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Could VGKs Lack of Defensive Scoring Be A Future Problem?

Stop worrying about 3rd line scoring, start worrying about blue line scoring. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s no secret, the Golden Knights are getting very little offense from there defense. Overall, the low production from their blue line could be a concern going forward. Sure, power play specialist Colin Miller appears ready to return to the lineup but even with him it may not be enough.

I think sometimes we’re complicated things too much. My job and Millsey’s and Schmitty’s, the guys that are back there, we have to do a better job controlling it. Instead of setting up a play and try and seam it, we just have to get pucks through. -Shea Theodore

At first glance, 97 combined points from the Golden Knights defense doesn’t look that bad, but when you look around the league it’s a very low total.

Points from Vegas defenseman in 2018-19

Theodore 21 Points (5 Goals, 16 Assists)
Miller 17 Points (2 Goals, 15 Assists)
Schmidt 16 Points (4 Goals, 12 Assists)
Holden 13 Points (3 Goals, 10 Assists)
McNabb 12 Points (1 Goal, 11 Assists)
Hunt 7 Points (2 Goals, 5 Assists)
Engelland 6 Points (1 Goals, 5 Assists)
Merrill 5 Points (1 Goal, 4 Assists)
97 Total Points from VGK defenseman
19 Goals, 78 Assists

In just the Pacific Division alone, defensemen are putting up Norris trophy type numbers.

Top 5 Defensemen in Points

Brent Burns SJ: 52 Points(9 Goals, 43 Assists)
Mark Giordano CAL: 48 Points(9 Goals, 38 Assists)
Morgan Reilly TOR: 47 Points(13 Goals, 34 Assists)
Erik Karlsson SJ: 43 Points(3 Goals, 40 Assists)
John Carlson WAS: 43 Points(6 Goals, 37 Assists)

Up in San Jose, Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson’s combined offense is roughly the same as the entire Vegas defensive unit. Calgary’s captain Mark Giordano has been heavily involved all season, and on pace for a career-high offensively. When you go through the rest of the contenders in the Western Conference, Vegas has the lowest threat from the blue line.

San Jose: 143 Points (Goals, Assists)
Nashville: 125 (Goals, Assists)
Calgary: 116 Points (Goals, Assists)
Winnipeg: 104 Points (Goals, Assists)

San Jose and Nashville are loaded with blue line scoring, what’s new right? Predators have even been down one of their weapons PK Subban to injury. Like Vegas with Miller, Winnipeg’s blue line lumber, Dustin Byfuglien has also played limited games this season. So, you have to wonder if the Jets are searching for defensive help for the postseason.

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Valentin Zykov Helps Fill An Age Gap For VGK

Youth is a problem for VGK, hopefully Valentin Zykov can help fix that. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The average age of the Golden Knights current active roster is 28. If you weight it by time on ice that number jumps to 29, the 3rd highest in the league, tied with San Jose and Los Angeles.

The team has eight players that are at least 30 and another nine that are 27 or 28. There are only three guys under the age of 24 that have seen the ice for the Golden Knights in 2018-19 with Alex Tuch being the youngest at 22.

That distribution is a massive reason why Valentin Zykov was not only claimed by the Golden Knights, but also why other arrangements (Brandon Pirri to AHL) were made to allow him to stick around.

Age-wise he fits into a group where we don’t have a lot of players. Our only young players on our team are Theodore and Tuch. So it’s good business by us to give this a chance and take the opportunity to evaluate him. -Kelly McCrimmon, Assistant GM on VGK Twitter

Well before the season began (on 07/24/18) we took a look at the entire Golden Knights system, including draft picks, free agent signings, and the Pacioretty trade and identified this age gap.

Since then, things have only gotten worse as the Pacioretty for Tatar and Suzuki trade made the Golden Knights older, Pirri has been the only call-up to have an impact (he turns 28 in April), and young guys like Reid Duke, Tomas Hyka, Jake Bischoff, Zach Whitecloud, Dylan Coghlan, and others haven’t had an impact.

Age Range# of PlayersPlayed in NHL in 18-19
≤20210
21-2382
24-26177
27-291110
≥2988

*Table includes all players in VGK system. Included: Nikita Gusev. Not Included: Vadim Shipachyov, Philip Holm, Teemu Pulkkinen, David Clarkson

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Nate’s Back, But Who Should He Play With?

Welcome back Nate! Now, save the season. No pressure bud. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Nate’s back! But now he needs a partner, and finding the right option not only for Schmidt, but also for the rest of the blueline is easier said than done for the Golden Knights.

Last year eventual Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant paired Schmidt with either Luca Sbisa or Brayden McNabb for a majority of the season. As the season went on Schmidt played most of his time on the top pair with McNabb. Now, as Schmidt is set to return the question is, should he go back with McNabb or is there a better option?

If the Schmidt/McNabb pair is indeed once again reunited, not much else will change in the lineup. Colin Miller will slide down to play with Nick Holden and Shea Theodore and Deryk Engelland will remain together.

