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Offseason Outlook: Goaltenders

Never could anyone have imagined the Golden Knights goalie depth would be tested the way it was. Five goalies used in the first 17 games gave George McPhee a pretty solid look at the present and the future of the most important position on the ice.

It would seem not much needs to happen between the pipes for the Golden Knights with Marc-Andre Fleury the clear starter, Malcolm Subban a solid backup and Oscar Dansk plus Maxime Lagace manning the crease in the AHL. However, it’s not that simple, and in fact, McPhee has plenty of decisions in the net not only this offseason but moving forward.

Marc-Andre Fleury

It’s a bit of a shame Fleury will not win any awards after that incredible season. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After posting Vezina quality numbers in the regular season and then racing out to become the Conn Smythe favorite before the final series of the playoffs, it appears Fleury’s days as a full-time starter aren’t as numbered as they appeared during the last days in Pittsburgh.

He’s mentioned playing for many more years and recently said he wants to finish his career in Vegas. Fleury has one more season left on his contract scheduled to pay him $5.75 million. Then he would become an unrestricted free agent, something the Golden Knights probably aren’t interested in letting happen.

Things do get a bit tricky though when dealing with the long-term future of a 33-year-old goalie. While it certainly appears his age isn’t getting in the way at this point, that could change at any moment. Signing Fleury to a four or five year deal is risky as his production could slip at any moment, but letting him constantly play on expiring deals keeps the control in the hands of the player rather than the organization.

If Fleury is being completely honest that he wants to finish his career with the Golden Knights, they should play the short-term contract game with him on a gentleman’s agreement that he’ll get a new deal every time he wants one and the price will be fair. There aren’t many players who any GM would be willing to go down that road with, but if there’s one, it’s probably Fleury.

There’s one concern there though, and that’s Pittsburgh. What if they come calling at some point? It’s easy to say he wants to finish his career in Vegas while sitting on stage in the same building as the Campbell Bowl, but if the idea of going back to the Penguins ever became a realistic possibility, he’d likely want to hear it out.

The best course of action for the Golden Knights is likely to keep him one year away from free agency at all times. Extend his contract each offseason so he feels comfortable, while also protecting the organization against the inevitable father time induced decline.

Malcolm Subban, Oscar Dansk, Max Lagace

Only one of these three players currently has a contract with the Golden Knights and that’s Subban. Dansk remains under Golden Knights control as he’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Lagace is an unrestricted free agent set to hit the open market on July 1st if he doesn’t reach a deal with Vegas before then.

Subban still seems to be the clear #2 behind Fleury, but his injury-riddled season has to bring pause to the organization’s desire to commit to him as the heir-apparent. Subban was hurt once during a game early in the year and then found himself unavailable two more times due to injuries that occurred during practice. Subban missed a majority of the postseason and the team opted to use Lagace as the backup over Dansk.

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Rest And Relaxation; What To Do With These Final Three Games

“You’ve got to trust your players.” -Gallant on resting guys down the stretch (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have clinched a playoff berth and they’ve won the Pacific Division. With that comes a guarantee of home-ice in the first two series with just the Western Conference and Stanley Cup Finals seeding up for grabs.

Vegas currently sits second in the Western Conference and fourth in the NHL. They likely aren’t catching Nashville, Boston, or Tampa, and only have to fend off Winnipeg to hang on to the fourth position. However, even if Winnipeg passes the Golden Knights, the only impact it could have is if those two teams face in the Western Conference Finals. So, the Golden Knight essentially have three games that mean little to nothing in the scope of the season.

You’ve got stay fresh, you’ve got to make sure you are ready to go. It’s been a long season for some guys and we’ve had some maintenance days and that’s all part of the business going through. You trust your players to do the right things. Some guys need some practice and need some jump and some guys need some days off. -Gerard Gallant

The Golden Knights have multiple injured players, Reilly Smith, Luca Sbisa, William Carrier, and David Perron that could use the games to get back into game form. They have a college free agent in Zach Whitecloud who has never hit the NHL ice, and they have 11 players who have played in 70 or more games this season.

