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Ex-VGK Players Miss Vegas More Than You’d Expect

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Players will move on from the Vegas Golden Knights each offseason. It’s just a part of hockey. The crumby business side of things. But one roster, one group of misfits, that became the 2017-18 Western Conference championship team will never move on from Las Vegas or the hearts of Golden Knights fans.

This past week, former Vegas players Luca Sbisa and Tomas Tatar made their first appearances back to Vegas since their painful Game 5 loss in the Stanley Cup finals.

It’s funny, this building is wild, it’s crazy. It felt like a playoff game again. -Luca Sbisa, Islanders defenseman

After their brief return to their old place of business the two players were all smiles happy to bump into their old teammates, coaches, trainers, and heck even us.

A lot of memories. A lot of relationships that I keep in touch with. I love those guys over there, but it’s always fun to play against them. -Sbisa

With limited action this season, the former Knight normally isn’t requested by the media after a game. But when I requested him, he came out with a warm smile on his face. Glad to have the old gang of misfit reporters, like myself, to chat and reminisce about last season.

It’s different. I’ve never stepped foot in this dressing room. Obviously, I was used to the other side. Definitely nice when we touched down here, I felt like I was just going to drive to home. Instead I went to the hotel. -Sbisa

Like the entire 2017-18 roster, Sbisa is proud of his accomplishments with the Golden Knights. The d-man was a steady player when healthy, and an outstanding person off the ice.

It’s hard to be mad about whatever happened here, it was just a great run and we all enjoyed it. – Tomas Tatar, Canadiens forward

Like Sbisa, Montreal forward Tomas Tatar spoke highly of his experience in Vegas, although short, and called it one of the best moments of his career.

It’s always nice to be back. As soon as we landed it reminded me of a lot of good things. Like you said that run that we had, even though I came late, it’s a memorable thing and that other locker room is a great group of guys. I miss them that’s for sure. They were really nice to me and you just give a little extra effort when you are playing your old team and I enjoyed it. -Tatar

One former teammate that welcomed Tatar and Sbisa with open ice hits was the big and lovable Ryan Reaves. Both players had brief tie-ups with #75 in their separate games against Vegas. Perhaps just a few love taps.

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Luca Sbisa Could Be The Perfect Stop Gap

It’s no secret, the Golden Knights are tight against the salary cap. In order to solve this issue, they are going to have to find a way to shed some salary. Of course, there are multiple ways to do this including trading players, waivers, buyouts, injuries, suspension, and likely more that we aren’t even aware of.

But, no matter which way you break it down, it’s a fact that something is going to have to happen to make sure the Golden Knights are cap compliant when all is said and done heading into the 2019-20 season.

Trying to guess exactly will happen will probably yield results about as accurate as when dogs pick winners by going for the treat on the left or the right. So let’s leave that for another day (plus, if you’ve listened to our podcasts or any of the many radio spots Jason and I have done over the last two months, you’ve probably got an idea of what we think is going to happen.).

Instead, in this article, I’m going to try to fill in another one of the 5 W’s. Instead of “who,” “what,” “where,” or “why,” we shall try to figure out the “when” in this whole cap equation.

The league calendar resets on July 1st. Thus, until then, every player on the Golden Knights is still considered to be paid under their 2018-19 salary as it pertains to the salary cap. So, between now and June 30th, the Golden Knights will not be forced to do anything as they are well below the salary cap limit.

However, on July 1st, the 2019-20 calendar begins, and Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Marc-Andre Fleury, Nate Schmidt, and Alex Tuch’s new contracts will all kick in. That’s when the cap number starts to get tight. But exactly how tight is important in relation to when the Golden Knights must make something happen.

By rule, the CBA states that no team may cross the “Upper Limit” (a fancy word for the salary cap) at any time using their “Average Club Salary” (fancy way to say the total amount of money committed to players for the league year).

That “upper limit” number for the Golden Knights during the offseason is approximately $95.6 million. (For a complete breakdown of how I came to that number, see the end of the article.)

The CBA states that there are eight categories of salary that are all added together to calculate a team’s “Average Club Salary”. Of the eight, the Golden Knights have a sum greater than $0 in four categories.

