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McPhee Not Expecting To Be Active In Free Agency

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There are plenty of unanswered questions remaining for the Golden Knights, but after a recent comment by George McPhee we have the answer to at least one.

Well we’re in pretty good shape with our core group. We have basically everyone signed up and we are close on some other things. So I don’t imagine we’re going to be out looking at free agents this summer. We like the team the way it is and we like the young guys that we have coming along. –George McPhee to TSN

Not that most expected the Golden Knights to be major players in free agency, but this confirms the plan is to keep things in place and roll with what Vegas already has moving forward.

Of course, the main missing piece at the moment is the contract of William Karlsson. That’s probably who McPhee was talking about when he said “close on some things,” but he could have also been referencing Nikita Gusev, Jimmy Schuldt, Tomas Nosek, or Deryk Engelland.

As for the core group, the Golden Knights have 10 players locked up through 2021-22. Following the 2019-20 season, there are five players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency. They are Cody Eakin, Ryan Reaves, Erik Haula, Jon Merrill, and Nick Holden. Slightly more significant than this year, slightly less than the year before.

No matter what happens with those five though, the Golden Knights are set up about as nicely as a team can be to make a run at the Stanley Cup each of the next three years.

Cody Eakin Sustainability Study

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Golden Knights center Cody Eakin had quite the year for Vegas. In his 8th season the 28-year-old Manitoban added career highs in Goals (22), Goals Created (17), Points (41), Points Per Game (.53), Plus/Minus (+19), Shooting % (18.3), and Point Shares (5.2). Vegas benefited greatly by Eakin’s substantial offensive upgrade from 2017–18.

Plain and simple, everyone is quietly asking the same question; Can Eakin do it again next season?

Eakin’s first standout season was in 2013-14 as a member of the Dallas Stars. He totaled 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) averaging 17:20 minutes of ice time per game. Eakin’s strong campaign carried over to the following season with Dallas.

In 2014-15, Eakin again performed up to his abilities, even sprinkling in a few more points. The center collected 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists) averaging 17:12 TOI. Eakin added another 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 2015-16, tallying a total of 110 points (51 goals, 59 assists) in three consecutive seasons. Consistent numbers for a middle six center. And by the way I never mentioned his reliability killing a penalty.

After a couple of dim seasons offensively in 2016-17 with Dallas, and 2017-18 with Vegas, Eakin cracked 40 points for the second time in his career. So, the answer is yes. Yes, Cody Eakin can repeat his success from last season, but will he?

One mindless and obvious element to my prediction is that Eakin is playing for his next contract. After the 2019-2020 season, the veteran will become an unrestricted free agent and his $3.85M cap hit will come off the books. Players tend to perform well in contract years (see pretty much ever VGK player in 2017-18), and I expect the same from #21.

Taking a look at next season’s roster, we’ll have to assume Eakin will be playing with two highly skilled offensive players. Nikita Gusev or Erik Haula could join Alex Tuch and form one of the deepest third lines in hockey centered by Eakin. No matter what the combination ends up being, it’ll be the most talent he’s anchored in Vegas. Which is why it’s hard to believe Eakin wouldn’t repeat his success from last season.

Then again he could get bumped to the fourth line, or even more drastic, get traded. In that case burn my prediction and this article altogether.

(See, we can write a whole article about Cody Eakin without referencing a certain penalty. I knew we could do it!)

Only So Many Minutes To Go Around

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The roster certainly may change between now and early October when the Golden Knights hit the ice for real, but at the moment, there’s an overload at the forward position.

William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Erik Haula, and Alex Tuch have all averaged at least 16:30 per game in their time with the Golden Knights. Mark Stone played just 17:39 per game in the regular season in Vegas while he averaged over 20 per game in Ottawa.

With the addition of Nikita Gusev and maybe Cody Glass, the question that has to spring to mind is, how are the Golden Knights going to manage all these minutes?

 18-1917-18VGK AverageCareer
Karlsson18:5118:4318:4716:07
Smith18:1617:5518:0516:40
Marchessault18:0917:3017:5016:35
Stastny18:0618:1818:0619:13
Stone17:3920:4017:3918:50
Pacioretty17:0019:0117:0017:34
Tuch16:4415:1516:0016:00
Haula16:3517:2216:5913:39
Eakin15:2314:3214:5815:45
 18-1917-18VGK AverageCareer
Total156:43159:16155:24150:23
Average17:2517:4217:1616:43

This is just nine of the 12 forwards. Stone’s time will almost certainly go up and Eakin’s will likely decrease, but it’s hard to imagine players like Tuch, Pacioretty, Haula or others to drop too much further below their VGK averages.

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McCrimmon, McPhee, Creator Weigh In On Expanded Video Review

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Time has passed since the #NotAMajor incident that helped lead to the Golden Knights season coming to a close far earlier than most had hoped. However, the topic of changing the rules to ensure something like that never happens again remains very much on the forefront.

The Golden Knights have three powerful voices that will be involved in the process of amending the rules this offseason and they each have a slightly different idea of what should take place in regards to video review.

