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Author: Jason Pothier Page 1 of 57

Can Vegas Find A Friend in New Jersey?

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The New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights are opposites in every which way. They both play on different coasts, the Golden Knights are built to win right now, and the Devils are way under the cap. However, the Devils are a team that may end up being one of the busiest clubs of the offseason. Sure, they’re interested in building a roster and spending money on the open market but 31 other teams might bring it directly to them. Including the Golden Knights.

We’ve talked about the Vegas goaltending and I think Lehner is the guy they’re kind of looking at. Fleury’s got one more year, who knows what he’s going to be looking at in a year. Lehner’s got some term. That one makes a bit of sense for me for Jersey. –Elliotte Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

Based on consistent comments by the organization it’s unlikely Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner gets dealt but it’s interesting to hear that there is a market.

I do think they legitimately want to improve. I don’t think for them this is simply going to be about eating deals to help out other teams. I think they want functionality. –Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

The Devils like their young goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood but by no means are they solidified in net. Clearly, if New Jersey traded for the Golden Knights secondary starter it would be a major upgrade. So what would Vegas get out of the deal?

With $31.5M in cap room the Devils are in a position to act like an old chum to financially strapped teams. As Friedman explains New Jersey wants to get better but is willing to take advantage of cap-strapped teams looking for a bailout.

Would it hurt the Golden Knights organization if they were to pay a high tax (picks, prospects) to unload $5M in flexibility? Of course, but it depends on what the end result is. Without Lehner the goalie tandem wouldn’t be the best in the NHL, but one of the best teams in the NHL became $5M more dangerous in the playoffs. With a creative front office like the Golden Knights have, anything is possible with that amount of cap room.

The definite feeling about the Golden Knights is they want to open up some cap room. The Devils can do that, they can take advantage of that. I don’t think it’s simply going to be ‘Hey, we’re going to use our cap space to help other people get out of theirs.’ I think it’s ‘Hey, we’re going to use our cap space and if you want us to take some one you may have to pay us.’ –Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

The Devils aren’t just useful to the Golden Knights by helping them unload a goaltender but they could take on other contracts as well. It just depends on how badly Vegas wants to shed salary and get out of cap stress.

GM For A Day: Jason’s 2021-22 Vegas Golden Knights

Welcome to GM For A Day, the second in a pair of articles in which the founders of SinBin.vegas take control of the Vegas Golden Knights and reshape the team in a way we each believe will bring the Stanley Cup to Las Vegas.

These articles are NOT meant to be taken as a prediction as to what we believe is going to happen this offseason. This is what we would do, not what we think the Golden Knights will do (that article is coming tomorrow).

Today, I (Jason) am on the hot seat. Let’s go.

Here we go…

*TRADE: Marc-Andre Fleury + 2022 3rd round pick to Toronto Maple Leafs for center Alex Kerfoot + 2022 2nd round pick and 2023 2nd round pick*

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In a flat cap world, there’s no way I can continue to allocate $12M in goaltending. As general manager, I would entertain every inquiry coming in from opposing front offices. In the long run, the NHL is a cold, hard business and it wouldn’t be a secret that I’m looking to move a goaltender. I understand that it could hurt my negotiations but in the end I’m trying to move money and build some depth.

There are contending teams with issues in net and one that could use a steady tender like Fleury is the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs are loaded with talent but consistently underachieve in the playoffs. Adding a leader that just so happens to be the Vezina winner would be a big confidence boost for a franchise that hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1967.

To make it work I asked for center Alex Kerfoot ($3.5M x 2) to help my club down the middle. I considered asking for defenseman Morgan Reilly but he’s on an expiring contract with an AAV of $5M. At that rate, I would find a way to re-sign Alec Martinez. At a $3.5M AAV Kerfoot isn’t exactly cheap, but he’s only locked in for two more seasons. Personally, I don’t love the trade, but it was necessary. It gave me agita dealing Fleury over last season’s mismanagement. Finally fixing the roster to pay just one one starting goaltender allows for much-needed cap relief, a solid third line center and a future draft asset we can use as capital at the deadline.

