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Pothier: The Golden Knights Are Not Better Today Than They Were On June 7th

As much as we love Paul Stastny, and we do love Paul Stastny, creating a dynasty involves more than Paul Stastny. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s a simple question, are the Golden Knights a better team today than they were the day they came up three wins short of winning the Stanley Cup? The answer is also as simple, at least in my opinion, and it’s no.

We want to be stronger next year than we were this year. I can’t say we’re going to win more games, or go further in the playoffs, but we want to be a better team next year…That’s the goal. George is working on it right now. –The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline on 6/22/18

The Creator said he has daily discussions with George McPhee on how to improve the team. Since that conversation, some can make the argument the Golden Knights got worse.

Let’s start with what they lost.

David Perron: 67 Points (16G, 50A), 0.94 Points Per Game, 0.71 Assists Per Game, 22 Goals Created, 17:49 ATOI, +1

James Neal: 44 Points (25G, 19A), 0.62 Points Per Game, 2.85 SOG Per Game, 17:11 ATOI, -11

Luca Sbisa: 14 Points (2G, 12A), 54 Blocks, 30 Total Goals For, 30 Total Goals Against, 19:32 ATOI, +8

Now let’s look at the Golden Knights additions.

Paul Stastny: 53 Points (16G, 37A), 0.68 Points Per Game, 0.47 Assists Per Game, 54.9 Faceoff Win %, 18:18 ATOI, +1

Daniel Carr: 16 Points (6G, 10A), 0.42 Points Per Game, 1.37 SOG Per Game, 12:08 ATOI, +2

Nick Holden: 17 Points (4G, 13A), 83 Blocks, 64 Total Goals For, 73 Total Goals Against, 19:00 ATOI, -5

It’s not fair to compare the loss of Neal and Perron, to Vegas’ new offensive additions. Stastny’s a fine player, but he’s not an elite center that can make up the production of two lost wingers. There’s only a few of those, and one of them passed for Toronto.

We have a lot of money to bring in some quality players. If we can get the players we’re going to spend the money. -The Creator

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VGK Free Agency Tracker

)(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

  • Ryan Reaves has re-signed with the Golden Knights on a two year $2.775 million AAV deal. (Source: @DarrenDreger)
  • David Perron has signed with St. Louis on a four year $4 million AAV deal. (Source: @FriedgeHNIC)
  • Paul Stastny has signed with the Golden Knights for three years at $6.5 million AAV. (Source: @TSNBobMcKenzie)
  • Nick Holden has signed with the Golden Knights for two years at $2.2 million AAV. (Source: @PierreVLeBrun)
  • A trade for Erik Karlsson and Bobby Ryan still appears very much in play (Source: @TSNBobMcKenzie)
  • James Neal has signed with the Calgary Flames for five years at $5.75 million AAV. (Source: @TSNBobMcKenzie)
  • Brandon Pirri has re-signed with the Golden Knights on a one year, two-way deal worth $650,000 NHL, $250,000 AHL. (Source: @renlavoietva)
  • The Golden Knights have re-signed Maxime Lagace on a two-way deal at $650,000. (Source: @renlavoietva)
  • Zach Fucale has signed a one year two-way deal worth $650,000. He’s a waiver exempt goalie who has yet to make his NHL debut. Previously in Montreal’s system. (Source: @renlavoietva)
  • The Golden Knights have signed Curtis McKenzie, a 27-year-old winger previously with the Dallas organization bouncing between NHL and AHL. Deal is two years worth $750,000 AAV. (Source: DhaliwalSports)
  • Daniel Carr has signed with the Golden Knights. Scored 14 goals in 98 games with the Canadiens including six last season in 38 games. One year, $750,000. (Source: @BBarts, @PierreVLeBrun)
  • Golden Knights announced the signings of Alex Gallant and Jimmy Oligny. Both career AHLers. (Source: VGK Press Release)
  • Luca Sbisa will not be re-signing with the Golden Knights (Source: SinBin.vegas)
  • George McPhee will hold a press conference at 2PM to discuss today’s transactions.