 GPTOIATOI
Colin Miller79153019:22
William Karlsson79147818:42
Cody Eakin78112614:26
Deryk Engelland76154020:16
Jonathan Marchessault76133317:33
Nate Schmidt75166722:14
Alex Tuch75113615:09
Erik Haula74128917:25
Brayden McNabb73146720:06
David Perron70124717:49
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare7085712:15

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Golden Knights Injury Updates; James Neal, Reilly Smith, Malcolm Subban, Luca Sbisa, William Carrier, Oscar Lindberg

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

James Neal
Injury: Hand/Wrist
Injured on February 26th vs. Kings

Neal has missed 10 of the last 11 games. He played in the Kings game on the road where he left after falling behind the goal, seemingly on the same hand that was injured last year in the playoffs.

He did not travel with the team on the recent five-game road trip, but was seen skating many of the days while the team was away. Neal participated in the most recent morning skate wearing a red no-contact jersey.

James is doing real good. He’s skating today. He’s not playing tonight but we’ll see him in the near future. -Gerard Gallant

Reilly Smith
Injury: Wrist/Shoulder
Injured on March 6th vs. Blue Jackets

Smith left the game after a hit in the 2nd period in Columbus. He remained on the road trip for a short time following the injury before returning to Vegas.

He has not participated in a practice since the injury but was seen putting on skates and pads to take the ice for an individual practice today.

A source indicated to SinBin.vegas that the team initially feared Smith had broken a bone in his hand that could have ended his season, but an MRI confirmed otherwise. The same source put the timeline at about two weeks from the injury following the news of no broken bones.

He is not playing tonight. Day to day. Getting better. -Gallant

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Malcolm Subban Headed To IR; Maxime Lagace To Be Recalled

Max’s back. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the second time this year, the Golden Knights will be without their backup goalie, luckily this time the starter isn’t hurt as well.

Malcolm Subban sustained an upper-body injury during morning skate prior to the Golden Knights game in San Jose. Subban was dressed and was seen sitting under the bench during the game, but was apparently not available to enter that game.

All Star coach Gerard Gallant confirmed the team will recall Maxime Lagace. Lagace started 13 games during the Golden Knights goalie fiasco at the beginning of the year in which they lost three goalies in the team’s first 10 games. Vegas went 6-6-1 in those 13 games while Lagace allowed 3.79 goals per game and posted .872 save percentage. Lagace returned to the AHL with the Chicago Wolves where he has played in 14 games posting a .910 save percentage.

Oscar Dansk, who was sent back to the Wolves on January 24th has yet to start a game.

Both Dansk and Lagace are waiver-exempt this season, so the Golden Knights can freely rotate between the two assuming Dansk is healthy enough to play.

How To Split The Starts With Fleury And Subban

After the Expansion Draft most believed the Golden Knights best position was goalie. The combination of Marc-Andre Fleury and Calvin Pickard would be able to keep Vegas in most games, even when they were being badly outplayed.

At least that’s what we thought.

Now a rash of injuries, a roster move, and 28 games into the season, the Golden Knights are back in a similar position of strength between the pipes, but in a much different situation. Since being claimed off waivers from the Boston Bruins, Malcolm Subban has done nothing but impress in the net. He’s 7-2-0 as a starter with a save percentage of .924. Subban is also 2-0 in shootout and has saved all nine attempts he’s faced.

Don’t worry, I’m not advocating for benching Fleury. Trading him though… (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Meanwhile, Fleury appears to be within days of his return and it’s long been considered that it’s his goal when he gets back. The question needs to be asked though, should it be?

There’s no question Fleury is the better goalie at this point in his career. He has three Stanley Cups, 375 career wins, 44 shutouts, and was pretty darn good before the injury (3-1, .925 SV%). But he’s also 33-years-old, coming off what we believe to be his third concussion.

There’s also a future to consider. Fleury’s cap hit is $5.75 million per year for the next two before he becomes a free agent. Subban, on the other hand, is 23-years old, flourishing in his first extended opportunity at the NHL level, and still has two years left on his entry-level contract ($650,000 AAV).