On July 1st, 2019, the sum of those three categories for the Golden Knights is $90,857,290. (To see the exact breakdown of this sum, including the eight categories, see the end of the article.)

Thus, by rule, the Golden Knights are NOT required to move any player on July 1st in order to become cap compliant.

However, the numbers will change as the RFA are signed. For instance, if William Karlsson signs for $7.5 million, the number will jump from $90,857,290 to $93,607,290.

So, that means the Golden Knights have $4,684,710 to work with in signing their RFA’s above the current total of $7,706,611.

Karlsson’s contract is likely to jump about two to three million and Gusev’s will likely take up the rest. That’s not even considering Schuldt or raises for Nosek or Subban or the signing of qualifying offers by Bischoff or Hyka.

Meaning, in order to stay under the “upper limit” the Golden Knights are going to have to shed some salary prior to officially putting pen to paper on all of their RFAs. According to the CBA, NHL Central Registry will not approve a player contract that puts a team over the salary cap upper limit. So, even if they wanted to sign Gusev, Karlsson, or any of the other RFAs (or any of the UFAs that have not even been mentioned in this article yet) they must clear room below the $95.56 million “upper limit.”

So what does it all mean? Well, that’s still a bit up in the air since technically they are going to be cap compliant on July 1st. However, the Draft sets a deadline of sorts as the only way to acquire and select players in the 2019 Draft is to do it on June 21st and 22nd during the Draft (duh). Otherwise and picks acquired would be for the 2020 Draft.

Aside from that though, in order to do much of anything on July 1st, the Golden Knights will likely have to clear some room. Again, they have $4,684,710, so they technically could sign Deryk Engelland, Ryan Carpenter, Brandon Pirri, and/or Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, but that would leave a minuscule number available to lock down the contracts of the RFAs.

Add it all up, and it’s highly probable that the Golden Knights find some way to shed some salary prior to July 1st with a strong chance of it happening today or tomorrow during the Draft. But, even after all of this, there’s still technically a way for them to go to training camp with everyone.

Then the deadline will be October 1st, and that one will require them to get down to around $87 million rather than $95 million.

Calculating the $95.56 million “upper limit” number for the Golden Knights.

We start with the “upper limit” as set by the NHL which we now believe will be $82.1 million.

Then we add the offseason “flexibility” exception stated in the CBA.

Nevertheless, in order to ensure that Clubs may have sufficient time and flexibility to plan their rosters during the off-season, the Upper Limit shall be temporarily raised by ten (10) percent to permit Clubs additional flexibility with their Averaged Club Salaries during the period from July 1 until and including the last day of Training Camp. On the day following the last day of Training Camp, the Upper Limit shall again be lowered to the level as calculated in Section 50.5(b), and all Clubs must once again be in compliance with the Upper Limit from the day following the last day of Training Camp until and including June 30. -NHL, CBA

10% of $82.1 million is $90.31 million.

Then we throw in one more caveat and that’s David Clarkson. Clarkson was acquired during the Expansion Draft from Columbus. He suffered a career-ending injury years ago, but because NHL salaries are fully guaranteed, he can’t retire until his contract is over (otherwise he’d be giving up millions of dollars for no reason). His cap hit in 2019-20 is $5.25 million. The CBA does not specify this, but believes he can be placed on LTIR upping the Golden Knights limit to around $95 million.

LTIR can be used in the off-season while the 10% off-season cushion is active.

Thus, the limit for the Golden Knights, from July 1 until October 1 is $95.56 million.

Calculating the Golden Knights “Upper Limit”

The CBA states that the “Average Club Salary” is calculated by the sum of the following eight categories. Here is each category one at a time followed by the Golden Knights players with salaries that fall under each and each individual category’s sum.

