There’s no sense in continuing to rehash the events of Tuesday’s third period of Game 7. What’s done is done.
If you feel like there’s a wee bit of vindication from the NHL apologizing to the Golden Knights and putting referees Dan O’Halloran and Eric Furlatt on the shelf for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I can’t say I blame you.
For some of you, you’re still pissed off at what took place and no amount of apologizing will change that. I understand that too. If you want to join general manager George McPhee and take the high road, fine.
But as we head to the remainder of spring and into the summer without hockey in Las Vegas, be prepared for the fact the team you love is going to look different come September when training camp opens.
How different? That remains to be seen. But it comes with the territory. No team stands completely pat, even when they win a Stanley Cup. So changes are coming.
McPhee has to get William Karlsson signed, hopefully, long term and at a reasonable price. Deryk Engelland and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare are unrestricted free agents. Both want to remain with the Golden Knights. Together, they made $2.95 million this season. Clearing their salaries could help with Karlsson though.
UFAs Brandon Pirri and Ryan Carpenter are less likely to remain. Tomas Nosek is an RFA but he too could find himself moving on.
Space needs to be created on the roster for Nikita Gusev and perhaps Cody Glass and Nic Hague, maybe Jimmy Schuldt. Erik Haula will be ready to resume his career after the gruesome knee injury he sustained in November.
And who knows what’s going to happen in the NHL Entry Draft in late June where the Golden Knights will pick 16th or 17th overall (depending on Colorado’s second round series). Will GMGM trade to move up? Will he trade down? Will he keep the pick and select someone the amateur scouting staff really covets?
They may lose assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon as well. Both Edmonton and Seattle are reportedly interested in bringing in McCrimmon on board as their general manager. And that piece of the plan may not be so easy to replace were McCrimmon to bolt Vegas though maybe Vaughn Karpan, the team’s director of player personnel, could be elevated into McCrimmon’s spot should he leave.
So believe it when I tell you this roster and opening night lineup figures to look different come October.
Hopefully the rules will be different too. McPhee was kinda lukewarm on the idea of being a proponent for change regarding the referees having the ability to look at replay to determine if a major penalty was committed. Owner Bill Foley had a much more definitive take:
I believe it should be a reviewable play, coaches challenge. I think a coach should be able to challenge in the playoffs. That’s going to be up to the league to make that determination. I believe the league is thinking about it and I think it’s going to be receptive to that kind of change. We will have a Board of Governors meeting here in a couple of months and I’m sure it will be brought up and we will talk about it. I think that will be a good solution, despite the fact the Sharks fans were going crazy over the perceived hit. If it would have been a coach’s challenge, it would have been reviewed and that wouldn’t have been a penalty. -Foley
When I asked GMGM directly about changing the rule, here was his response:
I don’t know how to answer that question. I think that’s for the league to determine, if they want to anything additional. If a five-minute penalty going to be called, should the referees review it to make sure they got it right? Or should they simply just call up to the supervisor upstairs, who has covered the whole series and that have the replays? They can tell the guys I have nothing on this one.
That’s for the league to determine and I haven’t thought it through. I have had a lot of time to think it through the last couple of nights since I haven’t slept, a lot of flashbacks. -McPhee
If I were a betting man on this issue, I’d put my money on Foley. I believe we will see a new policy adopted by the league for next season.
But let’s get back to what the roster is going to possibly look like for 2019-20. Karlsson had a very good season, and as I wrote earlier, if he had never scored 43 goals in 2017-18 this season would have represented his best as an NHLer after he scored 24 goals and finished with 56 points, second-best on the team this season.
Being an RFA, Karlsson doesn’t have the kind of leverage that say, John Tavares had a year ago when he was a UFA and bolted the Islanders for Toronto. I would expect the Knights to make him an offer in the $5 million range and given the fact the team at this moment has only $2.3 million in cap space, there’ll have to be some moving parts to even get it to that number. Forget Wild Bill getting Mark Stone money ($9.5 million AAV). That’s not feasible and it’s not happening.
The team indicated it wants to retain Karlsson. The player wants to stay in Vegas. They’ll get it done. Keeping Karlsson together with Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith is an important part of the team’s core.
Engelland and Bellemare are also important parts of the Knights. Both are part of the leadership group in the locker room. Engelland will always be a beloved figure in the team’s annals. You need only watch the tape of his “Vegas Strong” speech from Oct. 10, 2017.
But he is 37 years old. He has slowed down some. There are younger players waiting in the wings for their chance. Add to the fact Engelland’s not ready to hang up the blades and work in the front office only makes it tougher.
Bellemare has battled injuries his entire time with the Knights while playing on the fourth line. And while his penalty killing attributes are a strength, he could find himself expendable.
Well, you weigh every single thing when you make decisions. We will run through what the coaches think of the player, what the management thinks of the player and what the analytics department tells us about the player. What our pro-scouts tell us about the player, we put it all in the offer and then make decisions. We have really good people here. High character people here and we will make our decisions as we have to make them every year for what this team will look like going forward. -McPhee
Gallant thought his team defended well overall. I think the Knights will look to tighten things up defensively next season. The NHL is trending toward that and like every sport, it’s a copy-cat league. You watch the way the Islanders, St. Louis, Carolina and Dallas are performing in the playoffs and they are structured to slow down the pace of play and control the neutral zone.
The Knights also have to be convinced Malcolm Subban is their backup to Marc-Andre Fleury going forward. Subban is a pending RFA and he made just $650,000 this season. He might get a slight bump to remain with the team but at whatever price, he might provide too much value to go in a different direction.
There will be plenty of time for rest and for reflection in the weeks and months ahead. Some will use it as motivation. Others will not even think about it. One thing is certain — the Knights had the shortest recovery time along with Washington going from 2017-18 to 2018-19. That won’t be the case going into 2019-20.
Gerard Gallant had nothing but good to say about this year’s Knights, the disappointment of bowing out early from the postseason aside.
Great group. They battled hard, they competed hard. Like I said, we talk about last year a lot being the perfect season with no ups and downs but this year we had some. This year we had to battle and compete and find a way to make the playoffs. As we know, we got spoiled here pretty good. We got two years in a row in the playoffs and going to the Stanley Cup Final. So, it’s not easy to make the playoffs and our team played hard and I’m really proud of our team. –Gallant
Let’s allow the loquacious Nate Schmidt to have the last word in summing up the season:
There’s a lot of things that happened to our group this year. My thing that I will take away is, a mistake that happened for us to be able to look forward with this group and say we still have a lot of really great players, the best goaltender. We have a chance to win next year. You look at the adversity you went through, me personally, the adversity that I went through throughout the year, it is a lot of learning for our group, for myself, and learning what it’s like to go through things when it’s not easy.
It’s easy to be someone’s friend or easy to be a teammate when you are winning all the time and everything is great, but when things are hard that is when you really find out the character of a person, I think that is something that I went through and how the guys treated me throughout the whole thing. That’s why I look back through all the things you have been through, that is what makes the team stronger. -Schmidt
He’ll be back for sure. So will a lot of others. And that’s a good thing going forward for this team when they gather for training camp at City National Arena come September.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**