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Golden Knights Were Bargain Hunters At Deadline

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The Golden Knights were in a peculiar spot at the trade deadline this season. They were the reigning Western Conference Champions who believe they upgraded the team in the offseason, they were also firmly entrenched in a playoff position and had as good a shot as anybody in the West to make another run. However, they were mired in the worst slump in franchise history, the magic of the inaugural season appeared to have worn off, they still viewed themselves as a new franchise without a bevy of prospects in the system, and they struck out mightily at the deadline a year ago.

That led to speculation ranging all the way from trying to make the blockbuster, to sitting still and doing nothing, to even selling and focusing on the future like they were supposed to be doing last year. The fact of the matter was, all options were truly on the table for George McPhee, and he had to choose the right one.

In the end, we know how the story goes, they made the biggest splash at the deadline not only acquiring Mark Stone but signing him to a mega-extension keeping him here through 2027.

However, behind the scenes, it looked a bit different.

A lot of people were talking about us ‘big game hunting’ all week and we really weren’t. –George McPhee on Two Man Advantage Podcast

McPhee says he didn’t think the Golden Knights were going to do anything. Then things changed on deadline day, he saw we he thought was a bargain and he went for it.

We had talked to (Ottawa) five days before that and it seemed like it was a lot and we just weren’t going to participate in it, and then a couple of teams dropped out and we got a call and we were back in and we pursued it. -McPhee on Two Man Advantage Podcast

Obviously, McPhee and his staff had ideas of what they would like to do, but as few as 12 hours before the deadline, he wasn’t sure any of it was actually going to come to fruition.

We were trying to find a player that might make sense but when we listed the players Mark Stone was Plan A, if it made sense in terms of price and contract, and we thought if we don’t get Plan A we probably don’t do anything because this is when mistakes are made, at the trade deadline and on July 1st. This was Plan A and it actually worked out. -McPhee on Two Man Advantage Podcast

As the deadline approached though, Plan A ended up not being the only bargain that may have cropped up.

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The Stone Age Impacts Golden Knights Defense

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — When the Golden Knights acquired Mark Stone at the NHL trade deadline back on Feb. 25, it was assumed the offense would perk up as Stone had 28 goals in the bank from his time in Ottawa.

But who knew the defense would be the unit that has come alive?

Collectively, the Vegas blue line corps is playing some of its best hockey of the year. And while it may be a coincidence that it has come since Stone’s arrival, the changes Gerard Gallant made a few weeks ago, moving Deryk Engelland with Nate Schmidt, playing Shea Theodore with Brayden McNabb and giving Jon Merrill a regular spot in the lineup, seemed to have worked.

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The defense accounted for both goals in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Calgary at T-Mobile Arena. More important, the Knights have allowed just nine goals in the six games Stone has worn the steel grey No. 61.

Obviously, Marc-Andre Fleury’s play in the crease has been a big part of that. But don’t discount the job his D-men are doing in front of him.

The Knights are winning more battles in their own end. They’re more active in using their sticks to take away the cross-ice pass. They are making smarter decisions in breaking out of their own end. They are pinching in the other team’s end more judiciously and not getting caught in as many odd-man rushes the other way. They continue to block shots at a high rate. They seem to be communicating better.

All of that was again on display Saturday here in Vancouver at Rogers Arena against a Canucks team which Vegas handled a week ago, 3-0, and 6-2 Saturday for their sixth straight win. The Knights scored a franchise-record five first-period goals and there was no looking ahead to tonight’s big game at the Scotiabank Saddledome and the rematch with the Flames.

And as many predicted, Stone finally scored as a Golden Knight as he opened the scoring 1:32 into Saturday’s contest.

Gallant said you never know what’s going to happen when you change your lineup. But these moves appear to have worked so far.

It was just shaking things up. When you’re losing, you’re not happy. So we made a few changes with the D and so far it’s worked. I like the way they’ve been playing. -Gallant

You ask the defensemen what’s turned things around, you get different answers.

I think change can be good sometimes. You get a little stagnant with the way you play. I just think that it’s about trending. If you continue to play well, you want to make sure you keep doing those things that help you win. Colin Miller and Jon Merrill have been playing fantastic for us. When you have that kind of depth on your team, that’s important. -Schmidt

Theodore said the defensemen are reacting better to the puck and making the right play more consistently.

