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What Do The Golden Knights Look Like Without William Karlsson?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Sometime in the next 2 months, William Karlsson will file for arbitration as a restricted free agent. At that point, the most important contract negotiation in the history of the Vegas Golden Knights will officially be on the clock.

Don’t believe me on that claim? Keep reading.

The options are endless with what might happen with Karlsson moving forward. One year deal, bridge, long-term, arbitration, offer sheet, trade, you name it, the ultimate outcome of the negotiations could go any which way.

Each option leads the Golden Knights down a different path, and the concern for many Vegas fans (and tall skinny bald dudes who write about the team) is that it could end up seeing #71 on the back of a different jersey before too long.

As crazy as it may sound, there are multiple ways Karlsson ends up with another team, as soon as this offseason; especially if he values money above all else. So, I thought, let’s take a look at what the Golden Knights roster would look like without him. Then, we’ll all head to the Vatican and tell the newest VGK fan to urge McPhee, McCrimmon, and company to not let this happen.

The first issue is who would fill the void on the “first line.” The answer likely isn’t simple as the Golden Knights only true replacement for Karlsson are prospects. Paul Stastny, Cody Eakin, and Erik Haula are all very different players than Karlsson. Karlsson is a well-rounded center who excels at just about every aspect of the game aside from faceoffs. He’s superb defensively, he drives offense, he scores, he has excellent vision, his stamina is second to none, and he makes the right play 99 times out of 100.

Vegas’ other centers are all excellent players, but none have all the assets of Karlsson. This being said, Cody Glass, Ivan Morozov, Paul Cotter, or whoever Vegas picks at 17 in the upcoming draft may, we just don’t know yet. Glass is obviously the closest, but even he probably isn’t going to be ready to be a top-six center in the NHL in 2019-20 or even 2020-21. Morozov and Cotter definitely aren’t ready, and the draft pick only has a chance if the Golden Knights move up from 17 (and even then it’s a longshot).

Cody Eakin would likely get the spot, but even if he thrives, it still leaves a major void down the Golden Knights depth chart. It would almost certainly force the Golden Knights to bring back Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and/or Ryan Carpenter, and it might even lead to Tomas Nosek becoming a full-time center.

Otherwise, we’re looking at T.J. Tynan (UFA), Gage Quinney, or Brooks Macek (UFA) from within the system or someone from the outside coming in. Realistically, we’re talking about a player like Marcus Johansson, Colin Wilson, Ryan Dzingel, or Tyler Ennis. And even then, the price may be too high as the Golden Knights would be looking for a bargain.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Despite their best efforts, center depth has become an issue for the Golden Knights, and it only puts more pressure on the front office to get it right with Karlsson.

Being without Karlsson looks bad in 2019-20, but it looks even worse down the road. Stastny is 33-years-old and has just two years left on his contract. Eakin is 27 and in his prime, but he’s coming up on the final year of his deal as well. Bellemare and Carpenter could both be gone by July 1st, and Haula and Nosek appear to be slated as wingers in the Golden Knights system.

So, without Karlsson, there’s a massive reliance on two things, youth (which they don’t have a ton of) and free agency (which they don’t have money to spend in, or else they’d have kept Karlsson).

The fact of the matter is, aside from Marc-Andre Fleury and Mark Stone, William Karlsson is the next most important player on the team, and I could even make a case to put him above those two.

That’s why, this has to get figured out, and not just for now, but for the future. Strength up the middle is critical in today’s NHL. The Golden Knights have it right now with Karlsson, Stastny, and Eakin manning the top three center spots, but without #71, what was a strength turns to a massive weakness.

In the end, for a variety of reasons, I really don’t think William Karlsson is going anywhere, but until he, his agent, and the Golden Knights front office figure it out, it has to be considered.

And when considered, it makes you realize how important he is to this roster, and it makes me want to go cry in a corner somewhere.

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18 Comments

  1. LeAnna

    Sad to think he wouldnt be here, I feel he is a very integral part of this team
    Very important to keep him

  2. Mike

    We can’t keep them all. Karlsson is the most valuable free agent of ours in my opinion. Others would have to be cut or not re-signed in order for his pay to fit under the cap. It’s time to trust a prospect or two to fill a bottom 6 spot or bottom of the D rotation.

  3. Carl

    I might join you in the corner for a cry, Ken, if Wild Bill leaves.

  4. RICHARD

    No way is he leaving this year. Worst case scenario he signs a 1 yr deal through arbitration and we figure it out next year.

  5. the hockey god

    wolves going to calder cup conf. finals , beat Wild affiliate in six games : https://theahl.com/ahl_videos/wild-vs-wolves-game-6

  6. Christopher Smith

    If he could play the entire season like he did in the playoffs, I’m all for keeping him. Bit he looked slow skating this season and he passed the puck so many times when he could have easily taken a shot. He was so hesitant to shoot the puck. I swear he was worried about his shot percentage going too low. In your theory, we have not enough center depth. Why not clear out some of the wingers and keep the centers?

  7. David Owens

    Pretty sure center is our strongest position, and has been since the expansion draft.
    Haula, Marshy, & Nosek were all centers when they were drafted by us.
    Every top draft pick we’ve made has been a center a well. First 2 picks in ’17 and the first pick in ’18. We’ve actually drafted 8 centers in two years.
    Glass is the highest pick in ’17 to have not yet played in the NHL. Maybe he doesn’t play top 6, but third line center is an option even if Karlsson stays.
    I’m not saying I want to trade W. Karlsson, but you make it sound like we aren’t prepared for this.

    • So, say Karlsson is gone, what do the 4 centers look like in your mind on Opening Day?

      • David

        Could easily be Statsny, Haula, Glass and Eakin

        • Think you are dreaming there on two fronts. First, I don’t believe the organization sees Haula as a center and second Glass being a third line center is a lot to ask for next year for him.

          • David Owens

            Glass has to play eventually. Like I said, he’s one of the few 1st rounders to not play in the NHL from that class, and definitely the highest drafted one.
            This is what the cap does to teams, and we’re fully in it now.

        • David Owens

          The best case scenario is finding a taker for Eakin, Miller and Holden. Then we’re in good shape as long as the kids can step up on D.

  8. No mention of Nikita Gusev in this article. Hmmm

  9. Mark Gallagher

    Come on Knights re-sign William Karlsson or we may not make a postseason berth next spring.

  10. Johnny

    It’s a tough spot for both parties. Wild Bill said he believe he can be closer to the 40 goal scorer of last year which means he’s going to want money somewhat close to that. When you drop 20 goals and 20 assist it’s going to be hard to get that type of money.

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