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Reilly Smith Could Be The Right Bait This Offseason

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Every offseason it’s inevitable that there will be roster turnover and fans will be disappointed when the news breaks. It’s happened in each of the Golden Knights’ previous summers. After the inaugural season fan-favorite, David Perron, and several others were left out in free agency. The following year it was Erik Haula who departed after a season-long injury. Then after last year’s postseason exit, Vegas moved lovable defenseman Nate Schmidt in order to make room for Alex Pietrangelo. It might suck for fans but it’s just real the business side of hockey.

We’ve seen this reaction from the Golden Knights front office before, when they don’t win they get itchy. Rumors swirl and of course Vegas is always in the middle. Just last season, reports were the front office was attempting to unload Marc-Andre Fleury and/or Pacioretty’s contracts. Currently, the Golden Knights are apparently one of the teams haggling for Buffalo Sabres’ malcontent Jack Eichel.

What fan wouldn’t want to root for Eichel? Vegas fans would sure like to, but like last offseason, they won’t be thrilled when a popular player or two will no longer be Golden Knights. In order to upgrade there has to be casualties. The trade bait we’re talking about today is one of the few remaining original Misfits, Reilly Smith.

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It’s Time For Alex Tuch To Crack The Top Six

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If you’ve watched every Golden Knights game or just a few over the past four years, you’ve seen the talent level of Alex Tuch. It’s tough to miss. He’s big, fast, and incredibly skilled. Three attributes many NHL players weren’t born with.

After 255 games played with Vegas, it’s hard not to wonder if Tuch’s been used properly. A clear top-six forward on most NHL teams, the 25-year-old has been largely relegated to an inconsistent third line with no identity for four straight seasons. So when will the organization, coach Pete DeBoer, and Tuch himself, decide to make that leap and become a top scoring option for Vegas?

I’ve taken on a role of being able to move up and down the lineup. Honestly, it isn’t my decision whether or not I’m playing on the first two lines or the second two lines. I come here to do a job and that’s to play hockey and to do that to the best of my abilities. Whatever management, coaching staff feel where I should slot in the lineup that’s their decision and I’m never going to complain about that. -Alex Tuch, 06/26/21

I know he’s considered the seventh forward in the top six but it’s fair to argue if Tuch were given more shifts and better linemates he would become Vegas’ most lethal threat. I’m not ignoring Max Pacioretty’s natural ability to net pucks but Tuch is bigger, younger, and possesses a nasty release as well.

Perhaps the Misfit line’s chemistry is too consistent to break up. However, after back-to-back premature playoff exits, it’s possible there will be some roster shuffling. I’m not advocating trading a reliable two-way forward like Reilly Smith to shake things up, but to collect assets, cap relief, and create roster space it might made sense, especially with Tuch waiting in the wings.

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Playoff Pietrangelo Proves He’s Worth The Money

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When the Golden Knights inked All-Star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to a jaw-dropping $61.6M contract it sent a strong message to the rest of the NHL. In the past Vegas’ front office gleefully spoke about “big game hunting,” and they did just that by signing the former St. Louis Blues captain to a 7 year/$8.8m AAV contract. In the end the money was well spent, even if the majority was earned in 19 postseason games.

At first glance, or really first 34 glances, the 2019 Stanley Cup champion looked pedestrian. Sharp skating, good defense but he was a step behind. Surely, Pietrangelo needed time to fit and understand coach Pete DeBoer’s plan of attack. Local fans are familiar with adjustment periods after Max Pacioretty’s leap in year two as a Golden Knight. Either way, the 31-year-old didn’t impress right out of the gate.

Pietrangelo’s First 34 Regular Season Games
2.78 Shots Per Game
0.47 Points Per Game
17 Points (4 Goals, 13 Assists)

The 2008 4th overall pick began showing signs of improvement with less than a month remaining in the regular season. It was almost like Pietrangelo said to himself ‘it’s go time.’ From that moment forward the slick shooting, right-handed defenseman became more involved offensively and was, for extended periods, the Golden Knights most lethal weapon. Vegas’ alternate captain was increasingly more comfortable and more impactful when the games mattered the most.

