The Golden Knights announced today that Kelly McCrimmon has been promoted from Assistant General Manager to General Manager. George McPhee, who previously had the title of General Manager and President of Hockey Operations, will now simply become the President of Hockey Operations.
Truthfully, very little will change with the Golden Knights organization. McPhee remains first in command and in complete control of all hockey decisions, while McCrimmon gets a title boost, probably a pay raise, and a few added responsibilities.
The reason for this move is because of how coveted McCrimmon is by other teams. He was a lead candidate for the General Manager position in both Edmonton and Seattle. The title boost means the Golden Knights will not lose McCrimmon to either job.
Functionally, there will be a few minor differences.
In this new role, McCrimmon will represent the Golden Knights at the league’s General Managers Meetings and be the point of contact for other NHL GMs. -Golden Knights press release
As far as from the fan perspective, this move has nearly no impact on the chemical makeup of the front office. The same people are making the decisions, with the same power structure in place.
The main takeaway that should come from this move is The Creator’s continued commitment to the Golden Knights success. Rather than let a trusted person leave for a better position, the team gave him a new title to keep him with the organization. Further proving, The Creator will spare no expense to reach the ultimate goal.
McCrimmon, McPhee, and Foley are expected to meet with the media at noon today at City National Arena.
Emotions ran very high during the Golden Knights and Sharks seven game first round thriller. From the Ryan Reaves vs. Evander Kane jabs (both literal and figurative) to Joe Thornton’s dirty hit on Tomas Nosek, to the “clown” comment from Gerard Gallant, the series will leave a lasting impression.
George McPhee clearly had some thoughts on the way the Sharks played in the series and in the most calculated way possible, he didn’t take long to let some slip out early in his season-ending press conference.
(Our) guys played their guts out. I like the way they competed for this organization, for this city. I think it’s a team that people can be proud of, they play hard, they play honest, they don’t embellish, we don’t cheat, we play the game right. We play hard. -George McPhee
Who could he possibly be referencing that plays a different way?
Aside from the apology from the NHL, admitting that the Sharks were the benefit of a horrendous call that changed the series, McPhee obviously wasn’t a fan of some of the embellishing, and apparently cheating, the Sharks did in the series.
San Jose benefitted from a 114-105 penalty minute advantage in the series, and were called for more penalties than Vegas in just two of the seven games, in Games 3 and 4.
There was a lot of after-whistle garbage and even an after game scrum that left Cody Eakin with a broken nose.
It was a hard fought series, but clearly, the GM of the Golden Knights felt there were a few liberties taken by the eventual winner of the series. It doesn’t matter now, but there’s no question the Golden Knights franchise, from top to bottom, will be ready to make amends against San Jose as quickly as possible.
I’m sure viewership is low in Las Vegas for the Sharks/Avalanche second round series. Although, San Jose did lose Sunday so maybe VGK fans tuned into the postgame show. Either way, it’s been a painful series to watch for most in Vegas. The two teams have no history of emotions so it’s a little boring, to say the least. There have been twenty-two minutes in penalties and exactly zero chirps. It’s nothing like the first round matchup between Vegas and San Jose. It lacks the same passion.
On Vegas’ locker clean out day I went around the room asking players ‘was this one of the most intense series you’ve played in?’
Here were their responses:
This one was pretty wild. There’s definitely some hate there. It was intense and fun. Fun to be a part of. It just sucks we didn’t come out on top. -Brayden McNabb
I played Game 7 in Boston. Won a Game 7 in Boston but this series was crazy. The momentum shifts, the physicality, the emotions and obviously the drama. It was a lot of fun but I feel like we deserved better. This series could’ve gone either way. Everyone knows that. It was a lot of fun to play in and I think going through this experience… will make this group a lot better. -Max Pacioretty
Very intense. It was a grind. People don’t realize how tough it is to play in the playoffs. A lot of people think teams just walk through and you play and you win. It was tough physically and mentally and it sucks to be on the losing end. -Shea Theodore
The first round is usually the toughest to win. It’s true because everyone is so fired up, everyone is fresh and excited about being in the playoffs. It was an intense series, probably the most intense series I’ve ever been a part of. Going back to when I was with Washington versus Pittsburgh. It had that similar feeling to it, you know, two teams with no love lost on either side. It’s making for a good rivalry though. -Nate Schmidt
The offseason is going to be an interesting one of the Golden Knights. Not only do they have four players from the NHL roster set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1st, but they also have seven other UFAs, 10 RFAs including William Karlsson, Nikita Gusev, and Jimmy Schuldt, and they are pushing up against the salary cap.
