Praise Be To Foley, Vegas Golden Knights Hockey Website

Luca Sbisa Could Be The Perfect Stop Gap


Cup Winners8.83%4.74%11.31%
Final Participants8.55%4.67%12.26%
Conference Final Losers9.27%2.86%21.83%
 Cap Hit% of Cap
$3m + Min Salary$3,700,0004.54%
$3m + $1.5m$4,500,0005.52%
$4m + Min Salary$4,700,0005.77%
$4m + $1.5m$5,500,0006.75%
$5m + Min Salary$5,700,0006.99%
$5m + $1.5m$6,500,0007.98%
$6m + Min Salary$6,700,0008.22%
$6m + $1.5m$7,500,0009.20%
Fleury + Min Salary$7,700,0009.45%
Fleury + $1.5m$8,500,00010.43%
Fleury + $3m$10,000,00012.27%
Fleury + $4m$11,000,00013.50%
Fleury + $5m$12,000,00014.72%
Fleury + $6m$13,000,00015.95%
Fleury + $7m$14,000,00017.18%
Year% of CapTeamGoalies
** – Cup Winner
* – Cup Finalist

Oer the past two and a half seasons since Ryan Reaves was acquired via trade he’s become one of the most popular, recognizable, and marketable members of the Golden Knights.

From the water commercials to the beer company to his unmistakable style on the ice, Reaves is one-of-a-kind in today’s NHL.

He’s become a real valuable player to our team, he’s well-respected across the league by both teammates and opponents. He’s not cheap, he’s honest, he’s tough, he’s hard, and he’s a really intelligent player. The coaching staff really appreciates what he does for our team. We’re excited to have him remain in our organization. -Kelly McCrimmon

It’s been clear for some time that both sides wanted to get a deal done and Monday it became official as Reaves signed a two-year contract with an AAV of $1.75 million.

The number is perfectly fair for a player with his offensive production, taking into account the intangibles he brings and his consistent availability having missed just two games since joining the Golden Knights. But the question that must be asked about this contract is one of leverage in negotiations, which was clearly on the side of the team yet didn’t appear to be taken advantage of.

I don’t think it’s a secret that I love it here and that I wanted to stay. I’ve heard people say they could have gotten me cheaper because I have the business thing but at the end of the day hockey comes first for me. The hockey business decision had to be before the beer business or whatever else I do in the community. The hockey had to come first but it had to make sense for me and my family. -Reaves

The “people he’s heard” are me. They should be anyone else who is concerned with the Golden Knights salary cap too.

As he mentioned in his media availability on Tuesday, it was no secret that he wanted to remain in Vegas. He has multiple endorsements, started a budding beer company that has grown immensely in the past 12 months, built a house in Summerlin, and has never done anything but profess his love for the Las Vegas valley.

Despite what he says now that the contract has been signed, it will remain fair to question whether or not it was ever a realistic possibility that he’d walk away from Vegas when his contract expired.

Two years ago, Reaves was in a similar spot with his contract, but a much different one personally in that his ties to the city were much weaker than they are now. He tested free agency, garnered multiple offers, and ended up cashing in with a two-year deal worth almost $6 million dollars.

For me, last time free agency went really well. It can go sideways just as easily. You can go test free agency and all of a sudden they find somebody else or they make a big signing and they don’t have money for you anymore. So it can go both ways and I was fortunate enough that it worked out in my favor last time but I knew I wanted to be here so once the conversation was started, as long as the terms and the money were right for both sides going to free agency didn’t really do anything for me. -Reaves

For Reaves, the deal makes perfect sense. He earns either equal to or very close to his market value while remaining in the city in which he’s become a star.

But for the Golden Knights, it certainly appears as though they were gunshy from their last encounter with Reaves in free agency. Last time, McPhee admitted to signing Reaves to a two-year deal for the same amount of money as he would have gotten for three elsewhere, simply because the Golden Knights didn’t want to lose him. But that time, he certainly would have signed a contract elsewhere, this time it’s not as clear.

Vegas appears to have forfeited any leverage they had in negotiation based on Reaves’ affinity toward the city in order to avoid a possible repeat of July 2018.

They knew he didn’t want to leave, he knew he didn’t want to leave, and yet still the two sides came to an agreement that represents fair market value well before he became a free agent; as opposed to something more team-friendly like they were able to pull off with others in a similar spot like William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Nate Schmidt, or Nick Holden.

In the end, it’s only a few hundred thousand dollars that the Golden Knights may have missed out on, and in a town known for gambling, maybe it just wasn’t a risk the VGK front office was willing to take. But there’s no question that time was on the Golden Knights side and they opted not to use it.

So, for the second time in three years, Ryan Reaves has capitalized on the Golden Knights front office. Last time it wasn’t that surprising, like Reaves beating someone up in a fight. This time though, it feels like a Reaves goal on the ice, kind of unbelievable that it actually happened.