Pietrangelo’s Final 7 Regular Season Games
4.3 Shots Per Game
0.85 Points Per Game
6 Points (3 Goals, 3 Assists)

The last seven games of the regular season were a postseason warm-up for Pietrangelo. In 19 postseason games, the first-year Golden Knight was arguably Vegas’ most reliable skater. He finished the postseason leading the team in minutes played, shots on net, and power play points. Only William Karlsson had more playoff points and points per game. The 31-year-old played up to his pricey contract and performed like a Stanley Cup winning captain.

Pietrangelo In 19 Postseason Games
4.0 Shots Per Game
0.63 Points Per Game
12 Points (3 Goals, 3 Assists)

Over his career the 13-year veteran has averaged 0.59 points per game, its nearly identical to his 0.56 points per playoff game. As Vegas fans painfully know, points are tougher to come by in the postseason.

To be honest, I thought the conversation after year one would be how Pietrangelo’s contract would end up financially haunting the organization. Based on his early play, you couldn’t blame management for having some buyer’s remorse, but then playoff Pietrangelo appeared and the cost and commitment didn’t matter. The front office paid for the player fans watched in June, not January.

Who’s To Blame For The Golden Knights Underachieving… Again

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It’s a sad moment for fans when a hockey season abruptly ends like it did last Thursday. Reality sets in when a Cup run is over and the 31st franchise will have to wait another year for a chance at the ultimate prize. Unfortunately, the truth is, this was another wasted season for the Golden Knights. For the second straight year, Vegas faced an inferior opponent and couldn’t find a way to force a game seven. Their leaders, coaches, and framers failed again and almost identically in back-to-back years.

Against Montreal, the Golden Knights outshot the Canadiens 193 to 165 yet had two fewer goals in the Semifinals. Keep in mind the Canadiens were the 15th lowest scoring team in the regular season and Vegas was 3rd highest. The Golden Knights fell down the same hole last postseason against the Dallas Stars. Like Montreal, Dallas was another low scoring team that found a way to outscore the Golden Knights in the conference finals. It was inexcusable in 2020, and even more so in 2021 after the organization retooled in the offseason.

So, who’s to blame?

Players

Let’s begin with the leadership group. Captain Mark Stone has built quite the portfolio in Vegas, however, his stock continues to plummet in the playoffs. For three straight seasons, Stone has provided very little offense for the Golden Knights when they needed him late in a series. Going without a single point in the entire Semifinals was rock bottom for Stone. His failure to produce in the backend of a playoff series was evident again against Minnesota, Colorado, and Montreal.

In all fairness to the captain, he owned up to it.

I can praise (the Canadiens) all I want but ultimately it falls down on myself and the top players on this team. We had some guys that produced night in and night out. As far as myself I got skunked this series. That can’t happen. I’m the captain of this team, the leader of this team, I take a lot of responsibility for what just occurred. -Mark Stone

Another concern was the continuous slow starts for Vegas. In six Semifinal games, the Golden Knights allowed the first goal four times, and were sluggish to begin the 1st period in several other postseason contests. In the final 12 games of the postseason, the Golden Knights trailed at some point in 11 of them.

Is it possible the team leaders for Vegas couldn’t motivate their teammates enough to kick off the game on time? It’s hard to comprehend why, but it’s fair to point fingers at the men with letters; Stone, Reilly Smith and Alex Pietrangelo.

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Canadiens Say The Pressure Is On Vegas

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According to our friends at William Hill, the Golden Knights were heavy favorites to win their Semifinals series against the Canadiens. The odds have adjusted (-340) since Montreal picked up two victories in four games. However, most believe Vegas is the better team and should advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

**Don’t forget, you can get a free VGK jersey by signing up for a new William Hill account using promo code SINBIN100. Click here for full details!**

So as the series goes deeper, is pressure building for the Golden Knights?

You come into this series and obviously there’s a certain rhetoric of how the series is supposed to go. I’m not saying they bought into it or believed it, we definitely didn’t. There is a certain expectation on their side. The longer this series goes, the more pressure falls on them.-Brendan Gallagher, MTL forward

Gallagher brings up some valid points because let’s face it, there are hefty expectations from the Golden Knights organization. This is their third semifinal in four seasons and management has built an expensive, experienced club. And we can’t forget about The Creator’s “Cup in six” decree. So yeah, to say there are expectations in Vegas is putting it mildly.

