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Familiar Alternatives To Free Agent Big Game Hunting

The Golden Knights offseason plans are underway and time for the front office to try and improve the club for next season.

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is the big fish in free agency and as we’ve seen before, the Golden Knights aren’t afraid to hand out a massive contract. At 30-years-old, management might be cautious before handing out an expensive seven-year contract. The right-handed Pietrangelo will come at a premium, so Vegas will have to be creative matching the asking price or find other alternatives.

Another notable UFA is Boston defenseman, Torey Krug. The expected price on Krug is around $7.5-$8M per season. He’s a year younger but unlike Pietrangelo, he’s a left-handed shot, and we’ve seen Vegas target right-handed defenseman in the past. Krug’s offensive production is worth the expense, but Vegas may lean to the much taller and right-handed Pietrangelo.

There are plenty of alternative defenseman in the market this offseason, some are less-skilled but cheaper and younger. If Vegas can find the defenseman that fixes their exact deficiency they won’t need to break the bank. However, that takes great awareness and pro scouting finding that right fit. That’s when the familiarity factor comes in handy.

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Bubbles Offered Unique Challenges And Benefits In Player Evaluation

Aside from the format of the 16 team tournament, not much about the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs was like any year in the past. As hard as the NHL tried, and they made the absolute best of the situation they could, the culmination of this season will always be viewed as an outlier.

That shouldn’t be used to take anything away from the team that ultimately wins, nor the players who put in the effort to make the playoffs the best they could be. But, simply put, this postseason was completely different in so many ways that moving forward, while it shouldn’t have an asterisk in the record books, it absolutely should in terms of player evaluation.

Likely there will be some players that struggled with the challenge of the bubble a little bit more than others and there might be a handful of players that having no distractions and only hockey to worry it about helped. -Kelly McCrimmon

The 2020 Playoffs offered different challenges both mentally and physically than any other in the league’s 100+ year history. It’s impossible to put a value on the sum of all of these aspects, but it’s clear it must be considered when projecting future performance.

58 or 59 days is a long time. It’s a hard situation to describe to somebody unless you are there doing it… I think in general terms it’s always a body of work you use when you make decisions on players and we have a pretty good takeaway of what players actually were by the time we were done our work there. -McCrimmon

This is much more likely to be used in giving a player a pass for a poor playoff season as opposed to praising a breakout year. Everyone who watched the Golden Knights in the playoffs this season knows there were a handful of guys who didn’t quite play to the level we’ve come to expect.

The challenge for the front office lies in weighing those underwhelming performances against the “body of work” they’ve seen historically from each player.

Decisions must be made every offseason and they’re never easy, but this one is set to be especially tricky due to the oddity of the 2020 Playoffs. In that way, the bubble may offer one of the greatest player evaluation challenges front offices have ever faced, however, there was one major benefit the bubbles did offer in that respect.

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Offseason’s “First Order Of Business” Is Between The Pipes

The weirdest season ever is over which means the weirdest offseason ever has now begun. According to the Golden Knights’ GM, the issue on the top of mind for every fan is the same as the front office.

We don’t have those answers for you right now but the first order of business in many respects is to sort (the goalie position) out. -Kelly McCrimmon

The future appears to be heading in the direction of Robin Lehner. From being handed the starting role to the Allan Walsh tweet to the reported long-term contract negotiations with Lehner, all signs point to a parting of ways with Fleury.

No one has more respect for Flower as a person or a teammate or his resume and what he’s done for this franchise and through his career but we made the decisions that gave us the best opportunity to win and we’re going to do that again going forward. -Pete DeBoer

Both Lehner and McCrimmon have denied the rumors of a handshake agreement on a 5-year $25 million ($5M AAV) contract.

It’s not true. Nothing is finalized. It’s kind of annoying that we are here in the conference final and people are saying things they don’t know. If it would have been finalized it would have been finalized. -Lehner on 9/11/20

The goalie situation will be the driving force behind all of what the Golden Knights do this offseason.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If they decide to go with Lehner only, where does Fleury end up and what are the cap ramifications that go with it?

If they decide to keep both, where will they trim to make it work?

