With the trade deadline fast approaching, the buzz around the Golden Knights is almost squarely focused on the third line. It’s a line with only one stable piece, the center, Cody Eakin, and filled with imperfect wingers such as Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov, Tomas Nosek, Ryan Carpenter, and Oscar Lindberg.
Most, including all three who write on this website, believe for the Golden Knights to reach the top of the mountain, something needs to change with that line. Whether it’s an addition from within, a piece added at the deadline, or reinforcements from the current top six, here at SinBin.vegas, we see the third line as the primary weakness for the Golden Knights.
The head coach, who happens to be the reigning Jack Adams award winner, does not agree.
I want them to keep doing what they are doing. People make a big deal of it that supposedly they don’t score enough. I don’t. We’ve got guys who can put the puck in the back of the net. Those guys have to come out and play their roles. I love a lot about our hockey team, I’m not too concerned at all. -Gerard Gallant
The emergence of scoring wizard Brandon Pirri, coupled with injuries to Colin Miller and Max Pacioretty, and the waiver claim of Valentin Zykov has left the Golden Knights in a roster pickle, with 25 players and only 23 available spots.
There are a few questions on just about every Golden Knights fan’s mind and we’ll attempt to answer every single one in this article. Read on.
As of this moment, the Golden Knights roster stands at 23 with Colin Miller and Max Pacioretty on IR.
Pacioretty skated with the team in practice yesterday, is expected to do so again, and will likely play either tomorrow or Sunday. Miller skated before practice yesterday, will likely do so again today, and shouldn’t be much more than a week or so away from making his return to the Golden Knights lineup.
Valentin Zykov was claimed on waivers from the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. Per NHL rules, if the Golden Knights want to keep Zykov, he must remain on the NHL roster for the remainder of the season.
Brandon Pirri has scored six goals in seven games with the Golden Knights and has played on the 2nd line with Alex Tuch and Paul Stastny in all seven games. Per NHL rules, Pirri is allowed to be sent back to the AHL without clearing waivers if he does not play in 10 games OR is on the active roster for fewer than 30 days. Thus, if he plays three more games or is on the roster for another 15 days, he would have to once again clear waivers to be sent back to the AHL.
Through 43 games, Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Carpenter, Tomas Nosek, Pierre-Edouard-Bellemare, Max Pacioretty and Ryan Reaves are the only forwards on the roster to have been scratched by Gerard Gallant without being on IR. Reaves, Pacioretty, and Bellemare were each scratched once and they all are believed to be injury or family/medical related. Carpenter has been scratched three times, Nosek has been scratched four times, and Lindberg has been scratched 23 times. However, in the past six games that Gallant has had to choose two of those three, he has scratched each one of them two times. The most recent player to be scratched was Nosek.
Reading Into It
I was specifically warned against doing this, but what’s the point of the Internet if not to do things people tell you not to and make them angry (Sorry, I’m not sorry Turk).
Let’s start with Zykov as he’s the biggest unknown of all of this. The Golden Knights could instantly clear one spot on their roster by immediately putting Zykov back on waivers. That would allow either Pacioretty or Miller to come off IR and the roster remain at 23.
However, Gallant made a comment in a recent press conference that he started watching film on Zykov “the first time he went on waivers” which indicates that Vegas may have wanted him originally. They did not have priority so he went to Edmonton, then when he hit waivers again, Vegas claimed him and got him. Thus, it makes sense that this is not a short-term rental that won’t be given a chance, but instead that McPhee/Gallant see something they like and they want to give him a shot.
He’s expected to finally make it into the country today after having some immigration issues. He’ll probably practice a few times with the team before getting in a game, but if he remains on the roster when Pacioretty comes back, it should be expected that he gets at least some game action with the Golden Knights.
So, let’s say we expect him to stay, at least for a little while. When Pacioretty comes off IR someone is going to have to be taken off the roster to comply to the 23 man limit.
The easiest option would be for another injured player to be placed on IR. At the moment, the Golden Knights do not have any other players we believe to be injured. In January of last season, when VGK was in a similar bind, Jon Merrill was placed on IR with what was described as an “undisclosed injury,” to make room for Luca Sbisa who came off IR. Clearly, it is against the rules to declare a player that is not injured, injured, however, don’t be completely stunned if there’s a surprise injury that we were unaware of that leads to an IR stint which opens a roster spot for Pacioretty.