First, here’s GM Kelly McCrimmon’s belief, speaking on the Sports and More podcast with Dean Millard.

My feelings are that we don’t need more video review in the regular season, in fact, I think a case can be made for less video review in the regular season. I do however, at playoff time, think the rules should be different with respect to video review. If it was as simple as reviewing any overtime goal for a puck that maybe hit the netting behind the glass or was hand passed or high sticked or whatever the different situations that might occur, I think with what’s at stake at that time of year it’s most important to get it right. That’s out of respect to the players and the game, ownership, fan bases, and everyone that’s fully vested at that time of year. I just think with what’s a stake at that time of year I do believe video could be used probably more to everyone’s advantage to make sure the right calls are made whenever possible. -Kelly McCrimmon

President of Hockey Operations George McPhee took a slightly softer approach speaking to TSN at the NHL Scouting Combine.

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Can You Win With $8+ Million Players?

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There are plenty of differences between the Golden Knights and the two Stanley Cup participants? However, there’s one you may not have thought about, and one TSN’s Pierre LeBrun thinks is significant.

Neither the Blues nor the Bruins have a player making more than $8 million per year.

The St. Louis Blues highest paid players, Vladimir Tarsenko and Ryan O’Reilly earn $7.5 million annually. Center David Krejci is the Boston Bruins wealthiest player making $7.2 million per season. Needless to say, the team that hoists the Stanley Cup will do so without one of the league’s highest-paid players.

LeBrun brought up a running conversation among hockey execs on Vancouver radio during the conference finals.

The four teams we have left in the playoffs do not have a single player making more than $8 million. Is there something there, or is just a one off? No one has a double digit player. The money is spread out… Is that they way to go? Is that the way you find depth? -Pierre LeBrun, TSN

An $8 million player makes up for roughly 11% of a team’s salary cap. Golden Knights winger Mark Stone will begin collecting his dough next season when his 8-year/$76 million deal kicks in. That will make Stone the 12th highest paid player in the NHL. His $9.5 million yearly payout will be the third most for a winger, which could move to fourth once Mitch Marner inks a deal. Stone’s cap hit next season will be 11.63% of the team’s available cap.

The theory was debunked by the last two Stanley Cup champions. Alex Ovechkin’s $9.53 million didn’t hurt the Washington Capitals Stanley Cup run. Nor did the salaries of Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million) and Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million) affect the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2015-2017. In total, they are the only three players in NHL history to raise a Stanley Cup making an average of $8 million per season. While it’s a practical theory, it’s hard to argue against retaining and signing elite NHL players.

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SinBin.vegas Podcast #156: Ron-Biere

Off a little hiatus, we try to figure out what in the world to talk about with the Draft a month away and AHL hockey the closest thing to VGK we’ve got. Hosted by Ken Boehlke and Jason Pothier.

  • The prospect goalie situation
  • Ken’s salary cap public announcement
  • One kid vs. multiple kids (vs. no kids)
  • Airplane etiquette
  • An offseason case of weird lineup ideas

And much more…

We are on iTunesStitcher, Spotify, and Google Play. Subscribe now!

Gusev And Schuldt’s Contracts Have Officially Expired, Time For New Ones

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With the calendar turning over from May to June it means the Golden Knights can officially begin negotiations with Nikita Gusev and Jimmy Schuldt who signed entry-level contracts late in the 2018-19 season.

This contract will expire June 1 and then we get working on the second deal. You can’t work on that deal now, it’s a circumvention of the salary cap. So to get him in here it burns the entry-level part of his contract so he can get into a different level of contract in the summer. -McPhee speaking about Gusev on 4/14/19

Gusev and Schuldt are both restricted free agents. Gusev has arbitration rights while Schuldt does not.

The first step in the process for restricted free agents is for the team to extend a qualifying offer. By doing this, they retain control on the player. The player then can either sign that offer or the two sides can negotiate a different deal.

Both Gusev and Schuldt received the largest entry-level salary possible which means they will each be extended equal qualifying offers. According to CapFriendly.com, that offer will be a two-way contract with an NHL salary of $874,125.

It’s unlikely either player signs the qualifying offer. Gusev can, and probably will, file for arbitration. Not because he and his agent expect to go to arbitration, but because it will set a deadline on their negotiation (sometime between the last two weeks of July and the first week of August).

Schuldt will likely take the Shea Theodore path of not signing the qualifying offer and negotiating a longer-term deal. However, due to a relative lack of bargaining power, Schuldt’s shouldn’t last into training camp like Theodore’s did a year ago.

Where might both of those contracts land? Well, let’s go to the history books.

Schuldt’s deal is much easier to look at because we have a few recent situations similar to his.

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Trades Are Coming, But When?

The Golden Knights acquired Dylan Ferguson on June 26th. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are in a bit of a roster pickle. They have too many wingers, too many defensemen, and too many prospects seemingly ready to make the leap to the NHL level. Plus, there’s not a ton of wiggle room in the salary cap department.

All of it adds up to a high probability of a trade coming in the near future. Who that may be? Let’s cast that to the side for this article. Instead, let’s try to figure out when it might happen.

