The Golden Knights entered this past offseason with a Stanley Cup caliber roster. They were stacked at forward, coming off a season where they finished among the league’s best defensively and had a bevy of prospects coming up, and still had one of the best goaltenders in the world.
However, there was too much money on the books. The CBA allows teams to exceed the salary cap by up to 10% during the offseason, but they must get back down under the cap on the first day of the regular season. So, Vegas needed to shed some money, and thus, a few players.
The conventional wisdom would have been to start by singling out the players with the highest salary coupled with the lowest performance expectations for the 2019-20 season. Send those guys packing, get under the cap, and head into the regular season with as dominant a team as possible.
The Golden Knights opted for a different route, one that may have ended up working out even better, though it came with risks, a bit of a price, and ended up costing a head coach his job.
The trades in many respects brings full circle the strategy that we went into the offseason with last year in a situation where we were over the salary cap. We had to make some decisions that involved veteran players, roster players, and we wanted to acquire draft picks in return to build capital for decisions and moves just like this. -Kelly McCrimmon
That’s the official explanation of the Golden Knights strategy. Let me explain it in more detail.
In moving contracts during the Summer to become cap compliant, the Golden Knights strategy was to harvest as many draft picks as possible. They traded Colin Miller for a 2nd round pick. Nikita Gusev went for a 2nd and a 3rd. And Erik Haula was moved for a young player in Nic Roy and a 5th. Instead of trying to make their roster better before opening night, they wanted to create a bank of “capital” they could cash in 145 days later at the trade deadline.
The thinking is fairly simple, yet when the onion is peeled back, there’s a lot more to it. The simple idea is that having this bank of capital will allow the team to make moves and improve their team at the deadline without having to sacrifice any significant players off the roster in season. 145 days, 62 games, and a heck of a lot of hockey will give them a better understanding of what the team needs in order to win the Cup than they had back in June and July. Tear it down now so we can rebuild it more intelligently later.
And that’s exactly what they did. They turned those “bank of capital” picks into Chandler Stephenson, Alec Martinez, Robin Lehner, and Nick Cousins, while only having to give up Cody Eakin off the roster.
It looks like a significant roster upgrade at the deadline, but in reality, it’s just replacing what they had eight months ago.
Here, take a look at how it all broke down from June 27th to February 24th.
Three forwards in, three forwards out. One defenseman in, one defenseman out. Two goalies in, one goalie out, and a net loss of one draft pick and one prospect.