If that were not to happen, then McPhee would have to choose one player to be sent back to Chicago. The most likely options are the three forwards previously mentioned (Carpenter, Lindberg, or Nosek), one of the commonly scratched defensemen (Merrill or Hunt) or Brandon Pirri. Before we move on, let’s address Pirri.
Can you really send Pirri back to the AHL?
The short answer is yes, they absolutely can, and the reason is not that he’s not good enough to be on this team. The main reason is that if he doesn’t hit that 10th game, he’s the only guy on the roster (aside from Tuch and we know that’s not happening) that can go to the AHL without risk of being lost on waivers.
The play of the game. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Unlike baseball where there’s one pitch or football where there’s one play, hockey is not a game that is often decided, or even swung, by an individual moment in a game. However, during the game against Anaheim, Tomas Nosek and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare combined to make a play that flipped the course of that game and if all goes well, could end up changing the course of the season.
It came late in a somewhat sloppily played first period. The Golden Knights had taken a penalty and appeared like they could be headed for the all too familiar fate of falling behind early. The penalty kill begins with Bellemare winning the draw, Brayden McNabb clears the puck, and the Golden Knights stop the first entry. But then, the Ducks maintain possession for 20 more seconds before setting up a shot from the high slot. It’s wired, Bellemare courageously blocks it, he then finds it first and springs Nosek into open ice. Here, give it a watch.
Nosek picks up the puck and drives directly toward the goal drawing a penalty, thus killing off the current penalty and earning Vegas a power play. But it’s not just the block and the breakaway, it’s when it happened in the shift. Penalty kill shifts are meant to be as short as possible, :20-:30 is great for forwards. Once you can safely change, you are supposed to do it. The normal play there would have been to send the puck down and get off the ice, but Nosek dug deep into his gas tank, already :50 seconds into the shift, and went straight to the net.
One was signed before the Expansion Draft, another was selected in the Expansion Draft, and the third was acquired at the trade deadline. Tomas Hyka, Tomas Nosek, and Tomas Tatar combined to play 97 games for the Golden Knights in 2017-18 in which they scored 12 goals and tallied 12 assists.
Aside from a few magical moments from Nosek and a couple solid postseason efforts from Tatar, the trio of Tomases were nothing but role players for the Golden Knights in their run to the Stanley Cup Final.
In 2018-19, that should change.
By letting David Perron and James Neal leave via free agency and signing just one NHL-caliber forward, George McPhee has signaled that he believes the team has enough fire-power already within the organization to pick up the 90 points he let walk out the door.
That’s where the Tomases come in. All three should have expanded roles as Tatar is expected to move up the depth chart to become a second line winger, Nosek has a legitimate shot at making his way onto the third (or even second) line and any production out of Hyka would be a bonus compared to the Brendan Leipsic era.
More of this would be good. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Tatar is a perennial 20 goal scorer but never hit his stride after coming over from Detroit at the deadline. He’s almost certainly going to be placed in a more offensive role, likely playing with some combination of Erik Haula, Paul Stastny, and Alex Tuch. Tatar posted a 94.0 PDO in his 20 game stint with the Golden Knights, a full five points below his career average, and the worst on-ice shooting percentage for and on-ice shooting percentage against numbers of his career. These are heavy indicators that as poor as Tatar appeared, it’s probable he’ll bounce back. (If you forgot what PDO is, click here) He’s the not-so-secret weapon. A weapon the Golden Knights can’t afford to have struggle again.
All three of… (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
The Golden Knights made “news” yesterday by confirming William Karlsson, Colin Miller, and Tomas Nosek have all filed for arbitration. In reality, this isn’t really news at all. However, based on the wide range of reactions we received on Twitter, Facebook, and face-to-face, it feels like a good time to explain how this all works and why the three Golden Knights filing for arbitration is not a good or bad thing for either the player or the team.
In the NHL, when a player reaches the end of a contract they are placed into one of three categories.
Unrestricted free agent (UFA)
Any player 27 years old or older
Any player with 7 seasons in the NHL
Restricted free agent with arbitration rights (RFA)
Younger than 27 years old
Meets experience requirement based on age when signed first contract. (10 NHL or AHL games = 1 year)
24-27 years old when signed = 1 year of NHL experience
22-23 years old when signed = 2 years of NHL experience
21 years old when signed = 3 years of NHL experience
18-20 years old when signed = 4 years of NHL experience
Restricted free agent (RFA)
James Neal, David Perron, Luca Sbisa, and Ryan Reaves were all older than 27, so they all became UFA’s.