Pete DeBoer is no stranger to standing behind incredibly talented players. Over the course of his coaching career in the NHL, he’s had Martin Broder, Patrick Elias, Jaromir Jagr, Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Scott Gomez, Stephen Weiss, Joe Thornton, Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Logan Couture, and so many more high-end players in the league.

DeBoer has been to the Stanley Cup Final twice, he’s been in the playoffs five times, and his teams have won nine playoff series. He’s coached four different franchises in almost 900 total games as he’s working into his 12th season this year.

Yet for DeBoer, the 2019-20 Golden Knights are unique.

It’s the most talented team I’ve had in my coaching career. -Pete DeBoer on The Chirp Podcast

It’s hard to argue with him too. The Golden Knights are pretty stacked, especially following the trade deadline. The line of Mark Stone, William Karlsson, and Max Pacioretty is one of the best in the NHL and the group of forwards behind them is balanced and strong. Shea Theodore is quietly turning himself into an elite defenseman while Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb and Alec Martinez round out a top-four group on defense that is reliable in any situation. And the goalie tandem is without question #1 in the league.

As tough as it was for me to leave San Jose 33 games after going to the conference finals the year before, for me the Vegas situation is the opportunity of a lifetime.  It seems like a great combination of talent and character and leadership. Great community, great ownership, great management. I think you coach in this league for opportunities like this with teams like this and I’m really thankful for how everything played out even as tough as some of the moments were. -Pete DeBoer on The Chirp Podcast

I’m a big believer that everything in hockey happens for a reason. The way my career has gone, one door closing there’s always been another door opening with a better opportunity.


(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since the calendar flipped to 2020 the Golden Knights penalty kill has been… how do I put this politely?… a steaming pile of horse… let’s just say it’s been bad, very very bad.

Vegas had allowed a power play goal in seven straight games, they had killed off just nine of 18 over a seven-game stretch, and thanks to some research from AT&T Sportsnet, we know they ranked dead last in killing penalties over Gerard Gallant’s final seven games. It’s probably not the only reason, but there’s no question the Golden Knights poor penalty kill lent a hand in his firing.

In comes Pete DeBoer, who just two years ago was the coach of the NHL’s 2nd best penalty kill. In DeBoer’s four full seasons in San Jose, the Sharks killed penalties at a rate of 81.7% and his teams never finished the year below 80%. Vegas currently sits in 22nd place at 78.9% and their 52.6% over the last eight games is downright appalling.

One of the first things DeBoer worked on with the Golden Knights was making a change to their style of penalty killing. In fact, using just a few practices and likely some video work, there are two already significant changes that have been implemented in the way the Golden Knights kill penalties. Both were used against Montreal and both involve puck pressure.

Well, for the first change, it’s actually a lack of pressure.

Under Gallant, the Golden Knights would always send at least one forechecker, sometimes two, into the attacking zone in to rush the opposing team’s breakout. It was an aggressive style of penalty killing hoping to force a mistake up the ice and lead to an easy shorthanded chance. The drawback to this style is that if the breakout beats the forecheckers, the Golden Knights are heavily outnumbered at the blue line leading to easy, sometimes even unchallenged, zone entries.

Under DeBoer, the Golden Knights will not send any forecheckers up when killing penalties. Instead, they’ll deploy three players across the blue line and one slightly further up to force challenged entries (which looks like this or this). This was a staple in the Sharks penalty killing system under DeBoer, and in the game against Montreal, the Golden Knights used it to successfully kill the one penalty they took.

Here’s how that looks in action.

Eakin does not chase into the offensive zone. Instead, he circles back to set up in the neutral zone.

The moment Smith loses the puck, he backs out and resets to the neutral zone.

The idea under DeBoer’s system is to make the entry across the blue line as difficult as possible while foregoing any chance to steal the puck in the offensive zone and score a cheap shorthanded goal.

But, of course, eventually the team on the man advantage will gain the zone. That’s where the second change in system comes in.

This one is opposite to the first. Once the opposing team gains the zone, the Golden Knights will now apply as much pressure as possible on the puck as opposed to concentrating on staying in perfect penalty killing position as they did before.

Under Gallant, unless the puck was below the goal line or pinned up against the boards, the Golden Knights always wanted their four penalty killers to be in the shape of a square (or box, usually hockey people refer to it as a box). The reason for this is because it, in theory, takes away the center of the ice. There won’t be a shot that doesn’t have at least one penalty killer in front of it to block it, and any pass across the ice has to travel past at least one, and up to four, killers’ sticks. Plus, once the puck is loose, there will always be a penalty killer in the area to pick it up and send it the length of the ice. As the puck heads away from the goal towards the point, the box spreads out to cover more ground, and when the puck gets closer to the goal the box squeeze taking away all dangerous passing or shooting options.