The Golden Knights have performed well as a favorite and also a slight underdog. Maybe coach Pete DeBoer and captain Mark Stone felt they proved the hockey world wrong by cutting down Colorado in six, but in reality, it was cute rhetoric to stay positive. The semifinals against Montreal is completely different. Vegas might be the better overall team but being widely chosen to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals can add a layer of internal pressure. Pressure that only mounts when you consider how things ended last year.

It’s great that we tied the series, but at some point the big guys are going to kind of have to come out and step up here, including myself. I think it’s not good enough for the forward group that we have only three goals in four games. Obviously, we’re facing an unbelievable goalie, but that’s no excuse. It’s the same thing last year against Vancouver, Dallas. It’s the same thing, we’ve got to find a way and we don’t have any excuses, we need a solution ASAP, and we need to help our team wins some games here. -Jonathan Marchessault

The Canadiens have proven the doubters wrong but with three games left to decide a winner and two at T-Mobile Arena, the series is set up to favor the Golden Knights. Game 5 isn’t a must-win for Vegas but a loss on home ice would ramp up the pressure the Canadiens forward suggested.

We get more and more comfortable in these situations and we’re looking forward to it. We’ve shortened it to a best of three. We’ve gone into Vegas and we know what it’s going to be like, an electric atmosphere for sure. They definitely feed off their fans but now that we’ve experienced it we’re going to be more and more comfortable. -Gallagher, MTL forward

Of course, pressure and stress can build the deeper an elite team advances but it hasn’t overwhelmed the Golden Knights yet this postseason.

The Golden Knights came back against Minnesota in Game 3. Vegas beat the Wild in Game 7, started another comeback in Game 3 against Colorado. They beat the Avs in Game 4 to even the series and won Game 5 in OT on the road. All the pressure was on the Golden Knights in Game 4 in this series, and Gallagher knows how that one went.

Every crucial moment the Golden Knights needed focus and urgency they got it. Expect the same tonight.

Will Vegas Solve Montreal’s Stingy Defense

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It’s possible in Game 1 the Golden Knights defeated a Canadiens team that didn’t play to their full identity. Clearly, Vegas executed theirs by pressuring Montreal resulting in four goals scored against goaltender Carey Price. However, things were different in Game 2 and likely for the remainder of the Semifinals series.

Everybody who was supposed to be who they are identity wise for the Montreal Canadiens played to their role. And it got Vegas uncomfortable. Where Vegas hasn’t been uncomfortable before. -Aaron Ward, Former defenseman and TSN analyst

Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry was absent for Game 1 but his presence on Wednesday allowed the Original Six franchise to clean up their endzone coverage and move the puck effectively. In their second matchup, the Canadiens pushed Vegas shooters wider than they had in Game 1. The Golden Knights had only eight low-quality attempts on net as opposed to 11 in Game 2.

This postseason with Petry in the lineup the Canadiens allow 2.20 goals per game and given up 3.00 without him.

My best asset is my legs my skating ability. Just focusing on that and closing quickly. -Jeff Petry, MTL defenseman

Tonight, Vegas will need to find ways to utilize the traffic in front of Montreal’s net. 13 of the 32 goals the Canadiens have allowed in the playoffs were from defenseman, including five in six periods from Golden Knights blueliners. Alex Pietrangelo’s goal in Game 2 was a great example how to get around Montreal’s stingy defense. The former Cup winner patiently waited for a screen to develop and slipped a shot through Petry’s legs and past Price. There’s not much an elite goaltender can do when he can’t see the puck.

The Golden Knights have scored on mobile defenseman this postseason but neither of their prior opponents were as big as the Canadiens defensive unit. To combat that, Vegas can match with their own size to jam, screen, and stuff in front of the goaltender. And of course taking advantage of rebounds, loose pucks, and all the grease that occurs in the playoffs.