William Karlsson -20 y/o when signed + 5 years experience = RFA w/ arb Colin Miller -20 y/o when signed + 5 years experience = RFA w/ arb Tomas Nosek -22 y/o when signed + 4 years experience = RFA w/ arb Shea Theodore -20 y/o when signed + 3 years experience = RFA William Carrier – 20 y/o when signed + 3 years experience = RFA
That brings us to the difference between the three categories. In short, the difference is how much freedom a player has to negotiate.
An unrestricted free agent (UFA), as the name suggests, has no restrictions. He can solicit offers from all teams and can sign with whichever one he pleases.
A restricted free agent (RFA) on the other hand can only negotiate with his current team and is not free to leave for a new team. If the team wants to retain the player, he will be extended a “qualifying offer” and must sign it if he would like to remain in the NHL. If the team does not extend the qualifying offer he then becomes a UFA and is free to sign with any team.
(The Golden Knights offered qualifying offers to all of their RFAs. William Karlsson, Tomas Nosek, William Carrier, Colin Miller, Shea Theodore, Teemu Pulkkinen, Philip Holm, Oscar Dansk)
An RFA with arbitration rights has one more step in leveraging a better contract. Rather than being forced to sign the qualifying offer, he can choose to file for arbitration. In other words, he can ask for a raise.
So, let’s go through the steps of the process for RFA’s without arbitration rights, like Theodore and Carrier.
Step 1: Team decides if they want to retain each player
If yes: Extend qualifying offer
If no: Do not extend qualifying offer (Player is released)
Step 2: Player signs qualifying offer
That’s it. The player has no negotiating power and is essentially stuck signing the offer. The dollar value of a qualifying offer is determined by the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The team hands the player a contract and their either sign it or leave the NHL.
The process for RFA’s with arbitration rights, like Karlsson, Miller, and Nosek adds one more step, giving the player that bit of negotiating power. Rather than being forced to sign the qualifying offer, the player can file for arbitration. Arbitration means both sides will present how much they believe the player is worth and then a third party will decide the contract the team and player will sign. Of course, the player must remain with their original team, so the negotiating power is significantly less than that of a UFA who can negotiate with all teams.
Tomas Nosek has a knack for the big goal. He scored the 1st goal in T-Mobile Arena history too. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Tomas Nosek’s Game 1 winning goal was a Stanley Cup moment we’ll see for years to come. The men behind the tiebreaker were understandably laughing, smiling and in quite the jovial mood the following day.
In those type of games you just want to get pucks on the net and create a rebound. He made a good play popping out and a lane just kinda opened right up, and I found it. -Shea Theodore
Theodore’s first thought was to shoot the puck but hesitated because his aim was off earlier in the game.
A couple of plays earlier I tried walking in and had a terrible shot that missed the net. You go through ups and downs throughout games. -Theodore
Nosek created open space off to the side of the net, allowing Theodore to make a beautiful pass.
At this time of the year no shot is a bad shot. You want to get pucks to the net and create rebounds. You want to create some havoc around there. -Theodore
The 25-year-old Czech showed immense emotions in Game 1, something Golden Knights fans don’t often see from #92. At one point in the game, Nosek skated back to the bench and repeatedly slammed his stick on the boards. It was clear he was frustrated about something.
It was probably after the Oshie hit. There’s a lot of emotions in a game and sometimes you need relief a little bit. -Tomas Nosek
Is that why Nosek erupted in celebration after scoring his game-winning goal?
Maybe, yeah. It’s the Stanley Cup Final, you don’t get a chance to play in it every day. When you score a goal, and you help your team win a game. It’s perfect. -Nosek
Both players are relishing the moment of playing on the NHL’s biggest stage. They’re feeling confident and ready to make an impact in Game 2. Nosek and Theodore are normally reserved on the ice, so fans should appreciate the emotions in the Stanley Cup Finals. Because it’s working.
It was always going to be special, just how special though was yet to be seen. The opening game of the Stanley Cup Final, in Las Vegas, with an expansion team taking the ice. The stage was massive and the expectation was for something never seen before.
This site was created to follow a hockey team, one that just won a game in the Stanley Cup Final, so we kind of have to start with the actual hockey. Thus, we’ll go at it backwards, beginning with the empty netter to seal the win and ending with some combination of Lil Jon, Travis Barker, Lee Greenwood.
