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Carp: This Roster Needs An Upgrade

**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.**

With the second half of the Golden Knights’ season starting this afternoon in Los Angeles, the team is sitting pretty in first place in the West Division with a 21-6-1 record, 43 points, and a league-best points percentage of .768. But we need to look at the big picture and the upcoming playoffs in May.

The NHL trade deadline is April 12. But it’s never too early to talk about potential deals, particularly in a year where the word “quarantine” comes into play.

As history has shown, the Golden Knights are usually major players at the deadline. In the first season, it was obtaining Tomas Tatar and Ryan Reaves. In Year Two, it was trading for Mark Stone. Last year, it was Robin Lehner. In each instance, it was about trying to make the team better and have a roster that can win the Stanley Cup.

Notice I said “win” and not “compete for.” The Knights roster, as currently constructed, is good enough to compete for the Cup. But is it good enough to win it?

I don’t believe it is.

The lack of consistent bottom-six scoring is the biggest issue. Defensive depth is a potential secondary hazard though I think the Knights could get by without a major move on the blue line given the play of Dylan Coghlan, Nic Hague, and Zach Whitecloud. And presumably, they’ll have Alex Pietrangelo back in time for the postseason. If they need to trot Nick Holden out there, they can get by with doing it.

Playoff hockey is different. There are no weaklings to beat up on and if your fourth line isn’t contributing, it puts you at a distinct disadvantage. In the playoffs, your opponents are geared to shut down your top line, and as we saw last year in the Edmonton bubble, nothing can hasten your exit from the postseason faster than a hot goaltender who prevents you from putting the puck in the net. The bottom line is you need contributions from all four lines on a consistent basis during the postseason if you’re serious about having a Stanley Cup championship parade in July.

GM Kelly McCrimmon told the RJ earlier in the week he didn’t anticipate history repeating itself and the team making a big splash at the deadline. Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet’s respected insider, echoed similar comments, I assume after talking to either GMKM or Prez George, in his weekly 31 Thoughts column.

The big issue is the salary cap. Unless Pietrangelo’s LTIR for his left arm injury runs through the remainder of the regular season, which Pete DeBoer indicates isn’t likely, the Knights are limited in what they can do. The potential to grow the LTIR list ended Friday with the return of Chandler Stephenson and Alex Tuch, which is good news for the present.

So to make a deal, the Knights would likely have to move someone on the current roster to accommodate whoever they trade for. I doubt they want to break up the current band to add a backup singer, especially after going through what they went through in the offseason to construct this lineup.

Yet why do I get the feeling the Knights will be a major player at the trade deadline regardless? Because deep down in their hearts, when GMKM and Prez George wake up every day, they know this team is not good enough to win it all. And it’s their job to make this team better, a responsibility both take very seriously, as well as to placate The Creator, who wants to win the Cup right now.

So what do they do? And who should they pursue?

The obvious is to pick the bones off the carcasses of the underwhelming — Buffalo, Anaheim, New Jersey and Nashville and look for rentals. The Knights have done one rental deal in their brief history — Nick Cousins last year from Arizona — and they opted not to resign him. The Cousins deal didn’t yield the desired results, but given the circumstances, they should not be afraid to travel down this road again.

I’m looking at obtaining guys who have a proven track record of success and for who a change of scene might revive their game. We’re talking the Sabres’ Taylor Hall, the Devils’ Kyle Palmieri, and Ryan Getzlaf or Rickard Rakell of the Ducks. Mikael Granlund of Nashville also fits this scenario as he is a pending UFA.

The problem is, other teams have a similar need for proven scoring and are in a better position to make a move. The Islanders come to mind as Anders Lee is out for the year with a knee injury and his $7 million is off the books. That’s enough cheddar for Lou Lamoriello to make a move for Palmieri (a Long Island native) or Hall if he chooses to.

Carolina, Boston, and Washington are also looking for additional offense, as are Toronto Winnipeg, and Calgary. And if you do a deal with a Canadian (North Division) team, you better move quickly because Canada has not relaxed its 14-day COVID-19 quarantine for those entering the country (It’s more relaxed going the other way into the U.S.).