 

The Free Agency Tracker is brought to you by Adam S. Kutner and Associates, the best Las Vegas personal injury attorney.

Potential Replacements For James Neal, David Perron, And Ryan Reaves

Since George McPhee’s “not everyone will be back” quote there’s been a growing fear that the Golden Knights roster won’t be as strong in Year 2 as it was in the magical Year 1. McPhee noted there are always three or four changes which has the speculation on James Neal, David Perron, Luca Sbisa, and Ryan Reaves running wild.

Sportsnet reported earlier this season that James Neal was looking for a long-term deal commanding upwards of $7M per season.

It’s mildly surprising that he hasn’t re-signed in Las Vegas because he would like to stay there. He’s one of the team leaders. It still could get done. –USA Today

Remember when this happened? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s hard to believe the organization would give a massive contract to a player over the age of 30, but would they on a player who’s 29?

Potential Replacement:

James Van Riemsdyk
29 Years-old
2017-18 Stats: 36 Goals (11 PPG), 18 Assists, 14:54 ATOI
Career Stats: 201 Goals, 393 Points, 0.33 Goals Per Game, 0.65 Points Per Game
Contract Speculation: 7 Years, $6M+ AAV

Neal has 62 more career goals and is one year and 243 days older than van Riemsdyk. Both wingers have comparable career statistics, and the age difference isn’t wide. The Golden Knights know what they’re getting with Neal; 20+ goals, second-line minutes, plays with edge. It’s an unknown if van Riemsdyk can repeat his success in Vegas.

I could see Neal being offered a high-cost, short-term contract, but the question remains if we would be willing to sign it. It’s likely his last chance at a long-term deal. One thing is for sure, if the Golden Knights offer JVR a contract, it’s a sign they’re content moving on from Neal.

Van Riemsdyk was integral to the Leafs’ potent first power-play unit but was otherwise seeing third-line minutes. On another squad — Carolina? Vegas? New York? New Jersey? San Jose? — he’d be a top-six fixture again. -Sportsnet

He’s said all the right things about coming back, but it’s going to take a discount to make it actually happen. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

David Perron is a player many fans fell in love with. His silky hands, his beautiful passing, his pestering ways, how can you not love him? With Perron, the feeling is mutual. He loves it in Vegas, he loves his teammates, and he’d love to stay here. Or at least so he says to Vegas media.

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“Not Everyone Will Be Back”; A Look Into VGK’s Free Agency Situation (Plus 9 Predictions)

Reading between the lines, either Neal or Perron likely won’t be back. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Vegas’ 2nd Line Not Producing On Either End Of The Ice

There hasn’t been enough of this lately. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Heading into Game 3, Erik Haula, James Neal, and David Perron had been fairly flat in the Stanley Cup Final. Then Game 3 happened, and second line struggle has turned to second line disaster.

We have to put pucks in, you have a little bit of time, you think you can make a play, have some room to skate, and then it gets clogged up pretty quick. For us, we have to simplify. It’s something we talked about. But I just think we’re just not there. We’re a second late on pucks. Or support. We’ll fix it. -James Neal

In 180 minutes of hockey, the trio has a combined three points (1 goal, 2 assists), just 10 shots on goal, seven shots blocked, seven missed shots, and a whopping -9 rating. All three are under 45%, they’ve allowed 12 high dangers chances while creating just three, and worst of all, they were on the ice for all three goals in Game 3.

It’s big, obviously the matchups. We did a really good job getting lines out there when we needed to. -Jay Beagle, Washington forward

It was glaringly obvious that the second line was having trouble creating any real threat. Neal’s laser of a goal in Game 2 is the line’s only goal, and it took an incredible individual effort rather than team play to score it. Plus, even that lost its luster after Don Cherry pointed out Neal’s shot was slightly deflected off Washington’s Michal Kempny’s stick.