I think we’re just quick to pucks and we’re not giving them as much time and space in the corners. Usually when you give teams with good skill players time down low they’re going to make plays. I think our centers have been coming in and killing those plays and that’s been big for us. -Theodore

Engelland said it has been a collective mindset that has seen the team’s defensive uptick.

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MARK STONE (F) SIGNS 8-YEAR $9.5M AAV CONTRACT EXTENSION

Mark Stone’s Impact Goes Beyond The Scoresheet

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It’s no secret the acquisition of Mark Stone has made a positive impact on the Golden Knights. They are a perfect 4-0-0 since the trade, have utterly dominated consecutive division opponents, and quite simply they look a lot closer to a Cup contending team than they have all year.

All of it is with Stone barely finding the scoresheet. He has just a single point in four games and it came on a power play assist to William Karlsson.

Stone’s impact goes much deeper than how much he’s scoring and it even goes deeper than even how often his linemates get on the board. What Stone’s acquisition has done has stabilized the Golden Knights top six, while in the process taking some major match-up responsibility off the hands of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith. It’s also put Alex Tuch in a role that allows him to focus more on creating scoring chances for a line that desperately needed help doing so.

It reminds me a lot of Schmidty’s situation when we missed him. I think it put people in places that they weren’t comfortable in. It’s important to have a role on your team and feel comfortable and confident in that role. I think Stoner coming in and kind of giving us that balance through our lineup. It’s not one player that makes a huge difference but it’s one player that kind of puts everyone in a position to succeed and in a role they are comfortable in. -Max Pacioretty

Stone has played a total of 64:39 at even strength for the Golden Knights. Territorially he’s been terrific posting a Corsi For of 58.9%. He’s been on the ice for 40 shots on goal for while just 22 against. The Golden Knights have created 31 goal scoring chances including 16 high danger, which is good for about a chance every other shift, and most importantly he’s been on the ice for three goals while still has not seen one in the Golden Knights net.

But more importantly than all of those great numbers is the competition he has faced. In the four games he’s played, the forwards he’s shared the ice with most have been Elias Pettersson, Rickard Rakell, Alexander Radulov (and Tyler Seguin), and Riley Sheahan. Aside from Florida, he’s faced the best forward on the opposing team every night.

I’d say he’s playing pretty much where we are going to play him. He may play a few more minutes later on, or a few less, I don’t know, but everything’s gone good so far. -Gallant

The Florida game, the one he didn’t match-up most with the opposition’s top forwards, might be the most telling too. Aleksander Barkov was on the ice for all five goals the Panthers scored. When Barkov was on the ice with Stone, not only did Florida not score, but they attempted just one shot, and it was blocked.

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Hoffman On Stone: “One Of The Best Sticks In The League”

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It was impossible to miss Florida’s forward Mike Hoffman last night. The top-line winger bombed two power play goals past Malcolm Subban and laid a nasty open-ice hit on defenseman Nate Schmidt.

Something else that stood out after the game was Hoffman’s affection for newly acquired Golden Knights forward Mark Stone.

You know they got a good player over there and he is going to be good for a long time, one of the best sticks in the league and very good in front of the net, he is a great addition for them. -Mike Hoffman

Stone and Hoffman shared a line in Ottawa for multiple seasons and played as teammates starting in 2012. The two also played several seasons together with the AHL’s Binghamton Senators.

Yeah, I played with Stone for a long time and he is a really good guy and obviously a really smart and talented hockey player. -Hoffman

The Panthers 30-goal scorer was drafted a year earlier but grew up through Ottawa’s system with Stone. They undoubtedly had chemistry together. Just take a look at this beautiful PP setup from last season.

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The Golden Knights Have Found Their Captain

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

When the Golden Knights launched their inaugural season in 2017, the team decided it would not have a captain.

The mantra from general manager George McPhee and coach Gerard Gallant was, “We have 23 captains.”

They pointed to the veterans in the locker room as the team’s “leadership group.” If anything needed to be said, if anyone stepped out of line, Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal, David Perron or Deryk Engelland would take care of it.

Sure enough, the room stayed together, the Knights had a historic first year and made it to the Stanley Cup Final.

But Neal and Perron left in July. Replacing them were Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. Both have been in leadership roles with Pacioretty having served as the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, a prestigious honor given the history of that iconic franchise. Stastny was an assistant captain in Colorado.