(1) The Averaged Amount of the Player Salary and Bonuses for that League Year for each Player under a One-Way SPC with the Club; plus

Mark Stone – $9,500,000
Marc-Andre Fleury – $7,000,000
Max Pacioretty – $7,000,000
Paul Stastny – $6,500,000
Nate Schmidt – $5,950,000
David Clarkson – $5,250,000*
Shea Theodore – $5,200,000
Reilly Smith – $5,000,000*
Jonathan Marchessault – $5,000,000
Alex Tuch – $4,750,000
Colin Miller – $3,875,000
Cody Eakin – $3,850,000*
Ryan Reaves – $2,775,000
Erik Haula – $2,750,000
Brayden McNabb – $2,500,000
Nick Holden – $2,200,000
Jon Merrill – $1,375,000
Curtis McKenzie – $750,000
William Carrier – $725,000
Valentin Zykov – $675,000
Sub-Total – $82,625,000
Running Total – $82,625,000
*Salary figure not released by Vegas Golden Knights. May differentiate from actual salary cap hit number.

(2) All Deferred Salary and Deferred Bonuses to be earned in that League Year (in accordance with Section 50.2(a) and Section 50.2(b), respectively); plus

Sub-Total – $0
Running Total – $82,625,000

(3) All Ordinary Course Buy-Out Amounts to be paid in that League Year (in accordance with Section 50.9(i)); plus

Sub-Total – $0
Running Total – $82,625,000

(4) Any amount offered in that League Year by the Club in a Qualifying Offer or in an Offer Sheet to a Restricted Free Agent from the date of such offer until the earliest of the following: (A) the Restricted Free Agent signs an SPC with the Club; (B) the Restricted Free Agent signs an SPC with another Club; or (C) the Qualifying Offer expires pursuant to Section 10.2 (for purposes of Two-Way Qualifying Offers, the NHL portion of the Qualifying Offer will be counted at a rate reflective of the Player’s time on an NHL Roster (including days on Injured Reserve, Injured Non-Roster and Non-Roster status) the prior League Year so that, for example, a Player who spent forty-six (46) days on an NHL Roster (including days on Injured Reserve, Injured Non-Roster and Non-Roster status) in a 184-day regular season, and receives a Qualifying Offer for $525,000 (NHL) / $50,000 (AHL), the portion of his Qualifying Offer that will count for off-season accounting purposes will be 46/184 x $525,000 = $131,250); plus

Assuming all qualifying offers are extended (calculated using CapFriendly)

William Karlsson – $4,750,000
Tomas Nosek – $1,000,000
Nikita Gusev – $874,125*
Malcolm Subban – $715,000
Jake Bischoff – $190,027**
Tomas Hyka – $163,207***
Jimmy Schuldt – $14,252****
Sub-Total – $7,706,611
Running Total – $90,331,611

*It is possible Gusev’s number is actually $0 as it is unclear if the Reserve List counts as “NHL Roster” or not. If it does not, his number would be $0. If it does, his number is $874,125.
**Bischoff is eligible for a two-way qualifying offer. He spent 40 days on the active roster meaning 21.7% (40/184) of his qualifying offer is counted.
***Hyka is eligible for a two-way qualifying offer. He spent 42 days on the active roster meaning 22.8% (42/184) of his qualifying offer is counted.
****Schuldt is eligible for a two-way qualifying offer. He spent 3 days on the active roster meaning 1.6% (3/184) of his qualifying offer is counted.

(5) For any Player under a Two-Way SPC, the NHL portion of the SPC will be counted at a rate reflective of the Player’s time on an NHL Roster (including days on Injured Reserve, Injured Non-Roster and Non-Roster status) the prior League Year so that, for example, a Player who spent forty- six (46) days on an NHL Roster (including days on Injured Reserve, Injured Non-Roster and Non-Roster status) in a 184-day regular season, and has a Two-Way SPC for $525,000 (NHL) / $50,000 (AHL), the portion of his Two- Way SPC that will count for off-season accounting purposes will be 46/184 x $525,000 = $131,250; plus

Oscar Dansk* – $25,679
Sub-Total – $25,679
Running Total – $90,357,290

**Dansk is on a two-way contract with an NHL value of $675,000. He spent 7 days on the active roster meaning 3.8% (7/184) of his NHL salary is counted.

