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.
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.