“In OT we just know that you have to take some risks to win the game, and that’s what we do.” (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘playing with house money’ before.
Playing with house money refers to money that was given to you, easily obtained, or stumbled upon. In other words risking it as in a bet means you would have nothing to lose. -Urban Dictionary
At a surprising (6-1) record, and (3-0) in overtime, that’s exactly what the Golden Knights feel they are doing early in the season. The stress-free work environment of an expansion team with no expectations has players loose and taking risks to keep racking up W’s.
Yeah, obviously it’s a pressure thing. If you’re down one, you tend to pinch down more and go for those fifty-fifty pucks. You got to play smart but at the same time you can’t just back off. –Luca Sbisa
Sbisa’s role with the Golden Knights has grown into a top-line defenseman, on 5-on-5, 4-on-5 and 3-on-3. Gerard Gallant has deployed the Neal-Perron-Sbisa line to start each of the last two overtime periods, and Sbisa was on the ice for the OT goal against Buffalo. Is there a reason why the team is having early success in overtime?
It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty exciting. You don’t need a letter on your jersey to be a leader. It’s an opportunity to do everything right on and off the ice and be a professional. I’m excited to to be part of that group. -David Perron
It’s definitely an honor. We have a great group of guys here . All of those other guys named will put a great leadership group together. Helps the young guys and guide this team. -James Neal
Getting picked for that is special but at the same time, there a lot of good quality guys, with some character on this team. -Luca Sbisa
It’s a great honor to wear it, but the guys in this room, there is a lot more leaders than just the guys that have the A’s on. Everyone in this room leads in their own little, certain ways. Which brings us closer and tighter as a group. -Deryk Engelland
October 3rd is right around the corner. That’s the day NHL teams are required to cut their roster down to the 23-man squad that will begin the regular season. The Golden Knights now have 30 players remaining in camp who are eligible to make the final 23.
It’s not as simple as picking seven guys to send down to the minor leagues though. In the NHL, if you want to “re-assign” a player to the AHL, the player must go through a process called waivers. In short, every team has the option to buy the player’s contract off the Golden Knights and place them on their NHL roster. Unless… the player is waiver exempt, like Shea Theodore, Tomas Hyka, and Alex Tuch.
To this point, 91 players have been placed on waivers in the NHL, including Chris Casto, Paul Thompson, and T.J. Tynan of the Golden Knights. A total of 1 player was claimed (Jordan Nolan LA -> BUF). Over the past three years, more than 1,000 players were placed on waivers prior to the season, only 15 were claimed. It’s not terribly common, but it does happen.
Are Hyka and Tuch worth the risk to try and sneak Nosek through waivers? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
So, who are the guys Vegas may have to consider trying to slip through the process? Starting with forwards, Brendan Leipsic, Tomas Nosek, Teemu Pulkkinen, and William Carrier are the four players who have 2-way contracts. Assuming the Golden Knights get James Neal back to start the year, which now seems probable, there are four spots available to go to those four players plus Hyka and Tuch. Send the waiver exempt players to the AHL and there’s no risk of losing anyone, but if George McPhee wants to keep Hyka and/or Tuch, he’ll have to roll the dice to try to get someone through.
As the roster continues to thin out with at least five more players being cut (more on this later today), it’s time we start to look at what it’s going to take to put the finishing touches on the final roster the Golden Knights will take to Dallas.
We’ve known since the Expansion Draft ended that there must be a solution to the glut of defensemen in the system, and looking through George McPhee’s preseason roster transaction history, it appears the answer could come soon.
According to Sportstrac.com, the Washington Capitals have only claimed one player (Aaron Volpatti 2/28/13) off waivers in team history, including the 17 years McPhee was at the helm. So we can pretty much rule out a player being added that way. However, don’t mistake a man with an $800 haircut for being content with his roster. I’m guessing, but I’m telling you, it’s a sharp, maintained corporate cut. Sorry, back to hockey. McPhee may not claim players before the opener, but he’ll gladly make trades.