(6) The portion of the Averaged Amount a Club has agreed to retain for the SPC of any Player it has Traded to another Club as part of a Retained Salary Transaction (as described in Section 50.5(e)(iii) below); plus

Tomas Tatar – $500,000
Sub-Total – $500,000
Running Total – $90,857,290

(7) The portion of a Cap Advantage Recapture amount included in that League Year pursuant to Section 50.5(d)(ii)(A)-(B); plus

Sub-Total – $0
Running Total – $90,857,290

(8) With respect to any Player Salary or Bonus dispute between a Player and a Club (including but not limited to disputes arising under the Collective Bargaining Agreement expired September 15, 2012), any amount paid (excluding interest) in satisfaction of any award or judgment relating to, or settlement of, any such dispute, but only to the extent that such amounts have not otherwise been included in the Player’s Player Salary or Bonuses.

Sub-Total – $0
Running Total – $90,857,290

Final Total – $90,857,290


Max Pacioretty has been red-hot over the past week and a half. He’s on a seven-game point streak, scored eight goals, and has tallied multiple points in each of the last three Golden Knights games. Finally, Pacioretty is breaking through and displaying the skills and production that was expected of him when he was acquired for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki, and a 2nd round pick.

However, as we do on every goal in the hockey, we need to award an assist for Pacioretty’s turn-around, and it goes to Alex Tuch. A single stat illustrates it best, so we’ll start there.

 TOIGoals ScoredGoals Allowed
67 w/ 89173:36118
67 w/o 89139:0107
89 w/o 6799:0162

The table shows how many goals were scored and how many goals were allowed, at 5-on-5, when Pacioretty and Tuch are on the ice together, and when each has been on the ice without the other. As you can see, there is a significant amount of time on ice for each of the three situations.

Max Pacioretty has not been on the ice for a single Golden Knights goal, at 5-on-5, when Alex Tuch was not also on the ice. However, Tuch has been out there for six without Pacioretty. Also, Max has allowed seven without Tuch, while Tuch has only allowed two without Pacioretty.

To illustrate the point even further, in 122:42 in which Pacioretty played with Eakin and without Tuch, the Golden Knights allowed five goals and didn’t score any. Add Tuch onto the line, and they’ve scored 10 while allowing just 5. The table gets confusing when we add all three players, but we’ll show it anyway.

 TOIGoals ScoredGoals Allowed
67 w/ 89173:36118
67 w/o 89139:0107
89 w/o 6799:0162
67 w/ 21 w/o 8915:3102
67 w/ 89 w/ 21141:13106
67 w/o 21 w/o 89123:3105

Sometimes stats are misleading though, especially “on ice” stats that are credited simply for a player being on the ice. So, I decided to go through every 5-on-5 goal scored by Pacioretty to see what impact Tuch had on the play. (You can see them all at the end of this article.)

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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: 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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“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: 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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NHL GM’s May Try To Copy Golden Knights’ Balanced D Unit

Since coming in for Jon Merrill, Sbisa has been excellent with Colin Miller. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Throughout the postseason, analysts have talked about the Golden Knights as a future model for teams living under a tight salary cap. The players’ average age, salary, skill, desire, leadership, and unity is what makes Vegas so ideally well-balanced.

We don’t have that superstar D-man that has to play thirty minutes. As a group, we’re pretty balanced. Everyone can do each other’s job… we’re a real tight unit. It’s been fun. -Luca Sbisa

Signing a defenseman, or any player, to a massive contract can sometimes hurt a club’s progression. Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty averaging up to 30 minutes a night doesn’t guarantee great team defense. Instead, the plan of balancing minutes among three defensive pairings has been wildly effective for Vegas.

Ice time is pretty spread. In certain situations guys play more but I think everyone is pretty fresh because every guy plays around 20 minutes. You don’t have to play 28-30 minutes over 82 games because eventually it’ll catch up to you. -Sbisa

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said he expects the Golden Knights “passive aggressive forecheck” a problem for Washington’s defense. The same unit he said looked “done” against Tampa. Through 15 games in the postseason, no one has said the Golden Knights defensemen looked tired.

A D-pair that only plays 12 minutes a night, I don’t think they’d play at their best. If everyone is getting regular shifts it gets you into a rhythm playing more at their abilities. -Sbisa

Like other leagues, the NHL is a copycat league. Other GM’s have to be taking notes, drooling over the Golden Knights success. A team with four solid lines, six reliable d-men, and a lights-out goaltender is a blueprint every franchise dreams of designing.