Can they go back to Fleury after all that’s happened? Does Fleury even want that?

They are all questions that will be answered quickly as the offseason truly ramps up in just a few weeks. The Draft is scheduled for October 6th and 7th and unrestricted free agency opens up two days later on the 9th. The Golden Knights will likely reveal their answers before the latter.

The NHL’s salary cap is set to remain at $81.5 million heading into next season and is likely to stay there for at least one more year after that. That makes life a little more difficult on the Golden Knights as they were pushing (actually went over) the Cap in 2019-20.

There are decisions to be made on plenty of free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, but the offseason starts and ends with what shakes out in goal. It will shape the present and future of the organization and until it’s figured out, not much else really matters.

2019-20 Season “Locker Room Cleanout Day” Quotes

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights held their final media availability of the season today, a day commonly known as locker room cleanout day. Today’s was a bit different than the norm though due to the ongoing pandemic as all interviews were conducted on Zoom. That left us without many of the incredibly truthful comments we are used to on locker cleanout day, but there was plenty to chew on nonetheless.

Kelly McCrimmon on Goalie deployment in playoffs

Good question and an obvious one I expected would come up today. Marc-Andre Fleury has been the face of the franchise and is a tremendous goalie and an even better person. He’s led our team from its inception. I was very transparent at the Trade Deadline why we added Robin Lehner. I think I was real clear about that without going through it again. Interestingly at that time, it was management and the pro staff that felt the strongest about improving our goaltending. If anything happened with Marc-Andre, we felt we had done a really good of building our team we liked a lot of things about our team but we felt we were at risk. Which we were of course trying to minimize.

The first seven games, the only seven games after the trade deadline, Peter rotated the goalies, and who’s to say if we had finished the regular season and the playoffs began in April like they ordinarily would, I don’t know what would have happened. But as a manager your last chance to improve your team is at the trade deadline. When you look at the 10 days leading up to the Deadline it was a trade for Alec Martinez who was a great contributor to our team. We added Nick Cousins right at the deadline to give us more depth at forward and the morning of the deadline we of course added Robin. From there, you hand the team to the coaches and they coach the team. I don’t think it’s wise or healthy to have management making lineup decisions, I don’t think that’s how it works in the NHL. I don’t think it’s how it should work.

Peter felt really confident after we went through Phase 2 and Phase 3 that Robin was the guy that was going to give us the best chance to win. That’s his job. That’s his job. Was it unfortunate for Marc-Andre Fleury and his situation, it really was. To have empathy for him and how that played out I really do.

But it was not, as some are suggesting, it was not the master plan, in fact Pete was not even that interested in us acquiring a goalie at the deadline. It was more management and our pro scouting staff that felt real strongly about it. That’s how it played out and I support Peter fully. He’s our head coach and he makes those decisions. I know exactly what his reasons are for picking his lineup any night that we play. It’s about winning and icing the lineup that you feel gives you the best chance to win. I respect those decisions and that’s the history of the motivation behind the deal and what happened along the way. -Kelly McCrimmon

More will be added to this page as the interviews continue.

 

 

 

The Inevitable Goalie Controversy Has Arrived For The Vegas Golden Knights

(Photo tweeted by Allan Walsh, Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent)

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.

That’s a tweet from Allan Walsh, Marc-Andre Fleury’s long-time agent. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this one really only needs to be worth four.

Fleury is not happy.

This isn’t a new move from the Walsh playbook though. He’s always been very active on Twitter and has even used the platform to stand up for another one of his clients in a nearly identical situation.

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A Timeline Of How Marc-Andre Fleury Lost The Golden Knights Starting Job

On June 21st, 2017, Marc-Andre Fleury’s walked across the stage at T-Mobile Arena to the roar of 10,000 fans. It was in the moment he became the starting goaltender for the Vegas Golden Knights, a position he would hold for more than three years, until last night.

For a franchise that has gone through many changes over its first three seasons, if there was one place where you could find stability, it was between the pipes. After claiming Malcolm Subban on waivers four days before the team’s first game, Fleury was the starter and Subban was the backup.

