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Goalie Of The Future A Question That May Be Answered Soon

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There’s a spot that’s been a real point of contention with the fan base that at some point is going to stop hiding in the shadows and actually make its way to the forefront. As much as we don’t want to admit it, Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t going to be the goalie of the Golden Knights forever. Whether age catches up to him in the next few years while under contract or whenever he decides to hang it up for good, the goalie of the future still seems to be somewhat up in the air.

The clear frontrunner is Malcolm Subban. After being claimed off waivers three days before the Golden Knights first ever game, Subban has been on the NHL club ever since firmly entrenched as the backup. However, as a restricted free agent and coming off another year filled with injuries, Subban’s long-term future is not exactly a certainty.

You don’t want to look too far ahead, I like to live in the moment. Right now I just take care of what I can control and that’s having a good offseason and coming into camp next season ready to go. -Malcolm Subban

Subban will be extended a qualifying offer worth $715,000. As a 25-year-old with a few years of NHL experience, he’s eligible for arbitration, which he will likely file for. Backup goalie salaries range widely, but Subban likely won’t be in line for much more than $1 million, if he even reaches that high.

That being said, the Golden Knights will have to make a decision on where they stand with him. At this very moment, Oscar Dansk, who under contract in 19-20 for $675,000 is leading the Chicago Wolves in a Western Conference Final series in the AHL. Dansk has taken over the starting spot and has played every playoff game for Rocky Thompson’s Wolves. He hasn’t been amazing, but he’s been good enough to be considered for a job behind Fleury moving forward.

Then there’s Max Lagace, who the Golden Knights have turned to every time they’ve needed an extra goalie at the NHL level. He’s an unrestricted free agent, but will almost certainly not command more than the league minimum.

The group of prospects, Dylan Ferguson, Maxim Zhukov, Jiri Patera, and Jordan Kooy are all still a ways from making their ascent to the NHL level. (According to CapFriendly.com, VGK must sign Zhukov to an entry-level contract by June 1, 2019 or they will forfeit his rights.)

The question of “who will be Vegas’ backup goalie in 2019-20” and “who is the goalie of the future” are two separate questions, but at some point they need to overlap and this offseason may be the beginning of that process.

When Subban was asked about being “the guy” on a team, his answer was non-committal, consistently saying he likes to live in the present, but when asked if he wants to remain in Vegas, he instantly answered, “Yes, of course.”

The options are wide open for the Golden Knights front office, and the cost shouldn’t be prohibitive on any front to retain each of the Golden Knights three options. However, what they decide to do will tell a strong story about what they believe they have in their future.

Subban’s contract isn’t going to be the most noteworthy one this offseason, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important for the organization. A one-year qualifying offer tells a much different story than a multi-year $1.5 million AAV deal.

The franchise has displayed nothing but faith in Subban with its words, but actions always speak louder, and that action is coming fairly soon.

Nikita Gusev Opens Up On Wide Range Of Topics In Russian Interview

“The only thing I know for myself – I want to play there” -Gusev

As of this moment, Nikita Gusev is a restricted free agent under Golden Knights control. He’s also currently shredding the IIHF World Championships with his linemate, and best friend (more on that later), Nikita Kucherov.

From his next contract, to how he liked Vegas, to his connection to Vadim Shipachyov, the list of questions surrounding the newest Golden Knight are endless. Luckily, a pair of Russian reporters had an extended sit down with Gusev where they pretty much ran the gamut.

(The article was written by Igor Eronko and Alexey Shevchenko for Sports-Express.ru. It can be found in its entirety here. We have used all of our resources to translate it as accurately as possible, but be aware that nuance is often lost in translation.)

ES.ru: You have burnt a year of your contract, do you already have any offers from Vegas for next season?

Gusev: I’m waiting and expecting an offer from them. I liked it there: good guys, good team. And the city. I don’t know who would not like it, the city is really good. And the atmosphere at the stadium, I think, is one of the best, as everyone says.

ES.ru: Vadim Shipachyov did not like the smoky hotels, casinos, and lobbies.

Gusev: In fact, there are many places like this. But if you play in Vegas, you’ll be renting a house or an apartment instead of living in the casinos. Yes, sometimes you have to pass by, but I don’t think very often. I didn’t sit where it was smoky.

ES.ru: Vadim never gambled in the casino, did you?