William Karlsson scored, but his line tallied an uncharacteristic 0 +/- rating. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
The Golden Knights hockey team cannot be defined in one way like many often attempt to, and on the biggest stage the sport has to offer, they proved it once again. Most of this postseason it’s been about Marc-Andre Fleury’s dominance between the pipes, yet tonight was far from his best. The Golden Knight defense has been carrying the torch slowing down the potent Jets and Sharks and allowing the Kings virtually nothing, yet tonight, they were a kind of a mess. The top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith can usually be leaned on to dominate stretches of the game, yet tonight they were hot and cold.
Normally when plans A, B, and C go by the wayside a team is sunk Not the Golden Knights because they have narratives for days. Tonight’s is not a new one at all, it’s one that’s followed them all year and is constantly referenced even when not on display in a game. Tonight was about depth.
It’s great when you see those guys get rewarded. They got three huge goals for us tonight. -Gerard Gallant
After playing a series in which there were zero lead changes in five games, the Golden Knights and Capitals Game 1 saw four, the most in the history of a Stanley Cup Final game. The last one was because of a trio of unanswered goals from none other than Ryan Reaves and Tomas Nosek, who scored two.
Sometimes we can’t create a lot of offense, tonight somehow it bounced right for us. It’s not really magical play we are doing, there’s not really a crazy recipe. We are just trying to outwork who we are playing against and tonight we got rewarded. -Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
The storylines are always different, but kinds of remain the same. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
There are so many different weapons in the Golden Knights arsenal. If it’s not Fleury, it’s the defense. If it’s not the defense, it’s the top line. If it’s not the top line, it’s the depth players. If it’s not the depth players it’s luck or bounces or opportunity or something completely else. In the end, no matter the path, it usually results in the same thing, a win.
But the night was not just about the on-ice product, it was everything. Gladys Knight, Criss Angel, Lee Greenwood, Lil Jon, and of course Michael Buffer. Like the Expansion Draft with the players, it didn’t all make sense, no one really knew how or if it would all fit, but it did.
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: SinBin.vegas 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.
Could use a little more of this in Game 5. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)
Vegas is a team known for its ability to use all four lines in a game. Prior to the series, we talked about San Jose having the same luxury, and it showed on Wednesday night.
It’s important for us to use everybody and try to save energy. We want to make sure our top guys are fresh. Those are the guys that carry the mail for us. -Eric Fehr, San Jose forward
In Game 4, San Jose’s fourth line of Melker Karlsson, Marcus Sorensen, and Fehr were +3 with 2 points (on an illegal “pick” play). Depth scoring is essential in the postseason, but like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s line, San Jose’s fourth isn’t expected to score. Both Coaches expect their depth forwards to clog, pressure, dump, check, eat minutes, and maintain the score.
It was kind of a mix and match. As the game went on we were really just trying to win our matchup with whoever was out there. -Fehr
Fehr logged 12:24 TOI, and created issues for Vegas whenever the center hit the ice. He was four out of five in neutral zone draws, and 70% overall from the faceoff circle. Fehr’s line quieted both third line wingers David Perron and Tomas Tatar. Cody Eakin’s second period shot was the only one on net for the Golden Knights third line the entire night.
We want to do our part when we’re out there chipping in. -Fehr
Fehr sounds like Bellemare after a successful Golden Knights game. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic couldn’t speak enough about the importance of San Jose’s role players.
It’s our depth that has helped us get this far. The guys that don’t play as much as other guys have stepped up. Played their role and we’re getting contributions from all four lines. Which is what you need in the playoffs. -Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose defenseman
When the Golden Knights get the most out of their fourth line, the game is in VGK’s control. Vegas will deploy the Bellemare-Nosek-Carrier line to win situational matchups throughout the game. When Vegas isn’t getting their normal production from the fourth line it makes Jack Adams finalist Gerard Gallant’s job of balancing lines more difficult. Same goes for the other side.
Well we wouldn’t be here without it. Our guys have recognized the importance of depth and depth scoring for teams that find a way to win. -Pete DeBoer, San Jose head coach
Gallant should expect a bounce back game by his entire team tonight, including Bellamare and the fourth line. Depth can be the difference in this series, and Vegas has the horses to pull it off. It’s just a matter of which team’s fourth line can be more effective, and up in San Jose, it wasn’t the Golden Knights.