I think we’ve done a good job blocking shots, giving them shots from the outside. They may create some chances, that’s the way hockey is. -Sbisa

Sbisa and the other Golden Knights defensemen will have to continue playing brilliantly against the Capitals. If Vegas can keep fresh on the ice by sticking to their gameplan, Washington’s offense will have a hard time getting close to “Superman” Fleury.

And if that happens and Vegas wins the Cup, every NHL GM may look to add ‘Golden’ to their team name too.

“Big” Problem Against Sharks Even Bigger Problem Against Jets

San Jose had its best lucky when they were right in Fleury’s face. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

By now you’ve heard about Winnipeg’s size and skill. It was on full display last night as the Jets outworked Nashville defensively and offensively. All postseason, Winnipeg has effectively used their size in front of the net creating messy traffic and high-scoring chances. Something San Jose did well against Vegas in the second round.

They are always kind of in my kitchen, right? -Marc-Andre Fleury

Overall, San Jose had plenty of chances in front of the net, but was mostly unsuccessful.

We had some defensive breakdowns that we kind of got lucky. They hit a number of posts. They were buzzing in front of our net pretty good. -Shea Theodore

Tomas Hertl (6’2″/220) used a mix of size and talent, tallying three goals in six games. Two were almost identical in that Vegas defenders couldn’t clear the puck, or San Jose attackers. Notice the swarm of teal surrounding Fleury.

Five Golden Knights allowed four Sharks countless opportunities to convert. Inches away from Fleury.

I think San Jose was one of the best teams in front of the net. That last game, they threw everything at net. Flower made some big saves and the post helped us a couple of times. -Luca Sbisa

In the end, VGK’s defensive lapses didn’t hurt them from advancing, but it could in the conference final. Winnipeg’s net presence is similar, if not better than San Jose’s attack.

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Gallant Pulls Perfect Strings To Once Again Unleash The Big Game Golden Knights

A few moves by Gallant and all of a sudden the Golden Knights looked themselves again for the biggest game of the year. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Individual awards in hockey are earned in the regular season. That’s why Gerard Gallant already has the Jack Adams Award sealed up. However, heading into Game 5, the soon-to-be Coach of the Year made some big boy decisions, and boy did they pay off for his Golden Knights.

Gallant inserted three players into his lineup, two of which hadn’t seen the ice in the playoffs, and made a line swap in an attempt to jump-start the 2nd and 3rd lines. 60 minutes of hockey later, and if there was a Coach of the Playoffs award, Gallant’s name could begin to be engraved on that one too.

Just some hungry guys ready to play and I wanted competitive guys in there playing tonight. When you lose a game sometimes you go through with your coaching staff and look around and say Lindberg has been working really good in practice, Carpenter has been a solid player for us all year long and he missed a couple of games, and Sbisa was due to get back in our lineup sooner or later. I thought all of them performed really well tonight and it was a good night for them. -Gerard Gallant

The additions to the lineup and the move to switch David Perron and Alex Tuch were some of the biggest reasons the Golden Knights took the 3-2 lead in the series.

Tuch was unbelievable. Lindy first game of the playoffs, wow, he was great too. Carpy on the 4th line was a big boost. He was all over the ice. -David Perron

Tuch scored twice. Lindberg and Carpenter each got assists, and Perron looked like himself for the first time during the playoffs netting two assists and creating a ton more chances.

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Major Lineup Shuffling Furthers 1st Period Importance

Game 4 was the first time in the eight-game playoff history of the Golden Knights where they were severely outplayed. It ended as a 4-0 beatdown and the Sharks had evened the series.

In response, Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant appears to be making a host of lineup changes. Based on morning skate, it seems Ryan Carpenter, Oscar Lindberg, and Luca Sbisa will be placed into the lineup, while Tomas Tatar, Tomas Nosek, and Jon Merrill will all come out.

Last year, Lindberg was tremendous in the playoffs. If he does it tonight, Gallant is going to look like a genius. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This will be the first game the Golden Knights will be without Nosek since February 11th, and just the 3rd game all year in which Nosek will be a healthy scratch. Oddly enough, the last time Gallant chose to scratch Nosek it was a 5-4 overtime win against the Sharks on November 24th.