Gusev: Yes, I played one time.

ES.ru: Did you win?

Gusev: Yes.

ES.ru: Roulette?

Gusev: No, I do not like roulette.

ES.ru: Blackjack?

Gusev: Yes. I will not say that I played for big money though. I went there with roughly 100 dollars with me. I won a bit and enjoyed it but I never planned to continue.

ES.ru: A lot of people were concerned when head coach Gerard Gallant said, “I don’t know any Gusev. Let him come, but nobody guarantees him anything.” Didn’t that bother you?

Gusev: No, of course not. I went there and knew what was waiting for me. That’s why I didn’t see any problems. I understood. I was going to the NHL and had to prove my place on the ice. It so happened that I did not play. So, next season.

ES.ru: Did you talk to Gallant himself?

Gusev: No. He never spoke to me. I only talked to the general manager, George McPhee. I didn’t talk to my coach before I got there. He had a lot of work to do, with the playoffs and such.

ES.ru: Shipachyov was given freedom during training (practice), but as soon as the games began they said that some things were prohibited to do. Are you afraid of the same?

Gusev: When I signed the contract and could play for Vegas the coach showed me the tactics during a class. And I realized that I would feel good about it. Everything was explained to me in a similar way. There will be no problems.

ES.ru: Vegas is a team with almost the largest amount of movement (other possible translation: speed or quickness) in the NHL. Do you like running without a puck?

Gusev: I’m not going to tell you all the secrets of Vegas. Maybe I’m not the fastest player, but there are other guys out there too that aren’t that quick. What I saw is that many hockey players act very cleverly.

ES.ru: Like Mark Stone and Reilly Smith?

Gusev: That’s right.

ES.ru: But nevertheless, Shipachyov’s situation could repeat with you.

Gusev: Everyone has their own lives. I do not know what and how it will work, but I think that I am able to perform what the coaches want. If they tell me something definite to do, I’ll do it. At the same time, I’m going to continue to play the way I play.

ES.ru: What do you think of Stone, Smith, and the other NHL players? Nothing special, right?

Gusev: This is the wrong question. Those guys are very good, but I understand that it is easy to play with them, everything will be well in this regard.

ES.ru: Can Vegas trade you?

Gusev: I’m expecting an offer from them first. And then we will see what happens. In principle, there could be other offers, but I think it would be wrong to accept one of them because Vegas helped me. I want to reciprocate. In the NHL the rules say that first I have to get an offer from the club which has the rights to me, which is Vegas. I am a rule follower so I will wait for it. I perfectly understand what I want and what I need.

ES.ru: If Vegas offers $4 million, will you accept?

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Mark Stone/Jonathan Marchessault Combo Dominating In Slovakia

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This morning in Slovakia, Mark Stone scored a hat trick for Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships. He has five goals in five games and his linemate, Jonathan Marchessault, has put up two goals and four assists of his own. Simply put, the Golden Knights duo has been shredding defenses for Team Canada.

Their success together has led to a pretty obvious question, should that pair be a part of a line when they get back to Vegas?

Any time I consider the possibility of a new line combination the first thing I do is check how they’ve done while playing together. In the case of Marchessault and Stone, it’s been almost all on line changes when one gets stuck out on the ice with the other. In the regular season and playoffs combined, that happened for a total of 20:15 at 5-on-5.

In those 20 minutes, the Golden Knights scored twice and generated 12 shots on goal. They also created 10 scoring chances with five coming in high danger areas. Pretty darn good for a pair that doesn’t actually play together.

So, if it were to happen, who would play in between them?

Well, that could go one of two ways, either with Paul Stastny or William Karlsson. Here’s how I’d project it with each player in between Marchessault and Stone.

Marchessault-Karlsson-Stone
Pacioretty-Stastny-Smith
Gusev-Haula-Tuch
Nosek/Carpenter-Eakin-Reaves/Carrier

Marchessault-Stastny-Stone
Gusev-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Haula-Tuch
Nosek/Carpenter-Eakin-Reaves/Carrier

Both options look pretty good, but the third line on that second option is downright scary. The idea of replacing Marchessault with Gusev makes a lot of sense as they play a similar style of game. Also, Gusev’s defensive deficiencies (which we aren’t even sure if they are real yet), would be covered up by Karlsson and Smith. Of course, this is assuming Haula does indeed take a center spot, which may not happen.