Yet, you can’t help but wonder if something has been missing in the Vegas locker room this year. Yes, Fleury still commands everyone’s respect. Engelland is still with a voice among his teammates. I don’t know that either Stastny or Pacioretty are active in being leaders in Vegas since I’m not in the room on a daily basis. I would like to think they are.

But maybe the time has come to narrow the voices from 23 to one.

Mark Stone arrived Monday from Ottawa in the biggest trade on NHL deadline day and the 26-year-old who wore the “A” with the Senators would be the perfect person to be the Golden Knights’ first captain. Obviously not this season. But by September, the team should seriously consider giving Stone the “C.”

Here’s why.

He has seen what dysfunction can do to a team, how it can tear it apart and lead to frustration. He tried to hold the room together in Ottawa and while you can argue he wasn’t successful given the Senators’ record, the fact he came to the rink every night, played hard, and set an example of doing things the right way as the team’s best player speaks volumes to his character.

His performance in Vegas will earn his teammates’ respect. They’ve all played against him and he’s a pain to go up against. Now he’s one of them and the Knights will benefit from Stone’s work ethic, his skill, his experience, and his competitiveness and daily commitment. As GMGM said Monday after acquiring him, it’s not every day a special player joins your organization.

I don’t know that he changes it because we have a terrific room, great leadership, real quality people. He certainly adds to it. He’s as fine of a person as you can find in this game. You like him off the ice, you like him on the ice. Kelly McCrimmon knows him very well, he had him as a young player. I worked with him at the World Championships a few years ago, we won the gold medal in Russia. So, he is the type of player that you will always look for and hope to be able to land. -McPhee

Ultimately, it’s the players who have to believe in the guy they decide to follow. He’ll do his talking on the ice for the time being.

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How George McPhee Used The Expansion Draft To Yield Mark Stone And Max Pacioretty (And Still Has Assets To Burn)

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When the Expansion Draft was over and the dust had settled a bit, the Golden Knights walked away with much more than just the 30 players made up of one from each team.

By July 5th, George McPhee had “harvested” (his word, not mine) a bushel of assets that were expected to help reach the stated goal of reaching the playoffs by year three and lifting the Cup by year six. Here’s the full list of what the Golden Knights were sitting on a little over two weeks after the Expansion Draft.

Acquired
2017 1st round pick (Nick Suzuki)
2017 1st round pick (Erik Brannstrom)
2017 2nd round pick (Jake Leschyshyn)
2017 5th round pick (Jack Dugan)
2017 6th round pick (Jiri Patera)
2018 4th round pick (Paul Cotter)
2018 5th round pick (Brandon Kruse)
2019 2nd round pick
2019 2nd round pick
2019 3rd round pick
2019 3rd round pick
2019 5th round pick
2020 2nd round pick
2020 2nd round pick
Shea Theodore
Reilly Smith
Alex Tuch
Jake Bischoff
Keegan Kolesar
Dylan Ferguson
Nikita Gusev

Gave Up
2017 2nd round pick (Alexandre Texier)
2018 3rd round pick (Connor Dewar)
2018 4th round pick (Jack Gorniak)
2018 7th round pick (Riley Hughes)

Since then, things have changed a bit. The Golden Knights started out on fire and it’s never really slowed down. They won the Pacific Division, the Western Conference, and are in line to make the playoffs again in year two. Since July 5th, 2017, the Golden Knights have made nine more trades.

Acquired
Mark Stone
Max Pacioretty
Ryan Reaves
2018 4th round pick (Slava Demin)
2018 6th round pick (Peter Diliberatore)
2019 5th round pick
Tobias Lindberg
Zachary Leslie
Tye McGinn
Philip Holm

Gave Up
Brendan Leipsic
Calvin Pickard
Oscar Lindberg
Brad Hunt
Nick Suzuki (2017 1st round pick)
Erik Brannstrom (2017 1st round pick)
2018 1st round pick (Joe Veleno)
2019 2nd round pick
2019 2nd round pick
2019 6th round pick
2020 2nd round pick
2021 3rd round pick
Jimmy Oligny
(Tomas Tatar was acquired and then traded so he does not appear on either side of this list.)

Here’s the craziest part, look what happens if you add up all the picks.

