The idea of a round-robin is totally foreign to the NHL. Since the inception of the league in 1917, the Stanley Cup champions have always been determined by a regular season followed by playoffs.
With the pandemic throwing a wrench in the works, for the first time ever there will be a regular season, albeit truncated, followed by a round-robin plus a play-in round, and then a 16 team playoff with re-seeding after each round.
It’s unprecedented in the NHL but it’s not in the sport of hockey. In fact, the largest international tournament of the year uses a round-robin every single year. That’s the IIHF World Championship which consists mostly of NHL players who have been eliminated from the playoffs. In addition to that tournament, the 2016 World Cup of Hockey used a round-robin and the Olympics have used it for decades.
I think this is going to be a lot more similar to what you would have seen at a World Cup. The best players in the world got together and played extremely entertaining and competitive hockey. -Kelly McCrimmon
The difference in most of these tournaments, compared to the NHL’s round-robin is that it is not only used for seeding but to eliminate teams.
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
The Golden Knights have a goaltending issue. Not in the desperate sense that other clubs have, instead, for Vegas, it’s a luxury problem. The problem is Vegas has two really good ones and they likely won’t be able to hold on to both. Other teams need to address their goaltending positions as well, and the Golden Knights may be a part of the carousel expected to take place.
Vancouver for one, is a team that will end up spending a lot of money on goaltending this offseason. Either ponying up to the demands of their current tender Jacob Markstrom, or by investing in one of the available free agents such as Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner.
Whenever it comes, this offseason will have a slew of unrestricted free agent goaltenders, led by Lehner, Markstrom and Braden Holtby. Each is expected to be offered term and money, something Vegas probably isn’t considering.
We weren’t sure with the work that we’ve done to position our team, with the work that we’ve done to build our team, we didn’t have confidence that we were as strong at that position as we needed to be… If anything ever happened to Marc-Andre Fleury, we weren’t strong enough to win playoff games if we get to that point. Those are hard decisions, but we felt that way. -Kelly McCrimmon on trade deadline day
Many teams will most certainly be interested in Lehner, and at 6’4″ he could be the most attractive candidate available. Teams that could be searching for a backstop include Calgary, Chicago, Detroit, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Washington. Not to say all of these clubs would pursue Lehner, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they reach out.
It is such a deep list of UFA’s this summer. It was going to be the craziest game of musical chairs we’ve ever seen potentially… Lehner should’ve been one of the guys to go off the list last year early, and for good money. He ended up signing for a one-year ticket at five million coming off a Vezina finalist season .-Kevin Woodley, NHL.com
For the past three years, most of the success the Golden Knights have achieved on the ice can be credited to the “two-headed monster” of George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon. As a pair, they’ve called all the shots that took Vegas from an expansion team to the Stanley Cup Final to a perennial contender in an incredibly short period of time.
From the moment I got here I was struck by (the fact that), we have two GMs. I like to call you guys the two-headed monster. I know you don’t like that and you said to me, ‘we’re not monsters Gary’ –Gary Lawless on SLGND Podcast
It’s a partnership that has defined the Golden Knights, but it’s one that may have never been formed in the first place if not for an assist from an unlikely source.
As recently as July of 2016, McCrimmon and McPhee had never met. They knew of each other having both worked in hockey for the past few decades, but it wasn’t until a phone call in July, then a meeting in an airport in Austria in August that they actually linked up.
That phone call, the first one from McPhee to McCrimmon, may not have happened if not for a powerful recommendation from a man known in the hockey community as “The Bobfather.”
I had just finished reading Bob McKenzie’s book (Hockey Confidential) a few years ago and I thought jeez Bob would be a good guy just to call and say ‘here’s my list of guys I’m considering for assistant GM, do you have anybody I should put on this list?’ -McPhee on SLGND Podcast
So George asked me and the first thing I said to him, ‘is Kelly McCrimmon on your list? ‘-Bob McKenzie, TSN
I didn’t know Kelly. I do recall our amateur scouting staff in Washington always said good things about him. -McPhee on SLGND Podcast
Two weeks ago all was rolling along as planned and the Golden Knights were 11 games away from claiming their second Pacific Division title in franchise history. Then, the NHL hit the pause button, quite literally. Then, on March 12th, the season was halted, the season suspended, and the league calendar put in complete limbo.