If Sbisa returns, it will be his first game action since February 27th. Lindberg would also be making his Vegas playoff debut having been out since the final game of the regular season on April 7th

You do what you have to do. You put your best lineup in that you think gives you the best chance to win that evening. We’ve done it all year, guys come in and play different spots and play different roles, it’s all you can do. You go with your decision, you talk to your coaches, and you do the best you can. -Gerard Gallant

The changes magnify the 1st period, however. With multiple players who have been out for over a month returning to the lineup and potential changes to three of the four forward lines (see below), the Golden Knights are vulnerable early. It often takes players a bit of time to get back into the flow after missing games, but Vegas can’t afford to fall into a hole.

Throughout this entire season, when the Golden Knights have really needed a game, they’ve usually gotten it. But beyond that, they’ve almost always started out those games well. That was the case the last time they had to “flip the switch” back on going from a disastrous loss in Calgary to the playoff opener, but the time before, against the Flames at home, it took a period or so to really get going.

This team has it in them to play a good game tonight, no one is debating that. They just have to do it right away. They can’t play anything but their best from the moment the puck is dropped, and that’s what makes the lineup changes concerning. The Golden Knights have home-ice advantage in a best of three series, now they have to take advantage of it, and they can’t let cold legs and unfamiliarity get in the way.

Projected Game 5 Lineup



Next Man Up, Just Not Yet

It won’t come in Game 1, but there will come a time where Luca Sbisa is needed, and he’s a nice weapon to have in waiting. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the Golden Knights head into their Second Round series with the Sharks they do so as healthy as they’ve been all season. There’s only one active player listed on the injury report and he’s considered ready to play when the team needs him.

It’s incredible, but the Golden Knights might just be the deepest team of any left in the playoffs. When they drop the puck against San Jose, Vegas will have a perennial 20 goal scorer and their highest paid forward on the bench sitting alongside a defenseman that one was considered “shut down” for the Golden Knights and only lost that title due to injury, not a decline in play.

They get even deeper when you throw in Oscar Lindberg, a penalty killing forward with excellent hands and solid speed, Brad Hunt, a power play specialist defenseman, and Ryan Reaves, a physical specimen waiting to unleash some fury into a series.

Coming off a first round sweep and allowing just three goals in 14 periods, no lineup changes are expected for the opening game of the series to begin later this week. However, that depth is going to be needed eventually, and we’re here to illustrate not just how many players the Golden Knights have to fill-in in case of injury, but how wide-ranging they can be allowing All Star head coach to feel comfortable no matter what happens.

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6th Defenseman

Expect Sbisa to get back in the lineup, but who he’ll be paired with remains a question. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Just as is the case with the 12th forward, with the return to health along the Golden Knights blueline, All Star head coach Gerard Gallant has some tough decisions to make heading into Wednesday’s playoff opener.

Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, Colin Miller, and Shea Theodore are certainties to be in the lineup. Deryk Engelland is likely to be crack the lineup but there’s at least a bit of decision making needed with him as his play has seemed to slip as the season has worn on.

That leaves four defensemen with just once spot available in the Vegas D-core. As we did with the forwards, here’s a pros and cons list of each player and then both Ken and I made selections as to who we believe will get the call.

Luca Sbisa
20 Playoff games
1 goal, 4 points, -10 rating, 17:15 ATOI

Pros: Sbisa was one of the most reliable Golden Knights defenseman to start the season, was once considered VGK’s superstar shadown, and he has played several playoff games. Before being injured in mid-November Vegas was 10-5-1 with him in the lineup. Usually, Sbisa was paired up with Nate Schmidt and split duties covering the best forwards in the NHL. Like Englland, Sbisa is best staying home and protecting the net. Although he has done his share offensively. When Sbisa records a point the Golden Knights are 10-1-1 this season.

Cons: Sbisa has been hampered with injuries most of his career, and this year has been no different. Vegas was expecting a healthy defenseman after playing a full 82 games in Vancouver last season. It’s uncertain how injured he is, or if he’s even healthy enough to play against the Kings. Sbisa has suited up for 20 postseason games, going 8-12 with three different franchises. Sbisa could be the better overall option but Gallant may decide to go with Engelland because of similar style and trust.

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