Goalie controversy, this is the Vegas Golden Knights. Golden Knights, goalie controversy. It’s been six months in the making, but the time has now come for you two to get acquainted with each other.
The inevitable was put into place on February 24th when the Golden Knights traded then back-up goalie Malcolm Subban for starter-to-be Robin Lehner. Despite the words of positivity coming from the front office and head coach about Fleury’s place atop the Golden Knights goalie depth chart, his role changed on that day, and it’s devolved ever since.
Today, one day before the Golden Knights begin their second round series with the Vancouver Canucks, what went from a potential hazard lurking in the distance stormed into the forefront and is now here to stay.
City National Arena was re-opened a few weeks ago with the beginning of Phase 2 of the NHL’s return to play plans. It called for only six players to be on the ice at a time and the facilities to be under strict safety protocols.
The Golden Knights confirmed early on that six players, Marc-Andre Fleury, MarkStone, Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Nick Holden, and Deryk Engelland, participated in a skate the very first day of Phase 2. Since, they’ve sent out a couple more videos showing the exact same group of six players.
However, with most players in town, and a few others confirming they’ve skated, it’s been clear that the total number of players heading to skate each day was larger than six. Speaking on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central yesterday, George McPhee confirmed that nearly the entire roster is back.
We had I think 24 players skate the first week, 28 the second week, and we’ll probably have 30 this week. –McPhee on Hockey Central
To make matters even better, he also gave an update on the overall health of the team, which was seemingly a bit more dire than it appeared over the course of this season.
Everyone (is healthy). I don’t know what players that you were aware of that were injured. We weren’t public with all of them but they are all healthy. We had a couple of those high ankle sprains that take forever to heal and sometimes you need the summer for them to heal and we’re fortunate that we’ve had this kind of time for them to heal. –McPhee on Hockey Central
The expectation is that the league will allow teams to carry 28 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies when play resumes at the hub cities. Meaning for Vegas, just about everyone who will play is back to training and for the most part, has been for the last two weeks.
Kelly McCrimmon confirmed last Monday that the organization has not experienced any positive tests for Coronavirus.
All in all, it’s looking good for the Golden Knights as they prepare to return to the ice for real and accomplish what they couldn’t in years one and two. It might look even better by the end of the week too as SinBin.vegas sources indicate the players have been told the current plan is for the Golden Knights to stay in Vegas and play at T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights have sent out three videos showing the six players mentioned above one the ice. Here’s the latest of those videos.
Over 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 on the Golden Knights.
From the water commercials to the beer company to his unmistakable style on and off 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. And 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.
It’s still way too early to really start worrying about what the Golden Knights will look like next season, considering there’s still a Cup to be won this season. Plus, the salary cap for the 2020-21 season remains a mystery.
But with plenty of time to go before the Golden Knights hit the ice and a few contracts hitting the books over the past few weeks, we thought it’s a good time to take a look at the Golden Knights salary cap snapshot to give you an idea of what kind of wiggle room they have to operate with whenever the offseason does get underway.
The current salary cap is $81.5 million, a number the Golden Knights flirted with all season. Heading into next year, they currently have 19 players under contract that are likely to be a part of the 23 man roster. Plus, there’s still that pesky $500,000 cap hit that remains from the Tomas Tatar trade.
Mark Stone – $9,500,000 Max Pacioretty – $7,000,000 Paul Stastny – $6,500,000 William Karlsson – $5,900,000 Reilly Smith – $5,000,000 Jonathan Marchessault – $5,000,000 Alex Tuch – $4,750,000 Ryan Reaves – $1,750,000 William Carrier – $1,400,000 Cody Glass – $863,333 Nicolas Roy – $750,000
Whenever the league gives the green light to go ahead with the 24 team playoff format that was unveiled earlier this week, the Golden Knights are going to have some tough decisions both in roster and lineup construction.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the league is expected to allow teams to have 28 skaters on their active roster along with an unlimited number of goalies. Normally, the entire AHL squad is available to any team still remaining in the NHL playoffs, but with the pandemic restrictions, the league likely wants to keep the numbers down.
So, let’s start with the 28 skaters that I project will make the cut for the Golden Knights.
Locks (21) (13 F, 8 D)
William Karlsson, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Alex Tuch, Chandler Stephenson, Nick Cousins, Nic Roy, Ryan Reaves, Tomas Nosek, William Carrier, Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, Alec Martinez, Shea Theodore, Jon Merrill, Nick Holden, Zach Whitecloud, Deryk Engelland
This is the roster Vegas was expecting to go into the playoffs with had the league continued with the regularly scheduled season. Assuming health when the league is ready to return, there’s no way any of these 21 won’t be listed among the Golden Knights allotted 28.
