The Golden Knights were close to the ultimate goal, but in the end, they fell three wins short. So, they now head to the offseason with a plan in mind, make the team three wins better than they were a year ago.
There are plenty of decisions to be made with the roster as currently constructed and oodles of cap space available to bring in outside help.
The reality is in a salary cap world you have to make some tough decisions, and with this team, not everyone will be back. We’ve all learned lessons over the years, if you examine what happens in the salary cap world you have to be smart about what you do and the contracts you hand out or it hurts your team. We’ll do our best to keep this group together but there are always three or four changes. -George McPhee
The Golden Knights have four major unrestricted free agents (UFA’s) which are set to hit the open market on July 1st. They are James Neal, David Perron, Ryan Reaves, and Luca Sbisa. Also, Maxime Lagace, Jason Garrison, Brandon Pirri, Mikhail Grabovski, Clayton Stoner, Chris Casto, and Paul Thompson will become UFA’s in 20 days.
It doesn’t matter where in the lineup, you have to be smart about what you do. -McPhee
Then there are the restricted free agents (RFA’s) of which the Golden Knights have plenty. The most notable is William Karlsson. In short, Karlsson is not going anywhere. Unless something unprecedented happens, he’ll absolutely remain the first line center for Vegas next season. However, the projections on his contract are all over the map.
Technically, the Golden Knights only have to extend a “qualifying offer” to Karlsson of $1 million. This will happen soon and then Karlsson and his agent will request arbitration. An arbitration date will be set sometime in late July to early August. That will basically be the deadline for the Golden Knights and Karlsson to reach a long-term extension.
Tomas Nosek, Colin Miller, Oscar Dansk, Teemu Pulkkinen, Stefan Matteau, and Philip Holm are also all arbitration eligible and would follow the same process.
Finally, there are the two younger players who are RFA’s in Shea Theodore and William Carrier. Due to their age, neither are arbitration eligible. Thus, the Golden Knights can simply extend them a qualifying offer (Theodore -$874,125, Carrier – $787,500) and the player will have to sign it and remain with the team through next season. However, especially with a player like Theodore, this offseason may be a good time to lock him up long-term before he gets arbitration rights and has more negotiating power. The two sides can come to an agreement on a long-term deal at any time.
That brings us to the magical world of unrestricted free agency which opens on July 1st. Names like John Tavares, James van Riemsdyk, and John Carlson will be thrown around with basically every team that has cap space. The Golden Knights have plenty of cap space so get used to seeing the big names linked to Vegas, but the Golden Knights also have a GM that’s historically not a big spender in free agency.
Mistakes happen, you don’t want to be part of them because they only get in the way of winning. There are different ways to make your team better. We’ll look at all the sort of different resources and ways to do that and figure out how we make this team better for next year. -McPhee
Since 2006, the first true offseason of the salary cap era, George McPhee signed a total of 11 players on as free agents on July 1st. None of them were the major splash deal.
2006 – Brian Pothier
2007 – Tom Poti, Viktor Kozlov
2008 – Jose Theodore
2009 – Mike Knuble
2010 – None
2011 – Joel Ward, Roman Hamrlik, Jeff Halpern
2012 – None
2013 – None
2014 – Mike Moore, Chris Connor, Jon Landry
There are a handful of other players McPhee signed during the first week of free agency but very few of note. The biggest name acquired in free agency was Michael Nylander.
In McPhee’s first season at the helm in Vegas, he signed a total of seven players in the first few days of free agency, not a single one of them made more than double the NHL’s minimum salary.
In other words, free agency is not George McPhee’s normal desired path to success. His belief is that high priced free agents are always overpaid due to the demand. There are so few players available and so many potential suitors that no matter what, the player will end up making more than he’s truly worth.
So, prediction time. Here’s what I expect to happen in the next month or so with the Golden Knights roster. (These are all complete guesses with absolutely no inside knowledge from any players or the organization.)
– William Karlsson will reach a long-term deal in the neighborhood of $6 million AAV prior to his arbitration hearing
– James Neal, Ryan Reaves, and Luca Sbisa will not come to agreements with the Golden Knights and will play elsewhere next season
– David Perron will re-sign with the Golden Knights on a three-year deal worth around $5.5 million per year
– Shea Theodore will accept the qualifying offer, will not come to a long-term extension
– Colin Miller will go to an arbitration hearing
– Both Oscar Dansk and Max Lagace will be re-signed but one will be lost on waivers before opening night
– The Golden Knights will sign a player in the $3-4 million range on July 1st
– Vegas will not sign Tavares, Carlson, or van Riemsdyk.
– McPhee will make a trade before the season that acquires a player who will be on the roster to open the 2018-19 season (it will not be Erik Karlsson)