Oh, and one other factor — expansion. Teams are going to try and move players in anticipation to get something back rather than lose a particular player to Seattle. The Knights are immune from the Expansion Draft. They will not lose a player to the Kraken. They are in a most advantageous position to deal with the other 30 teams.

The other option would be to make a trade for someone and involve multiple teams. That’s how Reaves made it to Vegas. But unlike that deal, where the cap wasn’t a factor, it is an issue this time around, assuming anyone on LTIR is back before the end of the regular season.

For the Knights to do a deal, it would likely require picks, prospects, and some NHL players. Palmieri ($4.6 million), Hall ($8 million), Granlund ($3.75 million) and, Getzlaf ($8.5 million) are UFAs while Rakell has term with one year remaining at $3.78 million, which is not exorbitant.

Draft-wise, the Knights have their first round pick and two in the second round (their’s and New Jersey’s from the Nikita Gusev deal). I doubt they would be reluctant to move any of those picks in a trade given they’ll be selecting toward the bottom in the first round, though the Devils’ second-rounder may have some value.

The ask on prospects might be more problematic. I’m guessing Peyton Krebs is part of a trade conversation from other teams and I would not move him. And I would think they’d want Whitecloud or Hague in return and I would not do that either if I’m Vegas. Most teams want young guys who are still either on their ELC (entry-level contract) or have their next deal which is reasonable. Remember, they have to manage their cap as well and the cap is expected to remain flat at $81.5 million for the next year barring an amazing economic bounce back by the NHL.

Cody Glass might be discussed but are the Knights ready to move on from him at this point? At 21 years old, he’s still young and developing. Is his NHL sample size large enough to make a hard-and-fast decision?

So GMKM is right when he told the RJ the cap is dictating what the team can and can’t do. But that has never stopped the Knights from being creative. And here’s where they may be able to do that from within.

Krebs is back in juniors, playing with the Winnipeg Ice, which are playing a 24-game schedule in the Western Hockey League bubble in Regina, Saskatchewan. The regular season ends April 27. Krebs is in Year Two of his ELC which carries an average annual value of $894,167. Once Winnipeg’s season is over, he can return to Vegas and either play with the Golden Knights or with the Silver Knights. Assuming he gets through his junior season healthy and productive, he might be that bottom-six guy for DeBoer to put in the lineup come the playoffs. Remember, there are no salary cap issues to deal with in the postseason.

I have no doubt Krebs will compete for a roster spot with the Golden Knights next fall. But maybe they’ll accelerate the timetable and get him into the lineup for the playoffs. At worst, he’ll be a Black Ace skating with the team every day to be on call if needed.

It may be the best option if indeed the Knights do not make a big move at the trade deadline. But I still expect them to do something. It’s not their nature to sit idly by and watch the rest of the NHL play “Let’s Make A Deal.”

**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.**

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22 Comments

  1. knights fan from minny

    I’d love to see Krebs in action again with either Knights squad. He’s gonna be special.

  2. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    The Knights will be fine however it goes. If they can improve ok. But I think the cup is within the reach of the roster we have.

    Need to take care of business today against Kings!

  3. THE hockey GOD

    “Notice I said “win” and not “compete for.” The Knights roster, as currently constructed, is good enough to compete for the Cup. But is it good enough to win it?

    I don’t believe it is.”

    “Playoff hockey is different”

    yes, goon hockey style returns during playoffs, more pressure on refs. Refs have more of tendency to look other way, no blow down obvious penalties in third period of close game.

    The game has changed over past 20 to 30 years. The ice is smaller, the players bigger and faster. More players, and skill level is way down. The rink is definitely smaller. No time and space. The game has becoming boring to watch at times. The goalie pads bigger. The players equipment more protective. The NHL should seriously consider increasing the rink size or get the refs / linesmen out of the way.

  4. Mike StG

    Great article as usual Steve. I’ve mentioned Getzlaf but both Ken and Dennis Bernstein think it unlikely. I do like Rakell too, though he’s not a center. I’d actually like to get Haula back. Krebs probably not the best fit, entering the NHL during playoffs directly from jr play. Maybe Dugan – older, bigger, no jr issues and very good offensively? I like Glendening (DET), very good on faceoffs. Probably wouldn’t add much to scoring, but gotta be better than 2 goals in 50+ games (L4 wingers). Like you I’m intrigued to see what mgmt does.