AHL Locks (3) (2 F, 1 D)
Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov, Nic Hague
When I set out to do this I actually expected this group to be a little larger, but the group behind these guys is so large, McPhee and McCrimmon can really go a lot of different ways. Will they load up on defensemen because they have a little bit more of a variety of styles? Will they go with more veteran players to be safe? Or will they put a bunch of kids in the mix so they get a taste of “playoff” hockey? No matter which way they choose, these three will be among the 28 selected.
Whether it means making great selections and developing those players into NHL stars or trading picks/prospects for NHL-ready players, the Draft is the most important tool for a GM to consistently improve his team.
Through three seasons, the Golden Knights have made 28 selections in the Entry Draft. Four have played in NHL games but just two have appeared for the Golden Knights. That being said, Vegas used the selections of the two that didn’t, Erik Brannstrom and Nick Suzuki, to acquire Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty.
So, it’s a bit too early to judge how well they’ve drafted as a team, but there’s no questioning they’ve already been able to utilize the Entry Draft to improve to what ended up being the best roster ever constructed from an Expansion Draft. The future of the franchise will continue to hinge on the successes and failures in the Entry Draft.
During the NHL Pause, NHL.com has been conducting “NHL Redrafts” in which they go back over a previous year’s Entry Draft and reselect them using what we know now. They’ve completed eight years, from 2005 to 2012, which consists of a majority of the players playing in the league right now.
When those eight drafts occurred, George McPhee was the GM of the Washington Capitals. He had 10 1st round picks yet managed to select 13 players that wound up being 1st rounders in NHL.com’s Redrafts. Here’s the full rundown of how McPhee did…
In the NHL’s constant struggle to stay relevant since the season was put on hold on March 12th, one of the ideas that’s drawn the most ire from GMs is the thought of conducting the Draft during the pandemic rather than waiting until the season is completed.
Speaking to Brian Blessing on the Vegas Hockey Hotline, Golden Knights President of Hockey Operations, George McPhee, took about as positive a position as any NHL exec regarding the Draft being held in June.
We’re ready to go, if the league wants to do it, let’s go do it. If the league wants to move it up we’re fine with it. This is complicated enough for the league and everybody else. –George McPhee on Vegas Hockey Hotline
As the days pass it appears to be less and less likely that the league will indeed head that way, but the possibility still exists.
I don’t particularly find it very challenging. I don’t know that anything changes if you wait another three months to have a draft. We can work out all of the conditional picks. I just don’t find it that difficult. –McPhee on Vegas Hockey Hotline
Contrast that to the quote Elliotte Friedman published from an unnamed GM on the idea.
This is terrible, and I don’t support it.
Every team is in a different spot in regards to the impact holding the Draft in June would have, with some having much larger hurdles to cross than that in which the Golden Knights would face.
Any team in the lottery could have their fates changed, any team with an important conditional pick yet to be settled, and any team on the playoff bubble could get burned by the irregular draft. Those are likely the teams making the most noise in opposition of the idea. As for Vegas, it really wouldn’t matter, and thus…
If there’s one thing the NHL has made clear since the moment they placed the season on hold it’s that they will do whatever they can to make sure it was postponed and not canceled. Every piece of news that’s come out of the league since March 12th has pointed towards a devotion to return to the ice this year and award the 2019-20 Stanley Cup, no matter what that means for the future schedule.
However, with every day that ticks away without any concrete plans to return, it feels less and less likely that it will ever become a reality. Most return to play scenarios being thrown around are scheduled to take months before the teams ever hit the ice to play a game.
But, according to the Golden Knights President of Hockey Operations, George McPhee, it shouldn’t take nearly as long as what most expect to get the players back up to speed and ready to start playing meaningful games.
I think after a week or 10 days of skating they’d be fine. Are they really going to want four weeks? I don’t think so. After a week of hard skating, they’ll probably be saying ‘You know what, I’d rather be playing than practicing, so let’s get going.’ –George McPhee on Vegas Hockey Hotline
That’s a drastic difference from what we’ve normally been hearing in regards to how long the “camp” has to be to get the players fully conditioned.
And this is coming from a guy who not only has been a GM in the NHL for over 20 years, but also played more than 100 NHL games himself. Like everyone, he’s never been through something like this, but if anyone can predict how players will react to a situation it’s him.
If the league says you’ve got two weeks or a week to 10 days, ok, let’s go. It doesn’t matter to us, we’ll just be ready to go. –McPhee on Vegas Hockey Hotline
The fans will be ready too.
The entire interview with George McPhee on Vegas Hockey Hotline with Brian Blessing can be found here. We’ll have another story from this interview later in the week.
The one downfall of being an NHL player is that it’s not a lifelong job. The average American retires around 65, but for the average pro hockey player it’s 33. While it’s a highly desirable job, earning high salaries, and entertaining millions, there’s still plenty of life after hockey.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie was asked which current player he thought could become a good NHL GM, and his answer was not surprising.