Like every offseason, moves will be made. Players will come, players will go, and the 2019-20 Golden Knights won’t look like the 2018-19 team.
There are plenty of moving parts and literally thousands of options on the table, but we’re going to take an early stab at exactly what may happen anyway.
And because we are so familiar with the questions (because you all keep asking them incessantly), we’re going to do it in an FAQ format. So, here we go.
What do you think will happen with each of the UFAs?
There are four major ones, Bellemare, Engelland, Pirri, and Carpenter. Of the four, there’s only one who is close to a sure thing one way or the other, and that’s Brandon Pirri. He almost certainly won’t be a Golden Knight next season. He made it clear on exit day that his number one priority in his next contract is an opportunity to play in the NHL. Vegas likely doesn’t offer that and even if they do, it’ll be at a minimum price. Expect someone to pony up something like $1-$1.5 million for Pirri and him to find himself in on an opening day roster for the first time since 2016.
The next one that I’m most confident on is Deryk Engelland. I expect the Golden Knights to once again sign him to a one-year contract worth somewhere around $1.5 million. If Engelland isn’t planning on retiring, which it does not appear he is, he’ll remain in Vegas. Whether he’s in the lineup on opening night, that is still a question.
As for Carpenter and Bellemare, in both cases it likely depends on what George McPhee does with the rest of the roster. Carpenter seems more likely to stay in Vegas because there will be less of a demand for him around the league, but if one team steps up and promises him a roster spot, he’ll probably head elsewhere. With Bellemare, it comes down to center depth in Vegas. If Haula isn’t a center, it makes sense to keep Bellemare, but if he is, there’s really not room for Bellemare unless they trade Cody Eakin. If I had to guess, I’ll say Bellemare is a fourth line center for another team when the dust settles on free agency.
What does William Karlsson’s contract end up looking like and is there a legitimate concern that he’s not a Golden Knight soon?
Well, first off, this what we know will happen. The Golden Knights will extend the qualifying offer of $4,750,000. Karlsson won’t sign it. Instead, he will file for arbitration and a hearing date will be set for late July to early August. From there, it truly is anyone’s guess.
I do believe both sides have an appetite to come to an agreement on a long-term deal, however, I also believe they aren’t horribly close on the dollar amount. Karlsson could reasonably command north of $7 million while the Golden Knights would probably prefer he takes something closer to $5 million.
In the end, I’d guess he lands on a bridge deal that leans towards the Golden Knights side. A three or four-year deal would make the most sense for the player as he would collect a solid payday, would stay in Vegas which is best for him for multiple reasons, and he’d be eligible for unrestricted free agency around the age of 30 which could put him in line for one more major deal.
This being said, I could see him getting all the way to arbitration (where I think he’d get around $6.5 million), I could see him signing another short term deal, or I could see him locking in long-term. Karlsson’s contract is clearly priority number one for McPhee and Co., but due to the RFA timeline, don’t bank on it being the first domino to fall.
How long and how much are the contracts going to be for Nikita Gusev and Jimmy Schuldt?
Both are incredibly difficult to project. We’ll start with Gusev. As the KHL MVP he clearly deserves quite a bit of a raise off the $925,000 entry-level deal he was forced to sign and burn. However, he’s never played an NHL game, he’s not able to negotiate with other teams, and he may not be in the NHL for the sole purpose of money. I’ll guess it ends up being a three-year deal which gets him to age 29 before he hits unrestricted free agency with a value short of $10 million total. If he goes out and dominates the NHL, his next deal will easily make up for this one, but if he doesn’t, he’ll have played it perfectly to cash in on potential while not killing the Golden Knights salary cap.
(Oh, and don’t be shocked if he’s an offer-sheet candidate. It may only cost a 2nd or 3rd round pick for someone to throw an offer-sheet on him, and there are probably still some GMs who wouldn’t mind painting McPhee into a corner after the VGK Expansion Draft and the exemption in the upcoming Seattle Expansion Draft.)