They’ve had their moments, and yeah, we know they’re going to get chances. The more we can keep them off the scoreboard and frustrate them as much as possible. -John Carlson, Washington defenseman

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2nd Line Shows Out In Game 3 After Critical Self Evaluation Of Games 1 And 2

Whether Ehlers plays or not, VGK’s 2nd line must keep scoring goals and keeping Winnipeg off the board. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Before the series on the SinBin.vegas Podcast I harped on the importance of the 2nd line in the Western Conference Finals against Winnipeg. Then after Game 1 I followed up with another article claiming they had to be better in order to Vegas to win the series.

Well, apparently it wasn’t just me thinking it. In fact, all three players mentioned during their press availability before Game 3 that they needed to play better. Game 3 happened, they did, and to no surprise, the Golden Knights got the result they were looking for.

As a line, we played a lot better. We were able to capitalize on a couple of opportunities. Felt good offensively. I still think we need to be a better defensively. I thought our wall play was a little poor at times, especially myself, so I’ve got to be better. -Alex Tuch

James Neal was on the ice for all three Golden Knights goals, and Erik Haula and Tuch were out there for the second and third. They did not allow a goal while on the ice and the line as a whole put up by far the best advanced stat numbers of the game for Vegas.

I thought tonight they were more involved on the offense. They played really well and had a great two periods and fell off a little bit in the third. -Gerard Gallant

The Vegas 2nd line now has the advantage in every major statistical category on the line of Paul Stastny, Patrik Laine, and Nikolaj Ehlers including the most important one, goals scored. However, the Golden Knights’ 2nd line center still isn’t satisfied.

We look in the mirror every morning and we know when we need to be better. We need to be right up there with Karlsson’s line. -Erik Haula

Haula admitted his line played better, but he appears well aware how crucial they are to the outcome in the series. If the 2nd line gets on the board a couple more times in Game 4, the Golden Knights will probably be heading north of the border looking to claim the Campbell Bowl.

Deeper Dive Into What Happened With James Neal’s Injury

Step 1: Pass concussion protocol Step 2: Dominate (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s time to step back from last night’s thrilling victory and take a minute to applaud the Golden Knights medical staff and the NHL.

In the first period of Game 3, James Neal took an elbow to the head from the guy they call Big Buff.

I think Dustin Byfuglien just hit me with his elbow right. It just got me in the eye and mouth, and then you have to go off for protocol. -James Neal

After the collision, Neal took time returning to his skates and eventually to the bench. This began the initial protocol.

Here are excerpts from the NHL’s concussion evaluation and protocol guide:

If any of the following symptoms or signs occurs after a direct blow to the head (including contact with the glass, boards and ice) or an indirect blow to the head (such as a blow to the body that causes acceleration/deceleration of the head), the Club shall remove the Player from the playing environment for an acute evaluation:

1. “Symptoms”: The Player reports or exhibits one or more “Symptoms” of possible concussion, including:

Headache, Pressure in head, Neck Pain, Nausea/vomiting, Dizziness, Blurred Vision. Balance Problems

2. Sign: “Lying Motionless on the Ice”: A Player lies motionless on the ice or falls to the ice in an unprotected manner (i.e., without stretching out his hands or arms to lessen or minimize his fall).

3. Sign: “Motor Incoordination/Balance Problems”: A Player staggers, struggles to get up or skate properly, appears to lose his balance, trips or falls, or stumbles while getting up, trying to get up, or skating.

4. Sign: “Blank or Vacant Look”: A Player has a blank or vacant look.

5. Signs: “Slow to Get Up” or “Clutches his Head”: A Player is slow to get up or clutches his head (including any part of his face)

Golden Knights trainers immediately spoke with Neal on the bench, but he had his head down and was shaken up. It was concerning enough for team medical staff and league spotters.

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Golden Knights 2nd Line Needed To Win Game 2

Must be more of this in Game 2. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

0 goals. -3 rating. 18:00+ minutes on ice.

