1. Unrestricted free agent (UFA)
    • Any player 27 years old or older
    • Any player with 7 seasons in the NHL
  2. Restricted free agent with arbitration rights (RFA)
    • Younger than 27 years old
    • Meets experience requirement based on age when signed first contract. (10 NHL or AHL games = 1 year)
      • 24-27 years old when signed = 1 year of NHL experience
      • 22-23 years old when signed = 2 years of NHL experience
      • 21 years old when signed = 3 years of NHL experience
      • 18-20 years old when signed = 4 years of NHL experience
  3. Restricted free agent (RFA)

James Neal, David Perron, Luca Sbisa, and Ryan Reaves were all older than 27, so they all became UFA’s.

William Karlsson -20 y/o when signed + 5 years experience = RFA w/ arb
Colin Miller -20 y/o when signed + 5 years experience = RFA w/ arb
Tomas Nosek -22 y/o when signed + 4 years experience = RFA w/ arb
Shea Theodore -20 y/o when signed + 3 years experience = RFA
William Carrier – 20 y/o when signed + 3 years experience = RFA

…these guys scored pretty… (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

That brings us to the difference between the three categories. In short, the difference is how much freedom a player has to negotiate.

An unrestricted free agent (UFA), as the name suggests, has no restrictions. He can solicit offers from all teams and can sign with whichever one he pleases.

A restricted free agent (RFA) on the other hand can only negotiate with his current team and is not free to leave for a new team. If the team wants to retain the player, he will be extended a “qualifying offer” and must sign it if he would like to remain in the NHL. If the team does not extend the qualifying offer he then becomes a UFA and is free to sign with any team.

(The Golden Knights offered qualifying offers to all of their RFAs. William Karlsson, Tomas Nosek, William Carrier, Colin Miller, Shea Theodore, Teemu Pulkkinen, Philip Holm, Oscar Dansk)

An RFA with arbitration rights has one more step in leveraging a better contract. Rather than being forced to sign the qualifying offer, he can choose to file for arbitration. In other words, he can ask for a raise.

So, let’s go through the steps of the process for RFA’s without arbitration rights, like Theodore and Carrier.

  • Step 1: Team decides if they want to retain each player
    • If yes: Extend qualifying offer
    • If no: Do not extend qualifying offer (Player is released)
  • Step 2: Player signs qualifying offer

That’s it. The player has no negotiating power and is essentially stuck signing the offer. The dollar value of a qualifying offer is determined by the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The team hands the player a contract and their either sign it or leave the NHL.

The process for RFA’s with arbitration rights, like Karlsson, Miller, and Nosek adds one more step, giving the player that bit of negotiating power. Rather than being forced to sign the qualifying offer, the player can file for arbitration. Arbitration means both sides will present how much they believe the player is worth and then a third party will decide the contract the team and player will sign. Of course, the player must remain with their original team, so the negotiating power is significantly less than that of a UFA who can negotiate with all teams.

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Signs Still Point To Erik Karlsson, But How Do Things Look If The Deal Doesn’t Happen

Heading into the offseason the Golden Knights had the plan of being aggressive. They wanted to use their cap space to improve the team in any way possible. That started by going out on July 1st and signing one of the biggest names available on the market, Paul Stastny. The Golden Knights also brought back Ryan Reaves and added defenseman Nick Holden. They entered the offseason with somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million of cap space available, they now sit with just under $19. Plenty to make one more highly aggressive move.

We used (the cap space) really effectively on a lot of players and a lot of picks. Right now, we’re sitting here with a pretty good team and we haven’t used any of our draft picks this summer. We have them all. We’ve been talking trade with some teams, but that requires young players and picks but we haven’t moved any of them. -George McPhee

Reading between the lines, the name Erik Karlsson is in there somewhere, but until that deal gets done, the offseason still feels incomplete.

We’re sitting there trying to decide. Again, we kept our young assets, all of our draft picks, and we’re trying to decide: do we make another move now or not? Is the right move there or not? I’ll have to decide that in the next few weeks. -McPhee

McPhee’s words sure sound like he’s in the market for something else, but his actions speak even louder than his words.

f=”http://sinbin.vegas/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/MTLvVGK0444.jpg”> Cody Eakin’s name has been rumored to be included in a potential deal to Ottawa. That would really open up for the cap for McPhee and Co. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)[/capt

The Golden Knights stand with 43 active player contracts and according to CapFriendly.com, $18,750,000 in projected cap space left.