  5. THE hockey GOD

    “Cody Glass might be discussed but are the Knights ready to move on from him at this point? At 21 years old, he’s still young and developing. Is his NHL sample size large enough to make a hard-and-fast decision?”

    I think that answer is pretty obvious- yes.

    Cody Glass
    GP-23 G= 4 A = 6 PTS 10 +/-
    4 S% 16 sog 25 toi/g 14 fo% 43% hits 8 age 21

    Nick Susuki (mtl-habs)
    gp31 g-7 a 13 pts 20 plus / minus 2 S% 13 sog 53 toi/g 18.5 fo% 44 hits 43 age 21

  6. Bent Hermit

    This is not the year to make trades there’s too many unknowns and draft picks are a lot more valuable due to the lack of scouting. A guy that’s really good could drop to late 1st or 2nd round. This is the year that VGK should be giving guys from the AHL a few games to see if they are a fit with Tuch. Glass does a good job in the D zone but becomes lost and starts puck watching in the O zone. He is 1 of the best players on the team in front of the net but spends most of his time floating around the outside of the dots when he doesn’t have the puck. He needs to be more active and drive to the net. If he doesn’t then move him to the 4th line. Roy could then center and they could try guys like Dugan and Sikura. The 4th can be made from any of the other players which would put pressure on Reaves and Carrier to perform.

  7. DBsurvived

    Nick Cousins came from Montreal not Arizona. Glass has underachieved but only counts $863,000 against the cap so the return on a trade wouldn’t make sense. It’s more likely to package Holden at $1,700,000 and Reaves $1,750,000 or Carrier $1,400,000. Thinking that Krebs can come from junior hockey to contribute in playoff hockey is ridiculous. I’m going to guess you didn’t take much time writing this article, not your best effort.

  8. DOC (Go Knights Go)

    In my opinion they won’t trade Revo … and very doubtful Carrier or Holden either. I think the Knights are going to stay fairly quiet.

  9. Daryl

    I still say VGK cannot win the Cup unless they have a #1 Center. I agree the 3rd/4th line needs improvement but seeing how much time they spend on the ice compared to the top 2 lines, it isn’t even close. As I’ve said multiple times, VGK looks great but they play a majority of their games against subpar competition. They have played 18 games against teams with a losing records which includes 11 against the Ducks and SJS, the two worst teams in the division. They have only played 11 games against winning teams. This is not a knock on VGK as they don’t control their scheduling, but when they start facing good teams for longer series, they will need that top line Center.

    If they can get that Center I think they could possibly win the Cup even with the lack of skills on the 4th line. I still don’t think they win the Cup by just increasing the skills on the 4th line.

    • Bent Hermit

      VGk’s top 2 line are in the NHL top 10 for both “x goals for” and “goals for”. That really doesn’t support the idea that they have to get a true #1 center. What they do need is someone that can play with Tuch (the guy that’s #2 in goals on the team). If they found that player they could roll 3 very good lines and limit the 4th line minutes. But they should try some of the guys in the AHL before even thinking about that.

      • Daryl

        “VGk’s top 2 line are in the NHL top 10 for both “x goals for” and “goals for”. That really doesn’t support the idea that they have to get a true #1 center. ”

        That goes back to my comment about who they have played…. 11 games against SJS and ANA, the two worst teams in the Division and two of the worst in the NHL. 11 of 21 wins against those two teams!!! That is almost half their wins against two horrible teams. I stand by my comment they need a top line Center, or at least a #2 Center.

        • Bent Hermit

          With a #1 center the team becomes a true 2 line team because there will have to be money moved out. Forget moving Fleury teams don’t have the room and GM refused to trade him to Pitt. So that leaves a 2nd line player plus reaves and Carrier if they can find anyone to take them. No true 2 line team has won the cup in a long time. The 2nd line has been a top line in the NHL since they were put together in year 1. Patches and Stone have ranked in top lines no matter who has been their center. So like I said the numbers don’t show that need a #1 center. They do need someone to play with Tuch so that they don’t become a 2 line team that can be shut down

          • Daryl

            Pens won with a true 2 line team… And I don’t think they find a true #1 or #2 Center at the trade deadline, that is more for the off season. The team looks really good right now because they play nobody. And I agree they need someone to play with Tuch, which goes back to getting that true #1 Center. You get him and the others can drop back and you will have someone who can play with Tuch. There are several players VGK can get rid of. Might need a 3 team trade but it’s very possible to get rid of those players.