Either way, the options are going to be there for Gerard Gallant when the Golden Knights return to Vegas for training camp in September. It will be interesting to see how much tinkering he does with his new glut of highly skilled forwards.

The Golden Knights have seven preseason games. You’d have to think Stone and Marchessault find their way on a line together in one of them, it’ll be up to them to make it as successful here as it’s been in Slovakia.

Drafting A Goalie In 1st Round Rarely Wise

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With the 17th pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, the Vegas Golden Knights select, Spencer Knight, goalie, US National Team Development Program.

It’s just too perfect, right? There’s literally a guy named Knight, who plays a position of need for Vegas, who happens to be slotted right around where the Golden Knights select in the Draft. Seems like fate. (Or a really stupid reason to pick a player, but people seem to do it anyway, so here we are.)

But before we even get into how good Spencer Knight is (and believe me, we will over the course of the next four weeks), I thought it was a good idea to take a look at highly drafted goalies to even begin to consider whether the match made in heaven should even be considered on June 21st.

Year1st RoundNumber(s)Player(s)Notable(s)
2018039Lindbom (NYR)Kooy (VGK, 208)
2017126Oettinger (DAL)Zhukov (VGK, 96), Patera (VGK, 161), Ferguson (DAL, 194)
2016048Hart (PHI)Woll (TOR, 62)
2015122Samsonov (WSH)Blackwood (NJD, 42)
2014034McDonald (CGK)Demko (VAN, 36)
2013036Fucale (MTL)Saros (NSH, 99)
2012219, 24Vasilevskiy (TBL), Subban (BOS)Dansk (CBJ, 31), Murray (PIT, 83), Andersen* (ANA, 87), Hellebuyck (WPG, 130)
2011038Hellberg (NSH)Gibson (ANA, 39), Binnington (STL ,88)
2010211, 27Campbell (LAK), Visentin (PHX)Grubauer (WSH, 112), Mrazek (DET, 141), Andersen* (CAR, 187)
2009031Koskinen (NYI)Lehner (OTT, 46), Kuemper (MIN, 161)
2008218, 30Chet Pickard (NSH), McCollum (DET)Markstrom (31, FLA), Allen (STL, 34), Holtby (WSH, 93)
2007036Gistedt (PHX)Darling (PHX, 153)
2006411, 15, 23, 26Bernier (LAK), Helenius (TBL), Varlamov (WSH), Irving (CGY)Neuvirth (WSH, 34), Mason (CBJ, 69), Johnson (PIT, 125)
200525, 21Price (MTL), Rask (TOR)Pavelec (ATL, 41), Quick (LAK, 72), Bishop (STL, 85)
200446, 14, 17, 26Montoya (NYR), Dubnyk (EDM), Schwarz (STL), Schneider (VAN)Greiss (SJS, 94), Ramo (TBL, 191), Khudobin (MIN, 206), Rinne (NSH, 258)
200311Fleury (PIT)Crawford (CHI, 52), Howard (DET, 64), Halak (MTL, 271), Elliott (291, OTT)

Since Marc-Andre Fleury went #1 overall in 2003 to Pittsburgh, there has been a goalie drafted in the 1st round of just eight of the 15 drafts. A total of 18 goalies have gone in the 1st round since 2004, and their success has been extremely limited.

Just five of the 18 have made more than 10 starts with the team they were drafted by. That’s 13 1st round goalies who had absolutely no impact on the team that spent a 1st round pick on them. Even the five that did work, only two ended up having a significant impact on the team that selected them (Price, Vasilevskiy). 14 years of NHL Drafts and TWO turned out to be stars for the correct team.

It’s a little better for the guy calling the shots in Vegas though.

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“He’s A Man That Just Oozes Character”

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First it was Kawhi Leonard nailing an improbable buzzer-beater, then Mark Stone scored a power-play game-winner with 1.8 seconds left to beat Slovakia. Needless to say, it was a pretty good 24 hours for Canadian sports. (And, not a bad birthday for #61.)

That line had been pretty quiet. They really had been. The power play had clicked through the early going of this tournament with Stone and Marchessault. -Darren Dreger, TSN

TSN reporter Darren Dreger is in Slovakia for the IIHF World Championship tournament and got a chance to speak intimately with Stone about an array of topics, including Game 7, Canadian pride, and leadership.