If Erik Karlsson ($6.5M AAV) and Bobby Ryan ($7.25M AAV) are added for nothing but picks, that would eat up a total of $13.75 million in cap space, leaving the Golden Knights with $5 million to hand out. That’s $5 million to distribute among William Karlsson, Tomas Nosek, William Carrier, Shea Theodore, and Colin Miller. Quite simply, it’s not enough.

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Who We’re Watching At Development Camp

Four of a Kind (Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom, Nic Hague)

href=”http://sinbin.vegas/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/VGKCamp172.jpg”> It’s going to take a lot, but this year McPhee may actually consider giving a roster spot to a rookie. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)[/

The question for these four is if any of them are ready to take the next step to play in the NHL next season. George McPhee called it a long shot that any of the four make the roster, but if they are going to, the path starts now. They’d have to clearly rise above everyone else to even have a chance. Last year, Brannstrom was the most impressive, but the junior seasons of Glass, Suzuki, and Hague give hope they’ll come in and shine this week.

Zach Whitecloud

Whitecloud has a chance to be this year’s Alex Tuch. Last year the 21-year-old Tuch looked like a man amongst boys at Development Camp and it began his path to earning a spot on the Golden Knights roster full time. As it currently stands, there does look to be a spot open for Whitecloud to slide into, but he has to be great starting this week to get it. Whitecloud won’t be the oldest player in camp, but it needs to look like he is. He should be without question the most pro-ready player at Development Camp. By the time the week is out, making sure that is clear would go a long way to McPhee penciling him into the plans to start out next season.

Jimmy Schuldt

Many of the players at Development Camp for the Golden Knights are not under Vegas’ control, Schuldt is the most intriguing of them all. Like Whitecloud was a year ago, Schuldt is one of the most coveted undrafted NCAA free agents and will be free to sign with any team when his next season at St. Cloud University is over. A Hobey Baker finalist, he’s an offensive-minded defenseman who was the captain of his team as a junior.

Last year at this time he was in the Montreal Canadiens Development Camp and the Habs have reportedly been keeping their eyes on Schuldt ever since.  McPhee proved a year ago that he’s willing to sign a player like Schuldt and hand him an immediate roster spot right out of college. Being invited to Vegas’ camp is a good sign the Golden Knights like the player and may consider signing him when he’s eligible. However, coming to camp doesn’t always mean you have a leg up on signing the player. Zach Whitecloud was in Kings camp last year, and we all know how that worked out.

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Bobby Ryan Is A Misfit, Making Him A Golden Misfit Wouldn’t Be As Bad As Most Make It Out To Seem

Fan reaction to trade rumors can range widely, but there always seems to be one constant. The minute someone mentions the name Bobby Ryan the conversation turns sour.

Let’s go back in time. The New Jersey native was drafted #2nd overall in the 2005 NHL Draft. Also known as, the Sidney Crosby draft. Ryan lived up to his potential right away. In his rookie season, the right-handed forward scored 31 goals and was a Calder Trophy finalist. By the time his entry-level contract ran out, Ryan had 131 career points (71 goals, 60 Assists) and 26 Power-Play goals. Altogether, in five full seasons with Anaheim, Ryan scored 30 or more goals four times. The Ducks liked Ryan enough after his third season in the NHL to sign him to a five year, $25.5 million contract, his first massive deal.

Reilly Smith was Florida’s Bobby Ryan. Look how that worked out in Vegas. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After the shortened 2012-13 season, Anaheim moved the then 25-year-old forward to Ottawa for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a 2014 1st Round pick. At the time, it looked like Ottawa pulled off one heck of a trade. One they liked so much that they offered Ryan $50.75 million over the next seven years.

Fast forward five years later, the once four-time 30 goal-scorer is no longer the hot commodity he was in his first nine seasons in the league. The past two seasons he’s missed 20 games each year, scored just 13 and 11 goals, saw his ice time dip about two minutes per game and didn’t reach 35 points in either year, something he had done in each of the previous eight seasons. Quite simply, the production Ryan has offered has not been worth anything near $7.25 million per year.

So what went wrong?

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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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