            How many top tier Centers did TB have? STL? Wash? Penguins? Look at how many very good Centers have the previous Cup winners had? And they don’t all have to be great scorers, sometimes you need someone who can make passes or set up the offense or win face-offs. Vegas needs another very good Center

  10. Daryl

    “VGk’s top 2 line are in the NHL top 10 for both “x goals for” and “goals for”. That really doesn’t support the idea that they have to get a true #1 center. ”

    That goes back to my comment about who they have played…. 11 games against SJS and ANA, the two worst teams in the Division and two of the worst in the NHL. 11 of 21 wins against those two teams!!! That is almost half their wins against two horrible teams. I stand by my comment they need a top line Center, or at least a #2 Center.

    • Bent Hermit

      Pens did not win with 2 lines. 2016 was the HBK line and 2017 was guys like Rust and Hornqvist on the 3rd line. You were talking about getting a center for this year which they don’t need. I have no problem getting 1 in the off season because Fleury will be easier to move. I would go all in on Eichel. Buffalo will want young prospects and picks so core players are safe. They will have 5 mill in cap space next year plus Fleury gone leaves a lot of cap to make it work.

      • Daryl

        Sorry but I completely disagree with you…. I am a Pens fan and have been since the late 70’s and yes they did have 2 very good, very solid lines. VGK does not, at least not against good teams. EVERY team that has won the CUP in the past who knows how many years has had more than one solid Center, VGK does not have that. Without it, I don’t believe they are true Cup contenders. I think they will do well in the playoffs, but when they have a series against a good team, they will falter. This is a good VGK team but not a great VGK team and it’s because they need a Center and help on the 3rd/4th line and I don’t see them getting either at the trade dead-line

  11. THE hockey GOD

    so far this game has been 1000% unwatchable, team is throwing a dud

    only time other team scores is when VGK D crashes their own net

    • Daryl

      There is the Kolesar fight!!! lol But other than that you are 100% correct. HORRIBLE game by all. MAF also made a couple amazing saves in that 2nd period but he fumbled too many pucks

      • THE hockey GOD

        i hear ya

        loud and clear !

        PS walruses play on ice, pandas play in trees.

  12. FGO

    I think it’s unlikely they make any significant moves. Here’s the reason. This year‘s playoffs will be incredibly hard. The first round opponent will either be St. Louis or Minnesota, both teams which historically have given VGK problems. Then they have to face Colorado, a team they probably won’t be favored against. That’s just to make it out of the division. Then you’re gonna have to face Tampa Bay, Toronto or sometime from the east. That looks like a big hill to climb for this team. Vancouver and Dallas gave the blueprint to beat this team in the playoffs.

    I would expect them to do one or two deals prior to the expansion draft to try and pick up a player or two that would otherwise be drafted from another team.

    The team definitely needs help in the bottom six. There’s only one player, Alex Tuch, who can score. I’d argue they need a top pairing defenseman to play with Alex Pietrangelo. The rest of the guys play best on second and third lines. Lots of depth however.

    Next year they’ll be in the old Pacific division and should run away with the title. And the year after that. And be heavily favored to make it to the Stanley Cup semi finals. Put all your eggs in next years and the years after basket.

  13. sb

    The evidence that VGK needs a Number 1 center is found in the ineffective PP. It is like watching a Chinese Fire Drill. Instead of the deadly wingers at the top of the circles gearing up for one timers, they’re skating north/side trying their best to stickhandle with the puck that SHOULD be in the hands of a crafty center. The ‘entries’ again show the lack of a Number 1 center. To win the Cup, a team MUST score at a rate of one PP goal per game. VGK PP is 0.5 goals PP per game. Missing a true Number center sticks out like a sore thumb. To win the Cup, VGK gotta get that Number 1 center and move Stephenson to Tuch/Glass line. Now you’ve got three deadly lines. (the usual 4th liners ……… a lost cause – good luck with that problem)

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