We had high expectations for us. As an organization, we want to be deemed as one of the best teams in the league and we felt like we had one of the best teams in the league. We’re going to move on and get better from this. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to be a competitive team going forward for a long time in Vegas. -Mark Stone

Dreger points out that Team Canada has an awful lot of critics and Stone’s veteran, star power presence has helped keep an untested Canadian men’s hockey team focused.

He’s a man that just oozes character, and on top of that he’s a gifted hockey player. The character he brought over and into this lineup was vastly needed given the inexperience of Team Canada. Add to that they lose John Tavares and things could’ve gone sideways… He most definitely, Mark Stone is the primary leader. -Dreger

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What Do The Golden Knights Look Like Without William Karlsson?

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Sometime in the next 2 months, William Karlsson will file for arbitration as a restricted free agent. At that point, the most important contract negotiation in the history of the Vegas Golden Knights will officially be on the clock.

Don’t believe me on that claim? Keep reading.

The options are endless with what might happen with Karlsson moving forward. One year deal, bridge, long-term, arbitration, offer sheet, trade, you name it, the ultimate outcome of the negotiations could go any which way.

Each option leads the Golden Knights down a different path, and the concern for many Vegas fans (and tall skinny bald dudes who write about the team) is that it could end up seeing #71 on the back of a different jersey before too long.

As crazy as it may sound, there are multiple ways Karlsson ends up with another team, as soon as this offseason; especially if he values money above all else. So, I thought, let’s take a look at what the Golden Knights roster would look like without him. Then, we’ll all head to the Vatican and tell the newest VGK fan to urge McPhee, McCrimmon, and company to not let this happen.

The first issue is who would fill the void on the “first line.” The answer likely isn’t simple as the Golden Knights only true replacement for Karlsson are prospects. Paul Stastny, Cody Eakin, and Erik Haula are all very different players than Karlsson. Karlsson is a well-rounded center who excels at just about every aspect of the game aside from faceoffs. He’s superb defensively, he drives offense, he scores, he has excellent vision, his stamina is second to none, and he makes the right play 99 times out of 100.

Vegas’ other centers are all excellent players, but none have all the assets of Karlsson. This being said, Cody Glass, Ivan Morozov, Paul Cotter, or whoever Vegas picks at 17 in the upcoming draft may, we just don’t know yet. Glass is obviously the closest, but even he probably isn’t going to be ready to be a top-six center in the NHL in 2019-20 or even 2020-21. Morozov and Cotter definitely aren’t ready, and the draft pick only has a chance if the Golden Knights move up from 17 (and even then it’s a longshot).

Cody Eakin would likely get the spot, but even if he thrives, it still leaves a major void down the Golden Knights depth chart. It would almost certainly force the Golden Knights to bring back Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and/or Ryan Carpenter, and it might even lead to Tomas Nosek becoming a full-time center.

Otherwise, we’re looking at T.J. Tynan (UFA), Gage Quinney, or Brooks Macek (UFA) from within the system or someone from the outside coming in. Realistically, we’re talking about a player like Marcus Johansson, Colin Wilson, Ryan Dzingel, or Tyler Ennis. And even then, the price may be too high as the Golden Knights would be looking for a bargain.

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For Brandon Pirri “It’s All About Opportunity” This Offseason

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Brandon Pirri was one of the best stories in the entire NHL this season. He went from being passed over in favor of Stefan Matteau, Tomas Hyka, Reid Duke, Paul Thompson, and Daniel Carr to becoming a fan favorite, scoring seven goals in his first eight games and nearly cracking the Golden Knights top 10 in goals scored in franchise history.

A player who has always been regarded as an offensive threat but a defensive liability got his call back to the NHL on December 18th, 2018. He would not play another AHL game the rest of the year, and would eventually draw into the Golden Knights lineup for the most important game of the year, Game 7 in San Jose.

Looking back I’m really proud of myself. I wasn’t supposed to be on this team. I think there were four or five forwards called up before me. I finally got the opportunity and I made the most of it. -Brandon Pirri

But now, Pirri is an unrestricted free agent, and he’s in a much better bargaining position than he was either of the previous two offseasons when he signed one-year league minimum deals with the Golden Knights.