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Salary Cap Implications For The Golden Knights In The Aftermath Of The Mark Stone Trade

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As the dust settles on the Mark Stone trade, it’s time to start looking at the future of the Vegas Golden Knights as it relates to the salary cap.

The salary cap was set at $79,500,000 this season. The normal increase in salary cap from year to year is about 2-5%. Last season the cap increased by $4.5M. It should be expected that the cap increase from this season to next will be in the neighborhood of $4M to $7M.

Thus, we can expect the salary cap to be somewhere around $85,000,000.

According to CapFriendly.com, the best salary cap site on the Internet, the Golden Knights projected cap hit for 2019-20 is $72,875,000 without Stone’s imminent $9.5M AAV extension. So, just with Stone, the Golden Knights are looking at a projected cap hit of just under $82,375,000.

The Golden Knights still have David Clarkson on the roster. His contract can be placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) next season. There are some oddities to that rule, but for simplification sake, Vegas can get around $5.25M in salary cap relief by making this move.

Therefore, if nothing changes, Vegas should have around $7,875,000 left to work with.

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GOLDEN KNIGHTS ACQUIRE (F) MARK STONE FOR OSCAR LINDBERG, ERIK BRANNSTROM, AND A 2ND ROUND PICK

According to multiple reports, the Golden Knights have acquired forward Mark Stone via trade from the Ottawa Senators for Oscar Lindberg, Erik Brannstrom, and a 2nd round pick.

Mark Stone is a 26-year-old forward who has scored 28 goals this season with 62 points. Stone has reached 60 points in four of his five full seasons in the NHL.

I’m so excited to be joining that team. Just seeing what they did last year in the playoffs was unbelievable. -Mark Stone

I’m close, haven’t quite signed it yet, but we’ve agreed. -Stone on extension

Just playing 2 games there in my career, the atmosphere, the city, the lineup they put on the ice every night and the ownership’s commitment to winning, I can’t wait and I’m so excited to be a part of it. -Stone

He’s a great player. He’s another big-time player and obviously the number he puts up. He plays in every situation and he’ll really help our hockey club. You know we lost a lot obviously, we gave up some great players. When you get superstar players on your team you have to give up a lot. -Gallant

He’s a great all-around player so we are obviously excited. He was the top guy on the board and we went out and got him. It shows our players what we want to do and to get things on track here and get it going again. -Gallant

You don’t know if it’s possible until it happens. Obviously every team in the league checked in on Mark Stone because he’s that type of player. I heard his name a week ago but it doesn’t mean anything close. When I went on the ice today, was it possible, yes, but was it close, I couldn’t say that, I had no idea. -Gallant

From the first 35 games last year everything changed. What they talked about last year was building for the future and all of a sudden we go on a run and it’s unbelievable and everything changes. We want to win. We had a chance to win last year and everyone wants to win. When you do things like the Pacioretty’s, Stastny’s Stone’s, they are top NHL players. We are trying to find the right mix. I think people know that Vegas isn’t just an expansion team, they want to win. -Gallant

Stone is expected to sign an extension with the Golden Knights.

Just How Close Were The Golden Knights To Getting Erik Karlsson And How Might It Effect This Deadline

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Every trade deadline is its own separate crazy event, but because the decision makers are indeed human, often times emotions from one can spill over into another. That certainly may be the case with the Golden Knights and Ottawa Senators following last year’s trade negotiations for Erik Karlsson.

Those negotiations from a club vs. club perspective can be a little bit damaging. The general manager is always going to do what is going to make his club better, but if we want to look at that Vegas/Ottawa scenario last year… when you don’t get that player, can you imagine the level of frustration from that management group because you feel you pissed away a better part of your day. And then they end up making the Tatar trade as a knee-jerk, right? -Darren Dreger, TSN

I happened to be walking into George McPhee’s office half an hour after the San Jose Sharks acquisition of Erik Karlsson got announced during training camp… George McPhee was very careful with what he said but the steam coming out of his ears could not be hidden. Because they tried at the deadline, then they tried again all summer, and they didn’t get him. -Pierre LeBrun, TSN

Three of the most connected insiders in the world of hockey are Bob McKenzie, Pierre LeBrun, and Darren Dreger. They all got together for an episode of McKenzie’s podcast, the BobCast.

The conversation was certainly not centered on the Golden Knights, and while being used as an example, the three shared some intriguing info on just how “close” the deal was.

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