Since their Game 6 loss against Minnesota, Vegas has responded well after a playoff loss. There’s no reason to believe they won’t tonight for Game 3 in Montreal. Sure, with a full deck the Canadiens will be more difficult to break through but Vegas has the creativity, size, and skill to neutralize any club’s defense. Price can’t bail his teammates out the entire series.

Vegas’ Unheralded Unit Comes Through Again

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It’s fair to say the Golden Knights’ defensive unit have outperformed their opponents all postseason. Vegas’ defense have allowed the second least goals per game, and consistently cause star snipers to shake their heads and shrug their shoulders on the bench. However, last night was evidence of how the Golden Knights’ blue line can change the outcome differently when they’re pitching in offensively.

They got some solid d-men over there. They were finding lanes, getting pucks through and jumping in to the rush. That’s what good D does. I’ll have to find a way to mitigate that. -Carey Price, MTL goaltender

In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals, three Golden Knights defensemen scored and five registered a point. Vegas’ blue line produced more points than Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Alex Tuch, and Mattias Janmark combined. Yet it didn’t matter for Vegas.

Not only were the Golden Knights’ defensive core one of the highest-scoring in the regular season but they’ve nearly matched it in the playoffs. In the regular season, Vegas’ blueline combined for 142 points, adding 0.39 of offense per game. In the postseason it’s been equally as impressive.

VGK’s Offense From Defensemen

Regular Season: 142 Points (36 Goals, 139 Assists), 0.39 Points Per Game
Postseason: 37 Points (9 Goals, 28 Assists), 0.38 Points Per Game

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Block Party! Golden Knights Blocked Their Way To The Semi-Final

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The Golden Knights have battled and bruised their way through 13 tough games this postseason and with two series under their belt and another a few days away, Vegas seem to have found a simple yet painful approach to beating their opponents. Blocking shots.

We presented the numbers after Game 2 against Colorado and the trend continued throughout the six-game series. The Golden Knights have become a shot-blocking brigade. After last night, the Golden Knights are 7-1 in the postseason when they block 18 or more per game. In their Game 6 clincher, VGK blocked 34 shot attempts from Colorado. We can only imagine the extra-long ice bath Alec Martinez needed after the 6-3 victory.

Playoff Blocked Shots By The Numbers

VGK 249 Total Blocked Shots (1st)
VGK 19.00 Blocked Shots Per 60 (2nd)
Alec Martinez 52 Blocked Shots (1st)
Alex Pietrangelo 36 Blocked Shots (2nd)
Zach Whitecloud 30 Blocked Shots (4th)

When Pete DeBoer took over as the Golden Knights coach he stated shot blocking would be a heavy factor in how the team defended and it was non-negotiable. Well, the coach wasn’t kidding. His players lead all playoff teams with 249 total blocked shots and have 47 more than the NY Islanders who are next with 198 blocked shots. Painful as it is, game after game the Golden Knights have sacrificed their bodies to frustrate snipers like Nathan MacKinnon.

Vegas’ next opponent the Montreal Canadiens will most likely fall victim to clogged shooting lanes and dud shot attempts as well. After two rounds the Canadiens opponents averaged 15 blocked shots per game. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets blocked a total of 170 shots in 11 games against the North Division champion. Vegas should be able to match if not exceed the average amount Montreal has faced all postseason.

The Golden Knights will need to be aware of facing shot-blockers like themselves. Defensemen Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmunson, and Jeff Petry log heavy minutes and average four or more blocked shots per game. It’s not in Martinez’s neighborhood but the Canadiens have guys that are willing to throw themselves into a hard slap shot as well.

Shot blocking isn’t the sole reason the Golden Knights have advanced to the semifinals but it’s been effective. If Vegas continues to frustrate sharpshooters and defensive weapons on the blueline they should be to limit Montreal’s offense, like they did to Colorado. Facing a goaltender like Carey Price, goals will likely be tough to come by. Relying on basic, fearless hockey could be the difference for Vegas in the penultimate series.

Just think, Martinez has 50 or so shots left to block before he can hoist the Cup. Luckily he’ll have plenty of time for his puck-sized bruises to heal in the offseason.

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