DeBoer’s system is quite a bit different. He wants puck pressure, and heavy puck pressure, all over the offensive zone. The idea is to outnumber the opposing team to the puck despite being short a player. The way to do that is to have one forward constantly chasing the puck while the other forward and the defenseman (or even sometimes all four players) support when possible. The Golden Knights are always going to be outnumbered by at least one (because they are killing a penalty), but they can use the offensive team’s shape against them by neutralizing players standing still away from the puck. Let’s go to the grease board to demonstrate.

Gallant’s system with the box.

DeBoer system of puck pressure.

With heavy pressure being applied from both #3 and #61, #92 is able to come in and outnumber the offensive players. Three in gold, two in red. When this happens though, the gold players MUST win the puck, otherwise, there are three red players to just one gold player on the rest of the ice.

Heavy puck pressure all over the zone forces teams to make quick, accurate, and clean plays with the puck. Any tiny mistake and the penalty killers will jump on them and take the puck away. However, the defense is dictating the play (at least a little bit) as opposed to the offense doing it as the Golden Knights allowed under Gallant.

Here’s how it looks in action.

Watch Stone and McNabb hound the puck, while Engelland and Stastny keep creeping that way to create the outnumbered situations in favor of the Golden Knights. In just that 20 second clip, the Golden Knights create a 4-on-3, a 3-on-2, and a 2-on-1 all while they are playing 4-on-5.

In every instance, in this case, the puck stays on that side of the ice. If any of those times the puck was able to be sent over to #17 standing down there at the bottom of the screen, the Golden Knights are in big trouble. However, because they are pressuring the puck so heavily, there’s never a chance for the puck carrier to get it over to the open player. This is the penalty killers dictating play, and this is how DeBoer likes his teams to kill.

Gallant’s system was passive and thus safe. Very rarely did a team end up with a wide-open chance against the Golden Knights penalty kill. Under DeBoer, they likely will from time to time, but the hope is that the risky puck pressure style will cause more clearances and thus less power play time in the zone.

I liked the one penalty kill we had. We implemented some of the stuff we talked about. I thought we were more aggressive and did a good job there. -DeBoer

These are the types of minor tweaks DeBoer was talking about when he came in and took over as the second head coach in Golden Knights history. The success of things just like this will ultimately determine his impact on the final outcome of Vegas’ third season.

Luckily, it’s only a quarter of the regular season that top defenseman Nate Schmidt will miss action. But, while that story continues to unfold, Vegas’ other top defender Shea Theodore also remains unsigned and the possibility of a holdout is real.

With one defenseman guaranteed to miss a large chunk of time and another sitting in contract purgatory, what are George McPhee’s options? He can ride it out with organizational depth like the team did last season when Marc-Andre Fleury was injured. The GM could make a move for a defenseman, and not necessarily Erik Karlsson. Maybe, McPhee will wait it out and hope a desirable defenseman will pop up through waivers. Or, he can reach out to an available old chum.

It’s hard for the other team to match lines. A lot of teams only have one superstar line and then it kinda goes down a bit, but for us, on any given day we have lines that can step up and chip in any which way. -Luca Sbisa

In 30 regular season games, Luca Sbisa averaged 19:31 TOI, and averaged 2:22 shorthanded minutes per game. Many of those games he was paired with Schmidt and drawing the opposing teams best players. Although Sbisa was injured for much of the 2017-18 regular season, he added defensive impact when he hit the ice. Some credit the Swiss defenseman for helping Schmidt convert to Vegas’ top d-man. Also, the veteran Sbisa was a strong, protective teammate that held a presence on the ice.

With Schmidt’s guaranteed 20 game absence, signing Sbisa could be a move Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant would appreciate. The 28-year-old UFA was heavily used early on in 2017-18, and after returning from injury, the coach used him in the lineup, including the Stanley Cup Final. At this time, Gallant could use a familiar veteran like Sbisa to help right the defensive ship. The former Golden Knight knows the organization, system, players, and city. Most importantly the coaching staff is comfortable playing Sbisa.

Depending on Sbisa’s demands, the Golden Knights should be able to re-sign the left-handed defenseman to a deal comparable to what Jon Merrill and Deryk Engelland make per season. This late in the game they might even be able to get him on a one-year deal.

It could be well worth the low money risk for a recognizable insurance policy like Sbisa. Not only will he fill the burden of Schmidt’s suspension, Sbisa would also secure a roster spot in preparation for Theodore’s possible holdout. He’s not a replacement for either but Sbisa could effectively fill important minutes for twenty or more games.


Where Does The Blue Line Stand Now With Schmidt Out Of The Picture?


Young Defensemen Presented With Rare Opportunity


  1. Blake

    I think a more likely move is to play Collin Miller with McNabb. Sbisa is a good third pair guy.

  2. Jason

    Gotta have a goals against under 3.0. We dont and we will not make the playoffs. Unless your Pittsburg.

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