I remember it like yesterday, writing articles about meetings The Creator was having with the league making presentations in conjunction with Quebecor trying to sell the idea of expanding the league. Now, I’m about to take a shot at picking the 23 players who are going to make the roster when the Vegas Golden Knights play the first regular season game in franchise history. Crazy.
Due to the fact that the Golden Knights are expected to keep eight defensemen, there are some tough decisions on the back end of this list. The first nine are pretty well set in stone, the final four will be selected from a pool of seven.
The first who makes the list is Pulkkinen, and that has a lot to do with this skill set. His shooting ability is borderline elite in the NHL and he’s never really had a lot of time to prove himself in the league. However, the reasoning for his inclusion is more in the fact that he sticks out as a different style of player than the rest of the group. There are fast guys, there are big guys, but there’s no one else quite like him.
Next is Tuch. This one has a lot to do with the way he’s been playing on the ice, but it has even more to do with the fact that he’s one of the very few Golden Knights George McPhee paid to bring in. McPhee gave up a 3rd round pick to get Tuch from the Wild and he’s done everything in his power (including attending Development Camp) to make the roster. Wouldn’t be completely stunning if he’s sent to Chicago, but it would be a bit of a surprise.
Congrats Will Carrier, you made the team! Well, SinBin’s idea of the team. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
That brings us to the final two spots. I selected Hyka and Carrier out of the group including Brendan Leipsic, Tomas Nosek, and Tyler Wong. Hyka has been playing great hockey both in game action as well as in practice. It seems like every time the puck is near him he’s making things happen. That was also the case for Wong in the preseason game, and in rookie camp, but hasn’t been quite as apparent since the veterans showed up. Leipsic is an incredibly similar player to both Hyka and Wong, but simply hasn’t flashed throughout camp or in the one preseason game in which he played. For smaller speedy players, they should stick out like a sore thumb on the ice, skating by people and scoring goals. One of these three did that better than the other two. Hyka has also never played an NHL game, which represents massive upside for a guy who’s had this much success in camp and was singled out by the Golden Knights prior to the Expansion Draft. It’s a risky move considering McPhee would have to hope Leipsic can sneak through waivers without losing him, but Hyka deserves the spot more than Leipsic at this point, so it’s worth the risk.
As the excitement builds for fans, the reality of training camp means tough decisions for the Golden Knights. It’s no secret, the defensive logjam will create headaches for the organization. Early last week, GM George McPhee told us the team is hoping to get down to eight defensemen.
I think, we would ideally carry eight. We have a good crop and defensemen are hard to come by. And we’ll have to see they all fit together.- George McPhee
One defenseman that could be the answer to McPhee’s conundrum is veteran Luca Sbisa. A deal could help the organization get down to eight defensemen, and who knows, maybe McPhee can squeeze out another team’s draft pick.
Sbisa, in my opinion, is one of the most attractive defensemen on the market. At this time of year, NHL clubs are looking for players that are reliable and under limited contracts. The Swiss defenseman played 82 games last season and has one-year left, at $3.6 million. A reasonable contract for contending teams looking for blueline help. To compare his salary, here are other defenders paid around the same per season.
Since Wednesday when the Golden Knights made their 30 selections from the Expansion Draft and subsequent transactions, GM George McPhee hasn’t been answering a ton of questions, especially with local media. Luckily, the guys from Prime Time Sports had McPhee on the phone for 20 minutes and asked a lot of the unasked questions.
Since there’s so much in the interview (and a few others), we transcribed the most important quotes and offered our analysis on what it means about the Expansion Draft, upcoming trades, and the future of the Golden Knights. Here it is.