Schuldt is slightly easier to project but still fairly challenging. He played in one NHL game and then was ineligible for either the NHL or AHL playoffs. He clearly wants to be in Vegas as he made the decision to come here over basically every other team in the league, but that doesn’t mean he won’t want his payday. Vegas would prefer to keep this contract shorter than four years so upon expiry he remains an RFA rather than a UFA. Let’s guess, three years, $4.75M total ($1.583M AAV)
What about the other RFAs? Tomas Nosek, Malcolm Subban, Alex Gallant, Tobias Lindberg, Tomas Hyka, Jake Bischoff, Zach Fucale
Expect qualifying offers on all but possibly Lindberg. Nosek and Subban will both file for arbitration but I’d be surprised if either makes it to their hearing. Can’t see either getting away from the Golden Knights nor can I see either cashing in for much more than $1 million. Worst case scenario is Nosek becomes a roster cut prior to opening night and has to clear waivers, but Vegas would rather take that risk than let him walk for no reason. Subban will be the back-up goalie for the Golden Knights next season, I can almost guarantee that.
It is remotely possible that one or more of the players on this list are part of a trade package as RFA’s are always valuable because they remain under team control. Nosek and Bischoff both have a bit of value in a trade, but they wouldn’t be the principal piece.
Aren’t the Golden Knights going to be over the cap? How do they fix that problem?
**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.**
There’s no sense in continuing to rehash the events of Tuesday’s third period of Game 7. What’s done is done.
If you feel like there’s a wee bit of vindication from the NHL apologizing to the Golden Knights and putting referees Dan O’Halloran and Eric Furlatt on the shelf for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I can’t say I blame you.
For some of you, you’re still pissed off at what took place and no amount of apologizing will change that. I understand that too. If you want to join general manager George McPhee and take the high road, fine.
But as we head to the remainder of spring and into the summer without hockey in Las Vegas, be prepared for the fact the team you love is going to look different come September when training camp opens.
How different? That remains to be seen. But it comes with the territory. No team stands completely pat, even when they win a Stanley Cup. So changes are coming.
McPhee has to get William Karlsson signed, hopefully, long term and at a reasonable price. Deryk Engelland and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare are unrestricted free agents. Both want to remain with the Golden Knights. Together, they made $2.95 million this season. Clearing their salaries could help with Karlsson though.
UFAs Brandon Pirri and Ryan Carpenter are less likely to remain. Tomas Nosek is an RFA but he too could find himself moving on.
Space needs to be created on the roster for Nikita Gusev and perhaps Cody Glass and Nic Hague, maybe Jimmy Schuldt. Erik Haula will be ready to resume his career after the gruesome knee injury he sustained in November.
And who knows what’s going to happen in the NHL Entry Draft in late June where the Golden Knights will pick 16th or 17th overall (depending on Colorado’s second round series). Will GMGM trade to move up? Will he trade down? Will he keep the pick and select someone the amateur scouting staff really covets?
They may lose assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon as well. Both Edmonton and Seattle are reportedly interested in bringing in McCrimmon on board as their general manager. And that piece of the plan may not be so easy to replace were McCrimmon to bolt Vegas though maybe Vaughn Karpan, the team’s director of player personnel, could be elevated into McCrimmon’s spot should he leave.
So believe it when I tell you this roster and opening night lineup figures to look different come October.
Hopefully the rules will be different too. McPhee was kinda lukewarm on the idea of being a proponent for change regarding the referees having the ability to look at replay to determine if a major penalty was committed. Owner Bill Foley had a much more definitive take:
I believe it should be a reviewable play, coaches challenge. I think a coach should be able to challenge in the playoffs. That’s going to be up to the league to make that determination. I believe the league is thinking about it and I think it’s going to be receptive to that kind of change. We will have a Board of Governors meeting here in a couple of months and I’m sure it will be brought up and we will talk about it. I think that will be a good solution, despite the fact the Sharks fans were going crazy over the perceived hit. If it would have been a coach’s challenge, it would have been reviewed and that wouldn’t have been a penalty. -Foley
When I asked GMGM directly about changing the rule, here was his response:
I don’t know how to answer that question. I think that’s for the league to determine, if they want to anything additional. If a five-minute penalty going to be called, should the referees review it to make sure they got it right? Or should they simply just call up to the supervisor upstairs, who has covered the whole series and that have the replays? They can tell the guys I have nothing on this one.
That’s for the league to determine and I haven’t thought it through. I have had a lot of time to think it through the last couple of nights since I haven’t slept, a lot of flashbacks. -McPhee
If I were a betting man on this issue, I’d put my money on Foley. I believe we will see a new policy adopted by the league for next season.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has carved out a specific niche in the NHL and has proven over his time that his services are truly valuable. As self-aware as they come, Bellemare, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, knows he’s not Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, or even William Karlsson.