Instead, he’s now a 12 goal scorer in 31 games. He proved he was able to force his way onto one of the best rosters in the NHL and into the lineup at the most crucial time. This offseason he’ll be viewed a potential diamond in the rough, rather than an AHLer with potential upside.

What is he looking for in his next contract? One very specific thing.

Opportunity, it’s all about opportunity. -Pirri

He wants a chance to play in the NHL for good.

I controlled what I can control this year and I did get an opportunity and I proved myself. I’m not going to be given anything, I’ve never been giving anything. -Pirri

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Center Or Winger? Erik Haula’s Position Determines VGK’s Future Roster

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Coming into the 2018-19 season the Golden Knights appeared to be overloaded at the center position. With William Karlsson centering the top line, Stastny on the second, and Cody Eakin, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Erik Haula all options for the final two lines, Gerard Gallant was not short on choices. When the dust settled, Haula wound up being the odd-man out being pushed to the wing to play with Stastny and Max Pacioretty.

However, Gallant never had a full roster of players to work as Alex Tuch was missing for the first eight games, and by the time he returned, Stastny had gone out with a major injury. So, we don’t know exactly what may have happened had the Golden Knights been fully healthy. All indications through training camp, preseason, and the beginning of year indicated the plan was to use Haula as a winger, but a quick rash of injuries forced Haula back into the center until he was eventually lost for the season in early November.

As we head into 2019-20, there’s a possibility of some change in regards to the center position. Bellemare is an unrestricted free agent, former #6 overall pick Cody Glass could potentially fight for a roster spot in camp, and Haula still has to prove he’s fully healed from his brutal knee injury.

Aside from center though, the Golden Knights have much more depth on the wings now than they did heading into Year 2. With the additions of Mark Stone and Nikita Gusev, the Golden Knights now have nine legitimate top-six quality forwards. But, depending on Erik Haula’s position, they may only have two centers of those nine (Karlsson and Stastny).

On locker cleanout day, we asked Haula about returning to center. The words that came out of his mouth were not exactly telling, but the way they were delivered certainly made it seem as though he views himself as a center.

That’s… yeah that’s something that I need to talk about, but yeah that’s my… Possibly. I don’t know. I don’t know yet exactly, so just focus on getting to 100 (percent) then figure that out. -Haula

It’s an important decision for the Golden Knights as their lines would look drastically different with Haula as the 3rd center or as part of a group of seven stellar wings.

Haula as Center
Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone
Gusev-Haula-Tuch
Carrier/Nosek-Eakin-Reaves/Carpenter

Haula as Wing
Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone
Haula/Gusev-Eakin-Tuch
Haula/Gusev-Nosek/Carpenter/Glass-Reaves/Carrier

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Latest On The Ilya Mikheyev Front

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The Golden Knights made waves in the postseason by signing, and eventually burning, Nikita Gusev’s entry-level contract. The Russian superstar is the KHL’s MVP and will play on a line with Evgenii Malkin and Nikita Kucherov when the IIHF World Championships get underway next week.

But the George McPhee doesn’t seem to be done with his quest to bring over some of Russia’s best to become Golden Knights. On April 20th, a Canadian reporter dropped some news that Ilya Mikheyev could be the next Russian import to sign in Vegas.

Of course, that did not happen prior to the Golden Knights being eliminated from the playoffs, so no longer is Mikheyev eligible to burn his one-year entry-level contract that he will be forced to sign if/when he does decide to come to the NHL.

Weeks later, the news on Mikheyev was silent until his name popped back up in Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts column on Wednesday.

Some of my Russian sources aren’t buying that winger Ilya Mikheyev is picking between Toronto and Vegas. They think it is the Maple Leafs, and has been that way for a while. -Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet

However, Friedman doesn’t think the Golden Knights are completely out of the running on Mikheyev. He expanded a bit on his podcast, also named 31 Thoughts, on Thursday.

I wrote in the notes that my Russian guys were telling me that Mikheyev was going to be a Leaf. The one thing I was told is that I think Vegas and Chicago are still going to pitch him but he’s Toronto’s to lose. -Friedman

TSN’s Bob McKenzie weighed in saying something similar as well.