When healthy, there was never a question as to who the Golden Knights’ first choice goaltender was on any given night.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Playoff “Photographer” @BadSportsArt)

It worked that was for almost three full years. Fleury was the starter in the first game ever in Dallas. He started the emotional home opener against Arizona. He was in the net for all 20 games on the Golden Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018.

He started the opener in 2018-19, he played every game against the Sharks in the 2019 playoffs and he started the opener against those same Sharks to open 2019-20. In total, he racked up 179 starts in the Golden Knights first 256 meaningful games and had it not been for injuries and absences for personal reasons, that number would be well over 200.

However, over the past eight months, four of which saw the NHL season on pause, the Golden Knights goaltending situation has been anything but stable.

On January 15th, 2020, the Golden Knights made a change at head coach, firing Gerard Gallant and hiring Pete DeBoer. This was the beginning of a flurry (pun intended) of changes. Hiring DeBoer signaled the end of Director of Goaltending Dave Prior’s role of selecting the starting goalie each night.

I pick the goalie. Obviously I gather information from Dave when I originally got here and now it’ll be Mike but I’ll decide who’s going every night. -DeBoer on 2/28/20

A little more than a month later, the real upheaval began. Despite starting him the night before, a 6-5 win in Anaheim, Malcolm Subban was traded along with a 2nd round pick and a prospect to the Chicago Blackhawks for goaltender Robin Lehner.

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 2/26/28

A few days later, Prior was fired placed on administrative leave. The most important man in Golden Knights goaltending was gone, just two days after the team’s blockbuster trade was to acquire a goaltender.

I’m a big believer that competition at any position is a great motivational tool and it always pushes, especially competitive people, to new levels. -DeBoer on 2/26/20

The Golden Knights’ first game following the trade deadline was on February 26th, a game they won 3-0 against the Edmonton Oilers, with Fleury in the net.

Flower (is in net). Easy decision. He’s been playing great recently. It gives Robin some time but he’ll get a start soon. -DeBoer on 2/26/20

The next game, two nights later, went to Lehner.

We’re going with the big fella tonight. -DeBoer on 2/28/20

From that moment forward, the Golden Knights alternated between Fleury and Lehner.

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Golden Knights “Weren’t Truthful” About Coaching Change

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Two days after the NHL trade deadline which saw the Golden Knights pull off a blockbuster trade acquiring Robin Lehner, head coach Pete DeBoer, who had been with the organization for just over a month, approached the podium in the media room at City National Arena.

You probably noticed Dave Prior wasn’t out there today. We’ve restructured our goaltending department a little bit here. Mike Rosati, starting tomorrow, will handle the day to day stuff. -DeBoer on February 26th, 2020

Within a matter of 48 hours, the Golden Knights had brought in competition for the face of the franchise, shipped out the supposed heir-apparent who served as the backup for two and a half seasons, and shuffled their goaltending coaches. All with just 17 games left in the regular season and while riding a six-game win streak that would extend to seven that night.

Dave is still part of the organization. It’s not health-related. Dave’s role here has always been bigger than the day to day coaching job and he’s going to base out of Ontario and continue to support us that way. -DeBoer on February 26th, 2020

Prior was among the first group of employees hired by George McPhee back in August of 2016, eight months before Gerard Gallant. He was more than just a goalie coach as DeBoer noted. Given the title “Director of Goaltending,” Prior had his hand in every decision the team made from which goalies to draft to who to sign to even the most fundamental choice of which goalie will start every single game.

Suddenly, the most important man in Golden Knights goaltending was no longer needed in Las Vegas, and instead, would be working 2,000 miles away, from his home in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Peculiar under any circumstances, but especially considering the team who had leaned on Prior for three seasons had just acquired a brand new goalie to bolster their chances at winning the Stanley Cup.

However, according to Prior, the statements made by DeBoer on February 26th weren’t entirely accurate.

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NHL’s Round Robin Has Similarities to IIHF World Championship

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Reaves Scores In Contract Negotiations On VGK Again

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

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Where Do The Golden Knights Stand Against The Cap Following The Reaves Signing

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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.

Here’s the full breakdown (salary numbers provided by CapFriendly.com).

Forwards (11 – $48,413,333)

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

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