Normally, the season ends, the playoffs start, then there’s a draft, free agency, training camp and we’re onto the next season.
The sequence of the events, I expect, will roll out in the same order. I can’t tell you what the dates of those events will be but I would expect that we wouldn’t have the NHL Draft until the season was over. There’s still going to be a window in there for free agency, which wouldn’t happen until the NHL Draft is over. -Kelly McCrimmon on Vegas Hockey Hotline
McCrimmon did qualify his expectations, indicating that he had not been told this by the league.
And again, that’s only speculation on my part, but I expect that the sequence of events will remain the same. The uncertainty would be exactly when those would be. -McCrimmon on Vegas Hockey Hotline
Last year, here’s how the calendar rolled out.
April 6th – Last day of regular season April 9th – NHL Draft lottery April 10th – Stanley Cup Playoffs begin April 27th – NHL Scouting Combine begins June 12th – Final day of Stanley Cup June 19th – NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas June 21-22 – NHL Draft July 1st – Free agency opens August 6th – Deadline for RFA salary arbitration
**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
At some point, the hockey world will return to normal. When that point will be, nobody can say with any certainty as the coronavirus pandemic maintains its grip on the world.
But that time is coming, and when it does, it means charting a course for the future. We’re talking entry draft. We’re talking free agency. We’re talking salary cap. We’re talking scouting plans for 2020-21, both pro and amateur.
Right now, everything is at a standstill. There’s no junior hockey being played. There’s no minor league hockey. There’s no college hockey. There’s no KHL, and most of the other European professional leagues have either finished or canceled the remainder of their seasons.
The Golden Knights are no different from the other 30 NHL teams. They can’t travel which is fine because there’s nothing to travel to. They are going to have to rely on the work their hockey ops and scouting staffs have been doing since last August.
The good news? They have more time to analyze the information they have gleaned. There’s no rush to make a hard decision on a player. The majority of their work is already completed.
The NHL has not decided whether to delay the draft, which is currently scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal. In all likelihood, the draft will get pushed back. How long? Again, that remains to be seen.
But George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon have an opportunity to use the data at their disposal to really hone in on a particular player and see what the pros and cons are. Scouts can go through their reports, rewatch video of a player and either confirm their analysis or perhaps alter a couple of things.
McCrimmon is up at his cottage in Manitoba and he remains in communication with McPhee along with his hockey staff.
The bottom line is the Golden Knights should be better prepared for the 2020 draft than they were for the first three they participated in. McCrimmon said Saturday the work continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The amateur scouting staff is an obvious area where we’d be the most impacted. We’d normally be getting our final readings on most players in competitive settings. But I think we’ll prepare very well. Our guys have been all over the world doing their work and we’re prepared. It’s hard to speculate. First, the world has to get healthy. We don’t know how the dates will fall in line. -McCrimmon
With the 2019-20 regular season winding down, the Golden Knights are blessed to have two elite goaltenders to get them through the home stretch. Both Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner are proven starters capable of handling a postseason load, but for now they have 14 regular season games to split. Or will they? Without knowing the plan coach Pete DeBoer has drawn up, we have his history to look back and give us an idea of how things may go down in net.
We have great depth at that position. -Pete DeBoer
In his 11 completed seasons as an NHL coach, DeBoer has led his teams to the postseason five times; each of the previous four and twice to the Stanley Cup Finals. In both Cup runs, his goaltenders Marty Brodeur and Martin Jones stood on their heads. In the 2011-12 postseason, Brodeur held his opponents to 2.12 goals per game. Same goes for the 2015-16 season. Coming off a Stanley Cup victory as Jonathan Quick’s backup in 2014, Martin Jones was a rock for DeBoer in the 2015 Cup run. Jones allowed 2.16 goals per game and led the playoffs with 3 shutouts.
Based on those two extended postseasons you would think his goalies were well rested and prepared for the playoffs. However, games played per goalie suggests differently. The Devils were jockeying for playoff position, leading to a heavy workload for Brodeur. However, it worked out and New Jersey won their last six regular season games. The Hall of Fame goaltender played in five of those final six contests.