(There were) only one or two teams we didn’t get a deal with that we thought they would want to have a deal to protect their roster. -McPhee
Analysis: Best guesses would be Ottawa, Nashville, Montreal, and/or Washington. Clearly seeing both Ottawa and Montreal going back after Marc Methot and Alexei Emelin proves they were unable to reach a deal during the Expansion Draft. Washington makes sense because most expected Philipp Grubauer to be selected and Vegas ended up taking Nate Schmidt. A deal may have been talked about and never reached… and/or McPhee wanted to stick it to Washington. Nashville lost James Neal, hard to believe they were okay to just let that happen.
The rules were better for us, but we were dealing with some things that hadn’t been dealt with in the past like free agents. It didn’t make a lot of sense for us to claim free agents when they were going to be free in two weeks. Unless it was a throw away pick. -McPhee
Analysis: Wait, what? So what was Deryk Engelland? He hinted at it a bit in a previous presser to a SinBin.vegas question saying there were some things to not like about Calgary’s list, but this really cements it. Calgary had nothing else at all to claim in the eyes of McPhee, so they went ahead and essentially threw the pick away by signing a player they certainly would have gotten on July 1st. (Engelland’s surprise to getting handed a contract during the Expansion Draft further confirms this.)
There were some teams where if you just looked at their situation there weren’t many ways out. If we didn’t do a deal with them, and they traded a player and lost a player, then they lose and we lose too. We thought it was better to get a deal done rather than claim the second best player or third best player.
Must select one player from every team, must select at least 17 forwards, must reach at least 60% of the salary cap, must select at least 20 players under contract, cannot buy players out until the end of 2017-18 season, and no trade backs until January 1st, 2018.
Those were just a few of the regulations the Golden Knights had to follow during the Expansion Draft. They were widely reported by hockey media before the draft (here and here are two of the best sources) and then the NHL put out a rules list the day Vegas was awarded a team. Reported by many was the rule prohibiting the Golden Knights from trading a player back to their original team. However, when the NHL released their rules, it was nowhere to be found.
Now, it appears that rule was on the books, but it had an important caveat.
Have confirmed this with Bill Daly just now: There is no blanket rule prohibiting a team from re-acquiring player lost in exp draft already
Since the moment the Expansion Draft rules were released George McPhee found himself on a thin balance beam. One one side there’s the allure of picking the best 30 players available and stockpiling NHL ready talent that can not only win on the ice but also bring in high-level assets via trade. On the other side, there were ransoms being thrown out to lay off certain players, take on bad contracts, or completely give a team a pass in the Expansion Draft.
McPhee knew this was a difficult dance the whole way. They ran mock drafts and they saw what type of team they could put on the ice in year one. They had conversations with opposing GMs to see exactly how rich those ransoms were to turn a blind eye towards certain teams. And every chance he had, McPhee talked about the importance of staying upright on that balance beam.
Well now the Expansion Draft is over, the Entry Draft has come and gone, and free agency begins in less than a week, and at the moment McPhee and the Golden Knights are trying to maintain their balance, but there’s a clear wobble in the direction of taking on too many NHL contracts, specifically defenseman.
On June 21st the Golden Knights selected 14 defensemen. They ranged in talent from clear Top-4 to borderline NHLer, but all 14 were on NHL contracts. Vegas had created a surplus and it was time to start cashing in via trade.
A day after the draft a pair of defensemen were sent away. Trevor van Riemsdyk brought in a 2nd round pick from the Hurricanes and David Schlemko netted a 5th from Montreal. On its face, fine returns to begin trimming off the surplus of blueliners. But like in any form of commerce, demand must meet supply. Initially, it appeared that demand was high and the Golden Knights held the supply to make the most out of their 15 picks. But then Friday came and went, Saturday, Sunday, and it wasn’t until late Monday that the next defenseman was shipped away.
Marc Methot, the undisputed best talent of all the defensemen selected in the draft was sent to Dallas. The return, a 2nd round pick in 2020 and a goalie prospect the Golden Knights chose not to select 12 times while on the clock in Chicago.