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Malcolm Subban Skates On Off Day At City National Arena

Goalie Malcolm Subban was injured in the 3rd period of the game against St. Louis on October 21st. Following the injury Subban was placed on IR and the timetable that was set was “approximately four weeks.”

Today at City National Arena the goalie was publicly seen skating for the first time since the injury three weeks ago.

In doing so he also showed off his new helmet and pads. The helmet is red on the front with a gold facemask. It has the Golden Knights primary logo along the chin with a pattern of primary logos toward the side. On the side there are a few more logos including the secondary sword star and a silhouette of the Las Vegas strip. The top is mostly gold with white bold letters spelling “Vegas Strong.” We have yet to see the back.

Then, the best moment of the day happened when Jonathan Marchessault’s son took some shots on Subban. Looks like we’ve got a future star in the making.

(Videos taken by Marcus Cottengim)

There has not been an update from the Golden Knights on the status of Subban, Marc-Andre Fleury, or Oscar Dansk.

**Huge thanks to Marcus Cottengim, Constance Kern, and Ami Gilbert for the pictures and videos. If something related to the Golden Knights happens, SinBinners are always there.**

Injury Updates: Marc-Andre Fleury, Jonathan Marchessault, Erik Haula, Malcolm Subban

UPDATE (11:54 AM PST – 10/23/17)

UPDATE (4:31 PM PST – 10/22/17)
Malcolm Subban has been placed on IR with what the team described as a lower-body injury. The team says they expect him to be out for “approximately four weeks.”

UPDATE (1:50 PM PST – 10/22/17)
Jonathan Marchessault – Participated in practice wearing a white jersey (jersey colors indicate lines. Others in white were Reilly Smith and William Karlsson.)

Think you can be ready for Tuesday? -SinBin.vegas

Yeah I think so, I think that’s the plan so far. I’ve been cleared for contact and I had a couple good practices in a row, and I feel ready. -Marchessault

He described the injury as an awkward fall. Gallant confirmed he expects Marchessault to play Tuesday against Chicago.

Erik Haula – Skated on Saturday in a red “no contact” jersey prior to the morning skate for the game on Saturday. Joined full practice, still wearing red, today.

I’ve got a little bit more testing to do on the lower body but I felt good. I don’t think it’s up to me. I’m happy with the progression I’ve had and I have one more practice tomorrow and we’ll have a better answer by then. -Haula

Marc-Andre Fleury – There is no update beyond what we already know. He is reevaluated every day and will return when he is fully cleared. There is absolutely no timeline on his return.

Malcolm Subban – Subban was injured midway through the third period of Saturday night’s game. On the ice, it appeared to be a lower-body muscle or ligament issue as it was a non-contact injury. The Golden Knights are expected to place Subban on IR and recall Maxime Lagace later this afternoon. They also said he will be reevaluated this afternoon and an update may be available. He is going to be out at least a week. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports a team source told him Subban will be “probably out for weeks.”  For more on the Golden Knights goalie situation, click here.

Original Updates (1:02 PM PST – 10/20/17)

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Abnormal Team With Abnormal Goalie Situation

Remember when goalie depth was widely considered to be the best asset the Golden Knights got from the Expansion Draft? When Marc-Andre Fleury was the starter and Calvin Pickard was set to back up him. That’s changed a bit, huh?

But before we get into what’s going to happen moving forward, and a bit of what’s happened already, let’s dispell a rumor that has already popped up to this point.

This team isn’t normal. That’s kind of why theyir 6-1. Embrace it. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are not likely to make a trade to acquire a “starting” goalie. For proof of this, think back to the timeline of the backup goalie thus far. Three days before the season began George McPhee claimed Malcolm Subban. The next day he waived Calvin Pickard in somewhat a surprising move, but just another in a long line of focusing on the future rather than the present for the Vegas front office.

That move left the Golden Knights one moment away from having to put in a 23-year-old goalie, who was waived by the Bruins, into the net for good, and they were comfortable with that because this season’s not about winning. Four games later, that moment came, as Fleury took a knee to the face and suffered his third (maybe fourth) career concussion.