2011-12: Games Down The Stretch
Brodeur 16 Games Played (9-5-2)
Johan Hedberg 4 Games Played (4-0-0)
Lost in Cup Finals
In their 2015 Cup run, San Jose was also battling to secure a playoff position down the stretch. Which led DeBoer to rely heavily on Jones. The Sharks starting goaltender played in 12 games going 6-6-0 in the final months. However, backup James Reimer picked up his club winning six of his final eight starts.
The Golden Knights entered this past offseason with a Stanley Cup caliber roster. They were stacked at forward, coming off a season where they finished among the league’s best defensively and had a bevy of prospects coming up, and still had one of the best goaltenders in the world.
However, there was too much money on the books. The CBA allows teams to exceed the salary cap by up to 10% during the offseason, but they must get back down under the cap on the first day of the regular season. So, Vegas needed to shed some money, and thus, a few players.
The conventional wisdom would have been to start by singling out the players with the highest salary coupled with the lowest performance expectations for the 2019-20 season. Send those guys packing, get under the cap, and head into the regular season with as dominant a team as possible.
The Golden Knights opted for a different route, one that may have ended up working out even better, though it came with risks, a bit of a price, and ended up costing a head coach his job.
The trades in many respects brings full circle the strategy that we went into the offseason with last year in a situation where we were over the salary cap. We had to make some decisions that involved veteran players, roster players, and we wanted to acquire draft picks in return to build capital for decisions and moves just like this. -Kelly McCrimmon
That’s the official explanation of the Golden Knights strategy. Let me explain it in more detail.
In moving contracts during the Summer to become cap compliant, the Golden Knights strategy was to harvest as many draft picks as possible. They traded Colin Miller for a 2nd round pick. Nikita Gusev went for a 2nd and a 3rd. And Erik Haula was moved for a young player in Nic Roy and a 5th. Instead of trying to make their roster better before opening night, they wanted to create a bank of “capital” they could cash in 145 days later at the trade deadline.
The thinking is fairly simple, yet when the onion is peeled back, there’s a lot more to it. The simple idea is that having this bank of capital will allow the team to make moves and improve their team at the deadline without having to sacrifice any significant players off the roster in season. 145 days, 62 games, and a heck of a lot of hockey will give them a better understanding of what the team needs in order to win the Cup than they had back in June and July. Tear it down now so we can rebuild it more intelligently later.
And that’s exactly what they did. They turned those “bank of capital” picks into Chandler Stephenson, Alec Martinez, Robin Lehner, and Nick Cousins, while only having to give up Cody Eakin off the roster.
It looks like a significant roster upgrade at the deadline, but in reality, it’s just replacing what they had eight months ago.
Here, take a look at how it all broke down from June 27th to February 24th.
Three forwards in, three forwards out. One defenseman in, one defenseman out. Two goalies in, one goalie out, and a net loss of one draft pick and one prospect.
The trade deadline is three days away but the Golden Knights have already dipped their toe in the red hot defenseman trade market. Essentially on the same day as Brendan Dillon, Dylan DeMelo, and Marco Scandella were moved, Vegas pulled the trigger on their response adding Alec Martinez for a pair of 2nd round picks. However, there’s still time on the clock and according to the Golden Knights owner, the Golden Knights may not be done yet.
This (the Martinez trade) was our big one really for this trade deadline period. There are a couple of other ideas that are floating around with the pro scouts and with Kelly and George. Now we’ve got a few days. Might be something else happen, but this was the important one, to get behind us, to get a really strong d-man to help supplement what we already have. -The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline
(The whole interview by Brian Blessing with The Creator is embedded below.)
At the Martinez announcement presser, GM Kelly McCrimmon was a bit more coy about the future plans surrounding the Golden Knights and February 24th at noon.
This was a move that we had considered for a long time and we identified this as a way we wanted to improve our team was to add a defenseman of this caliber. That’s why we worked hard to finalize the price in advance of the deadline. We’ll do a reset now, is how I would explain it to you, and then we’ll work right until the deadline on Monday to see if there’s any other moves out there that could help us that make sense. -McCrimmon
The Golden Knights are now very tight to the cap with the addition of Martinez, but they remain with a number of upcoming UFA contracts (Eakin, Reaves, Holden, Merrill, Nosek, Engelland) still on the books that could become trade bait between now and Monday.