Sidney Crosby is a hockey junkie. He loves the game. He loves to talk about the game, he follows things closely. He has a great awareness of what’s going on. I don’t know if he’ll go into management but it won’t surprise me. If he did go in, he would be all in. He’s got a real passion for the game and that reflects in knowledge and a thirst for knowledge about all things hockey.-Bob McKenzie, TSN
So it got us thinking, which current/former Golden Knight would make a good NHL general manager?
Jason’s candidates: Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Shea Theodore
Ken’s candidates: David Perron, Nate Schmidt, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
There are many elements that go into being a successful general manager, the biggest one is accepting the harsh reality of the business side of hockey. The Islanders Lou Lamoriello is a great example of being a stone-cold executive, even Vegas’ George McPhee has an icy side. Maybe it’s education, or it comes with experience. Pacioretty felt the chill up in Montreal where he was constantly made the scapegoat. From the fans, media, to team executives, #67 had a lot on his plate. However, he still managed to score 226 goals for the Canadiens. Pacioretty accepted his high-profile role as an American captain in Montreal, and professionally handled his daily responsibilities, no matter how combative they were. In the end, he was traded by the organization he gave it all for, and it didn’t phase him. By then, he had already been schooled about the dirty business.
After one year at his local high school, Pacioretty moved on to a hockey prep school, then to the USHL, and lastly the University of Michigan before becoming an NHL player. Since the age of 15, the Connecticut native was heavily recruited and scouted, so he’s well aware of that process.
As captain, Pacioretty needed to work the room and find balance with all of his teammates. Even loud, overbearing teammates like PK Subban. Being captain allowed him insight on how the team was built. What the front office was doing right and what went wrong. With several failed seasons in Montreal, I’m sure the 31-year-old veteran took note of the poor decisions made by the organization.
His experience early on with the recruitment stage, witnessing of building up and tearing down rosters, adding in his tough skin and Pacioretty has the resume to become a future general manager. (written by Jason)
Man, I miss David Perron. Perron is one of the most intriguing players both on and off the ice.
His hockey mind is always on full display when he’s playing as he just seems to have a knack for finding holes in the offensive zone where he can hold onto the puck for a little longer than anyone else who has ever worn a VGK jersey. He sees the game at a different speed than most and I’d have to think that would translate well into scouting as well as team construction.
Off the ice is where he really made me believe he has what it takes to be a GM though. He’s one of the few players in Golden Knights history who really cared about stats and even advanced stats. He’d talk about Corsi, zone starts, through-percentage, and many other pieces of data that proved he’s a true hockey junkie.
The intelligence he displayed in breaking down complex game situations as well as his understanding of the salary cap and the business end of hockey has me believing he would be not only the most likely to become a GM, but also the best future GM of any current or former Golden Knight. (written by Ken)
It feels like ages ago now, but just six months ago the Golden Knights kicked off the third season in franchise history. It began with a pair of hotly contested games against the hated San Jose Sharks, each resulting in Vegas wins. From there, the Golden Knights ripped off wins in six of their first nine games before hitting the skids a bit dropping 12 of the next 17.
It all added up to a paltry 11-11-4 start. In those first 25 games, the Golden Knights were without Alex Tuch for 17, Nate Schmidt for 12, Malcolm Subban for nine, and Cody Eakin for four. Plus, Valentin Zykov was suspended for 20.
According to George McPhee though, those weren’t the only ailments plaguing his team early in the season.
We started the season a little slow. We had three players that were injured. The hidden injuries, we had three guys that were hurt late in the summer in training and missed a lot of training time. They were really behind when we got going. It was pretty obvious. -McPhee to GoldenKnights.com
My first thought was, “who’s he talking about?”
Shea Theodore’s bout with cancer could certainly fall under that category, but it’s hard to call that one “hidden.” Tuch, Schmidt, Eakin, Subban, and Whitecloud were all hurt on the ice during regular or preseason games, so he can’t be talking about them. Then there was the William Karlsson “can’t take draws” injury that seemed to occur in a preseason game, but once again, that shouldn’t have gotten in the way of the summer training.
“Three guys hurt late in the summer in training.”
The first, most obvious, candidate would be Ryan Reaves. He missed a majority of training camp, not hitting the ice for the first time until September 24th.
The next best guess is Paul Stastny who was absent for the first four preseason games but played in the final three and didn’t miss any of the 71 games played thus far.
Finally, there are Mark Stone and Deryk Engelland. Both participated in training camp, but neither saw preseason action until the third preseason game. That’s not horribly unusual, but when looking for “hidden” injuries the only names missing from the first two preseason games have to be considered.
Statistically, Stone was dominant out of the gates this season putting up 18 points in his first 15 games. The other three, not so much. Reaves tallied just three points in his first 20, Engelland had just two in 20, and Stastny had nine points in his first 20.
Or maybe it’s someone else I’m not even considering. But the point of this isn’t to out the guys who were potentially injured though, it’s to ask why that is an acceptable excuse?