McNabb-Schmidt
Theodore-Engelland
Holden-Miller

However, an argument can be made that Miller and McNabb have been the best and most consistent pair, and maybe they shouldn’t be split up. Thus Schmidt would have to find a new home. Since Nate plays on the right side, there are really only two options for who he can play with, Theodore or Holden.

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Two Golden Knights Say VGK Played Well, Two Others Completely Disagree; The Divide Is Not Ideal

There hasn’t been nearly enough of this thus far. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are now 1-3-0 in their first four games of the season. Two points in four games is not going to make anyone happy. However, there is a bit of a sense that Vegas has been playing a little better than the scores have indicated at times.

Specifically, last night in Washington, the Golden Knights created plenty of goal scoring chances and got bit by the post a few times. To me, it was a well-played game for Vegas on the road against the best team in hockey. On most nights, especially at home, that level of play will win games, even with the few mistakes that were made. One Golden Knight and the Jack Adams award winner agree.

Maybe the score wasn’t relative to the game that was shown. We had a lot of posts, maybe three or four. We had the puck a lot. I thought it was probably one of our better games so far. It’s a good sign. We are getting chances, we are getting pucks to the net. We’re going to score at some point. -Marc-Andre Fleury

I thought we played a real good game 5-on-5, we got lots of scoring chances, their goalie played real well, so I liked a lot of our game but we gave them too many odd-man rushes and too many power plays. -Gerard Gallant

However, that sentiment was not shared by everyone in the locker room.

I don’t think this was our best game. We played like a team with no identity and if we are going to try and trade chances with the Capitals we aren’t going to win. It wasn’t our best and there are some things we can tighten up and I think awareness is something we can do a much better job with. -Reilly Smith

I just think as a whole we aren’t playing our game. We are taking too many penalties. It’s a long year but we have to figure out things quick. Our goal from this road trip is to be a .500 team and when we are playing like this, that’s not going to happen. We definitely have to work some things out and find our game. -Shea Theodore

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Shea Theodore Meets With The Media Following Signing Extension

Pay Now, Save Later, That’s The Idea On Shea Theodore’s Contract

The holdout is over!

At $5.2M per season, Shea Theodore becomes the Golden Knights highest paid defenseman (by far). The 23-year-old gets a big time raise that many believed he earned, including his General Manager.

If you’re going to do a long term deal, and short term deals but certainly long terms, then you have to get the right numbers. Really have to trust your instincts, trust the experience, trust the scouting reports from your pro staff, trust the analytics data, and make a good decision. We rely on all those resources to make a good decision and we think we made one here and time will tell. -George McPhee

Theodore and the team are happy with the deal, and of course the fans are too. But how did the organization fare committing to a seven-year deal? Remember, McPhee didn’t have to offer Theodore anymore than the required qualifying offer (around $1 million).

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When you peruse through the salaries of today’s NHL defenseman, $5M AAV suggests the player is a top 50 defensemen. Out of 227 signed NHL defensemen, Theodore’s new deal makes him the 45th highest paid defenseman in the league. Here are a few players right around his salary for this season.

Torrey Krug
Age: 27
Shoots: Left
5’9″, 185lbs
398 Games
235 Points (52 Goals, 183 Assists)
20:28 ATOI
0.59 Points Per Game
40.4 Point Share
+28
38 Playoff Games

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SHEA THEODORE (D) SIGNS 7 YEAR EXTENSION AT $5.2M AAV

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The stalemate is over. Shea Theodore has signed a 7-year contract worth $5.2 million AAV against the cap.

George McPhee said much of the negotiations were over the length of the contract. The team insisted on a long-term deal but Theodore and his agents were looking for a bridge deal that would lead Theodore to an even bigger deal in a few years.

The contract locks Theodore to the Golden Knights through the 2024-25 season with what McPhee described as “cost certainty.” In the eyes of the Golden Knights it may be a slight overpay for this year and next, but down the road, Theodore will be a steal at $5.2 million, especially if the cap continues to rise as projected.

Full George McPhee press conference below.

Golden Knights Defensemen Power Rankings

Brannstrom is on his way to forcing McPhee and Gallant into keeping him around. (Photo by Brandon Andreasen)

We are now over a week into training camp and have seen a pair of preseason games in which 32 different skaters have taken the ice for the Golden Knights. The impending suspension of Nate Schmidt and the possibility of Shea Theodore missing games with the contract negotiations has the blue line wide open heading into October 4th.

I like carrying eight defensemen and we’ve done it because some of the young guys weren’t really ready to be called up, so we wanted to carry eight. We’re carrying eight again next year. The good news is, we’ve got guys that can be called up this year. -George McPhee

Of course, there are still nearly three weeks of practice and six preseason games to sort it all out, but let’s take a look at how we think it shakes out as we speak.

This is a ranking of each defenseman in the Golden Knights system by the current level of play. This does not take into account things like suspension, holdout, waiver exempt status, contract, or likelihood to make the roster. These are my rankings, not necessarily how I believe the team would rank the players. (Nonetheless, admittedly, a lot of my beliefs come from decisions made by the front office and coaching staff on players.)

