**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
Welcome to Anxiety Week.
It’s that time of the year where if you’re an NHL player, you start hearing rumors that you’ll be moved at the trade deadline. You get texts from friends. Your wife or girlfriend asks you what’s up. Your kids, if they’re old enough, are freaked out at the idea they may have to move and leave their friends and have to go to a new school.
Anxious? You bet.
For a lot of NHL players, they need not be worried. Some have no-move clauses in their contracts or, if you’re someone like Marc-Andre Fleury, have a list of teams they would agree to be traded to.
But for others, this is a tough week. The trade deadline is eight days away (April 12) and trying to maintain one’s focus on their job is not an easy task. Especially if your team is currently struggling and change is imminent.
The stock answer players give when asked if they’re worried about being shipped out is “It’s out of my hands” or “I don’t worry about things I have no control over” both of which are true. They understand the business side of the game and let’s not fret over where their next meal is coming from because everyone is well compensated for their services. If they have to go to Detroit or Ottawa, so be it. They’ll pack their stuff, head to the next destination, and try to quickly assimilate within their new team.
For the Golden Knights players, being moved on or before the April 12 deadline is even more disconcerting. You’d be leaving a team that is built to compete for the Stanley Cup, was leading its division for most of the season, and has been one of the best in the entire NHL since Opening Night. Can you imagine how bummed a player would be if he got a call from Kelly McCrimmon and he tells you you’ve been traded to Buffalo?
It could happen, to pretty much anyone. Especially given the recent events of this week that have seen Vegas drop three in a row, fail to hold the lead in the 3rd period, and a power play that has been more dismal than what we’ve come to expect.
Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Minnesota was especially grating given Fleury’s solid effort was wasted and the team knew the importance of the game. Now, with 21 games remaining, road games at St. Louis Monday and Wednesday, and another roadie beginning a week from today in L.A. and Anaheim, the anxiety level may well have been raised a couple of notches.
GMKM has said publicly he doesn’t expect the Knights to be major players at the deadline and he may prove correct. But I still don’t believe the Knights are going to stand pat entirely. Even with the recent offensive exploits of Tomas Nosek and even Will Carrier perking up, the Knights need to boost their bottom-six forwards. It would help if the top six found the net with a bit more regularity. The power play is a disaster and could use a big boost too.
As it currently stands, the return of Alex Pietrangelo means the team remains cap-stressed and it would likely mean making a dollar-for-dollar trade to acquire the help they need and in doing so, would likely impact the current roster. Would it be worth it?
And that’s why even if you’re a Golden Knight, even if you have term and are making millions, you may not be entirely safe.
Remember when the Jonathan Marchessault trade rumors were being bandied about a couple years ago? He tried to blow it off but you could tell he seemed stressed over it. Marchessault remained in Vegas and he has had a very good season in 2021. Do not construe from this that he is on the market this year. I’m just saying to get something you’re going to have to give up something tangible.
That doesn’t mean Marchessault and his teammates won’t come to the rink wondering every day this week and wonder how much longer they’ll have to remain here.
And while it’s a challenge for the players to keep their focus and not think about being traded, it’s also on the coaching staff to keep the players’ minds on the present. It’s a stressful time for coaches too.
Peter DeBoer’s experience will no doubt be critical during the coming eight days. He has been on both sides of the coin, losing good players while acquiring great ones. His job is to lower the anxiety temperature in the room and maintain the status quo.
They’ll be in Los Angeles next Monday. Ironically, the Knights were in L.A. their inaugural season on trade deadline day when they traded for Tomas Tatar from Detroit and had just picked up Ryan Reaves a couple of days earlier from Pittsburgh.
Las Vegas was a new NHL city then, so neither had much experience with the town other than the one time their teams visited The Fortress. Tatar basically grabbed his gear, put some clothes in a suitcase, locked up his Detroit apartment, and flew to California to join his new team. Reaves, who has a family, left them in Pittsburgh and also flew to L.A. Imagine how stressful that had to be?
Fortunately, they were going to a team that was enjoying great success and they embraced the change of scene. That Knights team made it to the Stanley Cup Final, so that took some of the sting out of being traded. This Knights team, as it is currently constructed, may not be good enough to get that far. I’m not sure it can beat Colorado or Minnesota in the first or second round, even when it gets Chandler Stephenson, Zach Whitecloud and Reaves back.
So while we throw names out on social media and debate whether this guy would help or what it would mean to shake up the roster, let’s not forget these are human beings who have emotions and obligations and, in some cases, families that are part of the equation. Yes, they signed up for this. No one forced them to be professional hockey players and they are well compensated for their work. But that doesn’t lessen the anxiety level this week. Oh, and in case you have forgotten, there’s still a pandemic we’re dealing with. So there’s going to be potential quarantine issues for players who get traded to a Canadian team and potentially from the North Division to a U.S.-based team. That won’t be fun to navigate.
Yes, it’s a time to be treading on pins and needles for some players. Here in Vegas, the stress level may be reduced, but it will be lurking nonetheless this week. Especially given the team’s performance the past four days.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**