When all was said and done with the Expansion Draft, Entry Draft, and free agency the Golden Knights were left with a total of 42 players under contract. When ranking them by importance for the future of the franchise, 21-year-old defenseman Shea Theodore is either at the top or within the top two or three.
With the team not expected to compete for a Stanley Cup in 2017-18, or likely any of the first few years, the focus is obviously going to be on developing players, Theodore being at the very top of that list. But, like everything in professional sports, it’s not that cut and dry.
McPhee has done well to cut down on the surplus of defenseman, but there’s still a bit of a logjam. The Golden Knights have 14 defenseman on the roster. According to CapFriendly.com, nine of them are one one way contracts, and Nate Schmidt will likely take that number to 10.
Shea Theodore is not one of those 10. Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Deryk Engelland, Colin Miller, Griffin Reinhart, Brayden McNabb, Nate Schmidt, Jon Merrill, and Brad Hunt.
The NHL allows teams to have 23 active players on their roster, but only 20 are allowed to play in a game. Normally, teams use a lineup of 12 forwards, six defensemen, and two goalies. Some teams choose to drop a forward for a defenseman, allowing them seven active defensemen.
In the NHL, if a team wants to demote a player to the AHL, the player must pass through waivers. So, the Golden Knights have to get that 14 number down to seven, maybe eight. Starting with the easy ones, Chris Casto and Brad Hunt were signed to minimum contracts during the first day of free agency, they’ll both make it through waivers without an issue. That puts us at 12.
Jake Bischoff is waiver exempt, so there’s no risk in sending him to the Windy City. Three to go, and that’s when it starts getting tough. Of the remaining 11, there’s only one player who McPhee can guarantee he can stash away in the AHL, and not have any risk of losing him to another team, Shea Theodore. Because of his age, he’s waiver exempt, and due to the numbers, they’ll almost certainly take advantage of the option.
Things can change, especially if they move another blueliner, but as things stand, the most important piece in the future of the franchise, won’t be in Vegas, and it’s not because he’s not ready.
Don’t be surprised if Hunt, Stoner, and even potentially Sbisa start the year in the AHL. Theodore looks like he can definitely make the team, if not be a top 4 defenseman, and sending Hunt, Stoner, and Sbisa to the minors is a low-risk operation.
If you put those there players down, they have to go through waiver and some team will claim them and they will be gone with no return for vgk
Given the logjam at D, I imagine our 23-man opening day roster will be 13 forwards, 8 defensemen and 2 goalies. Especially since Deryk Engelland can play winger if need be (as he did in Pittsburgh a few times). Since Theodore has one more year of waiver eligibility, we may as well use it, until we can make trades throughout the season to open up more roster spots.
Here’s how I see it (14 d-men under contract):
Opening Day NHL Roster:
In the AHL (needing waivers, but should clear without being claimed)
In the AHL (waiver exempt)
14. Brannstrom (returned to his team in Sweden)
I agree with this breakdown, with Engelland and Sbisa as healthy scratches most nights, unless they opt to try and move Schmidt to play forward, which they might.
No, I think Sbisa needs to be playing every night. We HAVE to increase his trade value, and scratching him or sending him to the AHL defeats the purpose. I know Stoner has no trade value – we only picked him to get Theodore – so sending him to Chicago to play out his expiring contract is fine. But we took Sbisa with no incentive/compensation from Vancouver, so I’d imagine McPhee would want to maximize that expansion slot by pumping his value and trading him during the season.
I actually see our NHL defense corps looking something like this:
Schmidt – Garrison
Sbisa – Miller
McNabb – Engelland
Reinhart, Merrill (scratches)
Like Sbisa, Garrison should be getting as many minutes as possible to build up his trade value – same for McNabb. Give Garrison the #1 power play minutes, and McNabb the #1 penalty kill minutes.
All of this adds up to at least one more trade to me. Merrill or Garrison (with salary retained) seem like the most likely, but there’s no way Theodore can stay down in the AHL for long. He needs regular NHL minutes.
Also, Sbisa is likely untradeable. Vancouver has been trying to do it for a long time. If they get more than a seventh round pick for him, I’ll be surprised.
I think McPhee was banking on quickly shifting Sbisaa for a late-round draft pick, it hasn’t materialized yet. I think it was a bet worth taking. Sbisaa is a serviceable bottom-pairing defenseman.
Pretty much as I see things as well. This is good analysis in my opinion.
Just a couple things I’ll mention. McPhee may see McNabb as someone he wants to keep. Reinhardt may get additional minutes since he is seen as a bust who is primed to finally hit. Engelland will probably play early, but be a regular scratch once things are rolling (unles he moves to forward full time?)
Overall though, I agree. McPhee’s next milestone is the trade deadline it seems. He is going to do everything he can do to increase the value of his expendable pieces; even if it means putting a worse team on the ice. They’ve made it quite clear that this team is not in the business of winning hockey games anyway.
I envision Nate Schmidt playing in a top-4 role
Where can I see the latest episodes of Behind the Vegas Ice?
I think it’s a bad idea, Ken. We’re talking about potentially acquiring a late-round draft pick?! I wonder how long will it take to build up the value of the surplus defensemen by showcasing them. The lack of opportunity could stunt Theodore’s growth.
I think Theodore would play on the top defensive pairing and quarterback the 1st Powerplay Unit if the season started today. Playing with Perron, Shipachyov, Neal and Marchessault on the power play.
I think lines will be:
Theodore will eventually come up when a couple more D are traded. Also, right now we could use another right shot D. I only see 2.