1) Nate Schmidt

Nate is in a class of his own on the Golden Knights blue line. He’s the only player currently even close to being considered a 1A defenseman, and even that can be debated either way. However, with the suspension, he’s unavailable for 20 games, so he won’t be an option for the Golden Knights come October 4th.

2) Brayden McNabb

Looking back on the contract, McNabb was an absolute steal for George McPhee. With Schmidt’s absence, McNabb will step into the role as the Golden Knights top defenseman. He’ll be relied upon to stop the opposing teams’ best players night in and night out for the first month and a half and will be the key penalty-killing defenseman as well. McNabb is much maligned at times, but the guy is a legit high-end shutdown defenseman and when paired with the right player, he and his partner can shine.

3) Colin Miller

Yes, Miller is rated above Theodore, and not because Theodore is not in camp, but because Miller is the more complete player at this moment. Give it a few years and Theodore will probably soar past him, but right now Miller has become acceptable (and probably even more than that) in his own end and he’s an absolute weapon in the offensive zone. He boasts the hardest shot on the team and he’s bound to have a mega offensive season playing a much more prominent role than a year ago.

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Recap Of George McPhee’s Presser On Max Pacioretty And The Impact Of What He Said

#67 is here to stay (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

George McPhee met with the media to talk about the trade for Max Pacioretty. Here’s absolutely everything you need to know about what he said and why it all matters.

  • Trade negotiations for Pacioretty began after the draft and it took a couple months to get done. It picked up considerably the last few days and then GM Marc Bergevin gave McPhee about seven hours to negotiate a contract with Pacioretty. The trade would not have happened at all if Vegas did not have a contract extension in place for Pacioretty. Trade with the team was contingent upon the deal with the player. The contracr extension was $28 million for 4 years or $7 million AAV against the salary cap.
    • Why it matters: This proves the Golden Knights would not have taken the risk to give up as much as they did if they did not have the guarntee that they would have Pacioretty for longer than just the one year. It also shows a bit of a template for what McPhee may be thinking in the Erik Karlsson deal. Not looking for a rental at this time, at least not at as steep of a price as he paid for Pacioretty.
  • McPhee confirmed a previous deal that Montreal had (reported as being the LA Kings) that did not work out because a contract extension could not be reached. Thus, Montreal was reluctant to allow Vegas to negotiate with Pacioretty before a deal was completed.
  • McPhee says he thinks Pacioretty fits well with the Golden Knights. Called him a scorer and a great two-way player that can play in all situations.
    • Why it matters: McPhee did not like the defense of the second line (Neal, Perron, Haula) last year. So he went out and acquired two strong defensive players that also have a lot of offensive potential. Pacioretty and Stastny will both help on power play and penalty kill. In McPhee’s mind the team is even better now than it was a year ago. (I agree.)
  • McPhee also specifically mentioned that Pacioretty has played for Gerard Gallant in the past (while Gallant was an assistant in Montreal).

We’ve added a couple of players in Stastny and Pacioretty that are very good two-way players, very good character people. So I hope that we are a better team than we were last year. Time will tell. -McPhee

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Still Seemingly No End In Sight For The Shea Theodore Contract Negotiations

Call it a holdout, call it a contract dispute, call it a player not showing up to camp because of a weird situation in the CBA, but whatever you call it, it’s starting to look and sound more and more likely that Shea Theodore will not be with the team when full training camp opens in less than a week.

Don’t call it a holdout. Or… Do call it a holdout. Doesn’t really matter either way. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Theodore remains without a contract and thus, he almost certainly (even though McPhee said he’s welcome to) won’t be in camp with his teammates. The situation remains a tricky one for the Golden Knights and Theodore because the team is only required to offer him a deal worth less than $1 million and the player’s only recourse to attempt to coax more money out of the Golden Knights is to “hold out” of camp and possibly even regular season games.

(If you are new to this situation, read this article, then this one and you should be caught up.)

GM George McPhee, speaking with the media at City National Arena yesterday did not make it sound like the two sides are on the verge of an agreement.

It’s always best to have all of your guys available, but I don’t feel any particular pressure. We’ll do a deal when the deal is right. If he’s not here, then someone else will play. -McPhee

He went into fairly good detail about why a deal is not in place yet.

It’s an interesting part of our collective bargaining agreement that there’s a group of players, like Shea, that don’t have arbitration rights. And as much as some people dislike arbitration, I’ve always liked it because it’s a tool to get a contract done. People get pressured into getting a deal done or you go to arbitration and you have a contract after arbitration. There’s a group of 10 or 15 good young players in the league that don’t have arb rights and don’t have contracts right now and it takes a while to work them out. It would be nice if they have arb rights because then it’d be done by now. -McPhee

What he’s really saying is that there’s no formal deadline, and because of it, there’s hardly any pressure for either side to bend their stance of what they want to get out of the negotiations.

Like every negotiation, it’s about leverage and timelines. Theodore’s only recourse to force the Golden Knights into seeing things his way (meaning giving him more money) is to stay away from the team, hoping his absence will be enough to change their mind.

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