I know my worth, I mean I am not an idiot, but I know also that I am not a guy that puts 70 points out there. -Bellemare
Bellemare is a hard-working, defensively responsible center who thrives on the penalty kill. In Game 7, he was missed sorely, but the fact of the matter is that the Golden Knights may not be in a position to re-sign Bellemare for a variety of reasons.
The Golden Knights are in a bit of a salary cap crunch, already pushing up against the upper limit and still with Karlsson’s contract needing to be signed. The team also finds itself with a plethora of centers. With Paul Stastny, Erik Haula, and Cody Eakin already under contract, and Karlsson an RFA, Bellemare’s spot on the starting lineup could be in jeopardy. Like his role, this isn’t something he’s unaware of.
I love the organization and we’re obviously going to talk. I’ve done everything I could to show them my worth and in the end if they don’t think I’m worth it for the team then that means they’re going to get somebody better, and I love the team so that means it would be better for this team. It’s as simple as that. -Bellemare
On top of it, Bellemare specifically mentioned an unwillingness to sign a one-year contract. At age 34, he knows he’s coming to the end of his career and understands there aren’t many contracts left to sign.
We love it here and we’re a bunch of spoiled kids doing the best thing we can do in our lives because of this organization. So you would be a fool to want to leave. -Bellemare
But whether it happens in Vegas or not, Bellemare’s not sweating the offseason like many unrestricted free agents.
To be honest I’ve never been the most difficult guy (when it comes to contract negotiations). I’m a French hockey player, I’ve played in rinks you would not imagine. I’ve traveled on the worst trips you could think. This is the NHL so I’m not going to complain anywhere I can end up in the NHL. -Bellemare
It took nearly two full days, but finally, it was time.
Moments before heading into his final meeting with the media, Gerard Gallant spoke to Cody Eakin for the first time following the penalty that changed the series against the San Jose Sharks.
We left him alone. To be totally honest with you, I talked to him five minutes ago in the lunchroom and I said, ‘Cody’ and he said ‘Turk, I’m fine.’ -Gallant
With just over 10 minutes left in the game, Eakin was given a five-minute major penalty for cross-checking and a game misconduct, therefore ending the night for him, and eventually sinking the Golden Knights season. The NHL has since admitted the call was incorrect by informing, separately, George McPhee and The Creator via phone. They’ve pulled the referees who made the call from the playoffs, ending their seasons as well, and the process of changing the rules on how a penalty like that will be handled in the future are already underway.
He said ‘I know I didn’t do anything wrong, I’m fine.’ He said ‘I can move on and go from that.’ So, you know, you felt bad for Cody but he’s fine and he’s ready to go. And again, nobody is blaming Cody Eakin, obviously. -Gallant
And while no one is blaming Eakin, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have to live through what can only be described as one of the worst nightmares the sport of hockey has ever dolled out to an individual player.
Actually when they called me out of the box I thought, okay they reviewed it and realized it wasn’t a penalty and I was going back to the bench, but they said no you are gone.
They said get off the ice and that’s pretty much all that was said. There were no arguments or disagreements because really at the time I wasn’t quite sure what happened. I saw him on the ice but I know I didn’t cross-check him in the face or make him bleed personally. It was just accidental, so when he was on the ice bleeding I was kinda shocked I said what the heck just happened. -Eakin
That was pretty much the response of everyone on the in the arena, including the officials. What the heck just happened?
The only thing everyone knew was the San Jose Sharks Captain was laying on the ice, out cold, bleeding from the head and his only participation in the play was a face-off. He must have been seriously injured by Eakin, it’s the only thing that makes sense with this outcome, or at least that’s what the referees thought.
Everyone now knows that’s not what happened. But the referees went off script, didn’t follow the protocol laid out in the NHL Rulebook, made up a penalty they thought must have happened. It changed a series, the future of two franchises, and the night (and probably life) of Cody Eakin.
So I went right to the room where the extra guys were watching it. I watched the replay and figured out pretty quickly exactly what happened. I watched it about 20 times and then went to the locker room, sat there, and watched the rest of the game. -Eakin
What happened was a standard cross-check following a faceoff, which happens on just about every faceoff in the NHL. The result caused a player to lose his balance and incidental contact with Paul Stastny caused Joe Pavelski to fall dangerously onto the ice and hit his head. It’s not a major penalty, it’s probably not even a minor, it’s more so an unfortunate play in an intense Game 7 that is taking place on a surface made of ice, which at times can be slippery.
Gallant says he absolutely considered using Gusev in the series but basically said in the end it came down to the fact that he didn't fully know the systems and it wasn't worth the risk. Opted for Pirri and he thought he played great in Game 7.