They didn’t run out and make a trade. Not because they believed so much in Subban, because they still, despite the record, aren’t focused on winning this season. They simply put Subban in the net, and called up another backup (Maxime Lagace at the time). Now, Subban is hurt, and Oscar Dansk appears to be the temporary starter, and just like before, they probably aren’t going to panic and make a move.

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Golden Knights/Bruins Storyline Round Up

Hey Subbs, want to go dominate these bums that let us go? (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Miller and Subban Get Even

After the 3–1 victory over Boston, the first guy to congratulate and hug Malcolm Subban was defenseman Colin Miller. Former teammates in Boston and Providence, beating their previous organization must’ve been a great feeling for both.

Regardless of who it is against, we’re just trying to get the win. It’s our former team but we’re not out to get anyone. We’re just trying to focus and play our game. I think he (Miller) was more happy that I got my first win. – Malcolm Subban

Watch the end of the game, it’s clear Subban and Miller were pumped to win. You could tell from the start, the defenseman was amped, and up for the challenge. Miller unloaded 8 shot attempts, and 3 shots on net. He played 18:25 of TOI, on 26 shifts.

“Fourth” Line Effort

They may not get the same attention, but the Golden Knights fourth line deserves just as much as the first line. I should stop calling Pierre-Eduard Bellemare, William Carrier, and Tomas Nosek the fourth line. Gerard Gallant told us at his postgame press conference that he doesn’t count his lines. He would say he’s continuously been impressed by the line that plays the least.

They worked their asses off and competed hard and played hard. That’s what they do every night. I really like them. They’re a solid line. They aren’t going to score a lot of goals, but they do the right thing most times. -Gerard Gallant

Doing the right thing includes, winning face offs, blocking shots, penalty killing, breaking up plays, and getting pucks on net. That’s exactly what this line is doing. Bellemare won a total of 7 draws (64%) and in the defensive zone, Belly went 3 for 5 (60%) on faceoffs. Carrier played physical and added body checks, blocked shots and takeaways. Plus, he got pucks on net creating pressure on Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask.

Tossed out centers

On Sunday, five different Golden Knights (Eakin, Perron, Lindberg, Karlsson, Bellemare) were thrown out of the faceoff circle by an official. In one sequence, the refs tossed Cody Eakin and David Perron on the same draw leading to a two-minute delay of game penalty. Eakin and Perron’s linemate James Neal was obviously frustrated and pleaded to the ref. Ultimately, Perron went on to serve the two-minute minor. Center William Karlsson also had faceoff frustrations after being thrown out and having another official overrule the other.

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Fleury Likely To Start Every Game Of Upcoming Seven Game Homestand

Remember when this team had a goalie tandem that could be put up against just about any other team in the NHL? Well, now they have the 2nd star of the week in the NHL and a goalie who was described as “not quite ready to play at this level.”

Maybe I could have said that better. In terms of talent and experience, he’s ready to play at this level. In terms of getting him to play the way that we want him to play we need a little more time. -George McPhee

So as you can probably tell by the headline of this article, that means we aren’t likely to see Malcolm Subban between the pipes anytime soon.

This homestand is actually spaced out well enough that there’s probably no rush to put him in. But between Turk and Dave Prior, when they decide he’s ready for a game, he’ll play and we’ll get him going. -McPhee

My guess is that will be against the New York Islanders or Rangers on back-to-back to start off the long road trip.

McPhee also doubled down on the reasoning behind claiming Subban/trading Pickard and further proved his eye is on the future, despite how much it could set back the currently undefeated 201-18 Golden Knights.

You have a five-year plan, you have a three-year plan, you have a one-year plan, you have a month-to-month plan, but it changes every day. We thought that was the one area where we were set, but this opportunity presented itself, we evaluated it, and we were nimble enough as an organization to do something about it. We made our move hoping that Subban one day down the road can be a very good #1 goaltender. -McPhee

Flower, flower, and more flower. That’s the plan for this first month of the year.

Not the worst plan if he keeps playing the way he’s been though, right?

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