That was the output of the Golden Knights 2nd line of Erik Haula, David Perron, and James Neal in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

To make it even worse, between the three of them they did not record a single shot on goal.

That is not good enough.

Vegas’ 2nd line spent a majority of their time on the ice against the Winnipeg 2nd line of Patrik Laine, Paul Stastny, and Nikolaj Ehlers as well as their 2nd defensive pairing of Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom.

This matchup will continue to be one of the keys to the series. Not only because the Golden Knights need scoring out of that line but because they must avoid allowing those Jets to score. In Game 1, it was 1-0 Jets when those eight players were on the ice, but the shot attempts, shots on goal, and scoring chances were heavily in favor of the Jets as well.

The Jets 2nd line shut down the Predators 2nd line and it’s a big reason why the Jets are here, while the Golden Knights 2nd line had success against the Sharks. Vegas is best when they are rolling multiple offensive lines, if their 2nd best scoring line disappears, their chances to win this series dimish drastically.

David Perron did not skate this morning while Tomas Tatar skated in his place both in line rushes and on the power play. Whether it’s Perron or Tatar, the Golden Knights need more from the 2nd line. Otherwise, they’re going to be staring at a 2-0 deficit when they board the plane to come back to Las Vegas.

Golden Knights Weren’t Just Off In The First Eight Minutes

Wonder if Gallant makes any changes to the lineup. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

NBC announcers Joe Micheletti and Pierre McGuire used words like panic, upset and frustrated to describe the Golden Knights in Game 1. In the first period, Micheletti even said “Winnipeg is the quicker team” and he wasn’t wrong, at that time. The Jets deserve a ton of credit jumping on Vegas early and winning the series opener.

However, outside of the first twenty minutes of play, the final numbers tell a different story. The Golden Knights average game stats were all out of whack but can take away some positives.

Shots on goal
VGK – 21
WPG – 26

  • Vegas tied their lowest SOG total over the entire regular season and postseason
  • First game this season without a shot from Erik Haula, Colin Miller, James Neal and David Perron
  • First game since 2/21 (loss at Wild) that James Neal failed to register a shot on net
  • Colin Miller now has four postseason games without a shot on net
  • David Perron has three postseason games without a shot on net

Giveaways
VGK – 11
WPG – 14

  • Third highest total of giveaways in a playoff
  • Vegas is 1-3 when they turn the puck over 10+ times in a game

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UFA Updates; James Neal, David Perron, James van Riemsdyk

Perron has VGK Captain written all over him, but to wear the C, he has to still be wearing a Golden Knights sweater next season. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the regular season comes to a close, agents and their unrestricted free agent clients are licking their chops, waiting for July 1st. James Neal and David Perron, two key elements for the Golden Knights success are UFAs this summer.

Sportsnet focused on the latest reports regarding the top UFAs around the NHL. Neal and Perron are considered top ten UFAs available July 1st. The Golden Knights were also mentioned when it comes to prize winger James van Riemsdyk.

Here’s a bit of what they had to say. The entire article is here.

on James Neal

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos has suggested that Neal will be asking for as much as $6.5 million or $7 million per season on a long-term deal. Despite having the cap space to make that work, the belief is that Vegas is hesitant to commit long-term to players 30 and older. -Luke Fox, Sportsnet

I think they (Vegas) want to keep him too… More likely than not, they would like to keep him there. If he goes to market, James will command a lot of attention. -Pierre McGuire

 

on David Perron

McPhee is keeping mum publicly with his plans for these veteran wingers. There is value in keeping Perron beyond 2017-18, but the temptation to let Perron walk and use his cap space on younger, cheaper talent will be tempting. There’s no guarantee Perron produces this well again. -Fox

on James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leaf forward

Van Riemsdyk is still integral to the Leafs’ potent first power-play unit but is otherwise seeing third-line minutes. On another squad — Carolina? Vegas? New York? Jersey? San Jose? — he’d be a top-six fixture again. -Fox

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