According to NHLTradeTracker.com, since 2010, a total of 250 trades made between April 30th and July 6th*. 106 of the 250, or 42%, happened during the two days of NHL Draft. That’s an overwhelming number as no other pair of days registers even 15% of total trades.

Only 63, or 25%, happened in the months leading up to the Draft, and just 34, or 14% happened in the days between the Draft and free agency beginning on July 1.

Here’s a full breakdown of when all trades occurred over the past nine years.

*In 2013 the Draft was on June 30th, so there is no time in between the Draft and free agency. We have extended the post draft date to July 10th for that year only*

Total
April to Draft Day – 63
Draft Day – 106
Post Draft – 34
July 1 to 6th* – 47

2018 (June 22, 23) <—NHL Draft Date
April to Draft Day – 7
Draft Day – 2
Post Draft – 6
July 1 to 6th – 2

2017 (June 23, 24)
May to Draft Day – 9
Draft Day – 6
Post Draft – 4
July 1 to 6th – 7

2016 (June 24, 25)
May to Draft Day – 10
Draft Day – 13
Post Draft – 3
July 1 to 6th – 1

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Golden Knights Set To Lose Rights To 2017 4th Round Draft Pick

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This isn’t earth-shattering news, nor is it all that important to the future of the Vegas Golden Knights, but a first is a first, and we’re officially two days away from another first in the history of the franchise.

With the 96th pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Golden Knights selected Maksim Zhukov. He’s a goalie who at the time was playing with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL.

Since being drafted, Zhukov attended Development Camps in both 2017 and 2018, was drafted by the Barrie Colts in the CHL Import Draft (48th overall), played 19 games in the OHL with Barrie before leaving Canada to head back to Green Bay and the USHL.

By NHL rule, in order to retain the exclusive negotiating rights on a drafted player, a team must extend a “bona fide offer” (fancy term for a contract) to a player prior to June 1st of the 2nd year following his selection in the draft.

In the case of Zhukov, that’s Saturday (June 1, 2019), and at this moment, that has not happened.

Thus, if in the next two days the Golden Knights do not sign him to a contract, he will become the first draft pick in team history to be eligible to re-enter the draft. If selected, he becomes property of the new team, if not, Zhukov would be able to sign an entry-level contract with any team.

Now, it’s important to note that by not signing Zhukov it does not exclude the Golden Knights from signing him in the future. If undrafted, he could still attend Development Camp and Vegas could eventually sign him like they would any other unrestricted free agent. It’s just no longer do they have exclusive rights on him, meaning if another team wanted to swoop in, they could.

As for how Zhukov has played, the answer is not very well. In the USHL this year he put up a 3.94 goals against average and a save percentage of just .882. He wasn’t much better in the OHL either posting a 3.43 GAA and .900 Sv%.

He ranked as the 30th best goalie in the USHL (and second on his own team) by save percentage and 37th by goals against. He was beat out in Barrie by a goalie who is ranked by NHL Central Scouting as the 28th best North American goalie prospect, and was outplayed in Green Bay by an undrafted 19-year-old headed to Quinnipiac next season.

All in all, it shouldn’t be seen as a big surprise if the Golden Knights let the clock hit midnight on Zhukov. Nonetheless, he would go down in history, so there’s that.

How Often Are Golden Knights Forwards On The Ice For Goals Against

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Following season one, the Golden Knights front office made the rash decision to completely blow up their second line. That meant letting both David Perron and James Neal walk out the door, while shifting Erik Haula to the wing (for a few games while everyone was healthy).

The reasoning behind this from George McPhee was defensive inefficiency. McPhee claimed they were “dead last for second lines in the league” in goals against per 60.

The line of Perron, Haula, and Neal allowed 3.03 goals per 60 minutes of time on ice when playing together. It was the highest on the team by half a goal. This year, 3.03 would have actually been just fine for the Golden Knights. (All stats are at even strength)

LineTOIGAGA/60
71/81/19840:43402.85
26/67/61156:4972.67
26/67/89226:52174.50
21/67/89197:4392.73
21/92/40118:3484.05
21/73/8971:0600.00
41/28/75363:58101.65

To compare, here’s the same table from last season.

LineTOIGAGA/60
71/81/19722:34241.99
56/57/18554:37283.03
21/89/13261:10112.53
41/92/28152:1251.97

The most alarming number on the chart is the first line’s number. It went up by nearly a full goal per 60 minutes and it was only 0.18 away from the line McPhee decided was so bad defensively that he had to destroy it.

The dominant line of Stastny, Stone, and Pacioretty wasn’t all that much better either. You are probably thinking, “yeah, but they scored way more.” Nope. With all three on the ice together, they allowed seven while scoring nine.

Look at the “fourth” line though. They got even better this year going with Reaves and Carrier together. Also, the line of Eakin, Pirri, and Tuch never conceded in over 70 minutes of time on ice together.

However, these numbers can be a bit misleading at times as not all goals are scored with full lines on the ice. So, let’s break it down by individual forward. Remember, these are even strength numbers only.

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