Since the start of the regular season, the Golden Knights have been playing a numbers game with the salary cap. They’ve shuttled players like Nic Roy, Nic Hague, Cody Glass, Jimmy Schuldt, and Jake Bischoff between the NHL and AHL in an attempt to accrue usable cap space come trade deadline day. Thus far, they’ve sent Roy down four times, Hague three, and Glass, Schuldt, and Bischoff each once. In doing so, they’ve lessened the cap hits of all five waiver exempt rookies.
They are doing this for one reason, and one reason only, so they are in a position to make a trade and acquire a player that will help them win the Stanley Cup. Whether that trade happens today, or next week, or seconds before noon on February 24th, that’s why they are playing this game.
Which should obviously spark everyone reading this to ask the exact same question.
“Who are they looking to trade for?”
No one besides a select few inside the walls of City National Arena actually know, but over the course of the next four months there will be context clues along the way.
The first of those comes to us compliments of Sportsnet.ca’s superstar reporter Elliotte Friedman.
Nate Schmidt is back after a 13-game absence, and the Golden Knights badly missed him. Does Vegas feel the need to add mobility on the blue line? Opponents do think it is one of their few weaknesses. –Friedman in 31 thoughts on 11/5/19
He left it there in the written article but went on to elaborate a bit on his weekly podcast with Jeff Marek, also named 31 Thoughts.
They missed Nate Schmidt for 13 games and I’d heard that they were looking for a mobile D. And then Schmidt came back and I think they looked at it like ‘ok he’s back and we can live with that’ but I think they are going to look. Now, they have some really good prospects, Hague, but they’re not sure they are ready for this yet. Engelland, you know they sat him the other night. I think it hurt them to do it. He’s a proud guy, they love what he represents, he’s a huge part of their organization and when he retires he will be a part of their organization, but I think there’s a realization now that they need a little bit more. So I think they’re going to be looking and I think that is one of the areas they are going to be looking for. -Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast
A mobile defenseman you say?
The first name that should pop into everyone’s head should be Alex Pietrangelo. The price would be steep, but if the Blues get the feeling he’s willing to test free agency, they’ve proven they’re willing to move a big piece even if it hurts their chances this year (see Paul Stastny trade in 2018).
But if that pie in the sky plan doesn’t come to fruition, there are plenty of other solid options in the rental market. (By that I mean with contracts that expire at the end of this season)
Mike Green (DET) and Sami Vatanen (NJD) are two names that jump to the front of the line in that category. First off because both are excellent mobile defensemen. Mike Green was nearly a point-per-game player in his prime and has maintained about a half-point-per game pace for each of the last seven years, and Vatanen has put up 30+ points in three of the last four seasons. Green was drafted by George McPhee in 2004 and Vatanen was a key piece the Pacific Division rival Ducks protected from Vegas in the Expansion Draft. Finally, in Vegas’ short history they’ve made deals with both Detroit and New Jersey.
Or, if Vegas remains steadfast against taking on rentals, maybe they look at some of the NHL’s bottom feeders Ottawa, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago, or the New York Rangers. Thus, Dylan Demelo (UFA, $900,000), Jonis Brodin (2 years, $4,166,667), Patrik Nemeth (2 years, $3,000,000), Olli Maatta (3 years, $4,083,333), or Tony Deangelo (RFA, $900,000).
It’s still very early, and the Golden Knights don’t have the cap space, yet, to take on most of these names. But it’s out there now that Vegas is in the market for another D-man, and based on the 15 combined points in 19 games the Golden Knights have gotten from their blue line, they probably should be.