There’ve been multiple reports here in the last week that Mikheyev is on the verge of signing with an NHL team and there’ve been multiple reports that the team is the Toronto Maple Leafs. My understanding of the situation is that while it is likely Toronto is the front runner for his services, he technically hasn’t made a final decision just yet, that won’t happen until the beginning of the week, and that there have been conversations between Mikheyev and the Vegas Golden Knights as well as the Chicago Blackhawks. But those who know Mikheyev believe he’s looking very fondly at the Toronto Maple Leafs as an opportunity. -Bob McKenzie, TSN

Mikheyev is considered a high-end two-way player who has the ability to score. He’s a good skater, a great back-checker, and has consistently been used as a penalty killer for his KHL team, Avangard Omsk.

As of this moment, Mikheyev has not signed with any NHL team officially. The Golden Knights definitely appear to be an underdog to pull this one off, but he could be a nice add if that final pitch goes well for McPhee.

Either way, we should know in the next few days.

Offseason Outlook FAQ: Predictions On What The Golden Knights Will Do

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The offseason is going to be an interesting one of the Golden Knights. Not only do they have four players from the NHL roster set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1st, but they also have seven other UFAs, 10 RFAs including William Karlsson, Nikita Gusev, and Jimmy Schuldt, and they are pushing up against the salary cap.

Like every offseason, moves will be made. Players will come, players will go, and the 2019-20 Golden Knights won’t look like the 2018-19 team.

There are plenty of moving parts and literally thousands of options on the table, but we’re going to take an early stab at exactly what may happen anyway.

And because we are so familiar with the questions (because you all keep asking them incessantly), we’re going to do it in an FAQ format. So, here we go.

What do you think will happen with each of the UFAs?

There are four major ones, Bellemare, Engelland, Pirri, and Carpenter. Of the four, there’s only one who is close to a sure thing one way or the other, and that’s Brandon Pirri. He almost certainly won’t be a Golden Knight next season. He made it clear on exit day that his number one priority in his next contract is an opportunity to play in the NHL. Vegas likely doesn’t offer that and even if they do, it’ll be at a minimum price. Expect someone to pony up something like $1-$1.5 million for Pirri and him to find himself in on an opening day roster for the first time since 2016.

The next one that I’m most confident on is Deryk Engelland. I expect the Golden Knights to once again sign him to a one-year contract worth somewhere around $1.5 million. If Engelland isn’t planning on retiring, which it does not appear he is, he’ll remain in Vegas. Whether he’s in the lineup on opening night, that is still a question.

As for Carpenter and Bellemare, in both cases it likely depends on what George McPhee does with the rest of the roster. Carpenter seems more likely to stay in Vegas because there will be less of a demand for him around the league, but if one team steps up and promises him a roster spot, he’ll probably head elsewhere. With Bellemare, it comes down to center depth in Vegas. If Haula isn’t a center, it makes sense to keep Bellemare, but if he is, there’s really not room for Bellemare unless they trade Cody Eakin. If I had to guess, I’ll say Bellemare is a fourth line center for another team when the dust settles on free agency.

What does William Karlsson’s contract end up looking like and is there a legitimate concern that he’s not a Golden Knight soon?

Well, first off, this what we know will happen. The Golden Knights will extend the qualifying offer of $4,750,000. Karlsson won’t sign it. Instead, he will file for arbitration and a hearing date will be set for late July to early August. From there, it truly is anyone’s guess.

I do believe both sides have an appetite to come to an agreement on a long-term deal, however, I also believe they aren’t horribly close on the dollar amount. Karlsson could reasonably command north of $7 million while the Golden Knights would probably prefer he takes something closer to $5 million.

In the end, I’d guess he lands on a bridge deal that leans towards the Golden Knights side. A three or four-year deal would make the most sense for the player as he would collect a solid payday, would stay in Vegas which is best for him for multiple reasons, and he’d be eligible for unrestricted free agency around the age of 30 which could put him in line for one more major deal.

This being said, I could see him getting all the way to arbitration (where I think he’d get around $6.5 million), I could see him signing another short term deal, or I could see him locking in long-term. Karlsson’s contract is clearly priority number one for McPhee and Co., but due to the RFA timeline, don’t bank on it being the first domino to fall.

How long and how much are the contracts going to be for Nikita Gusev and Jimmy Schuldt?

Both are incredibly difficult to project. We’ll start with Gusev. As the KHL MVP he clearly deserves quite a bit of a raise off the $925,000 entry-level deal he was forced to sign and burn. However, he’s never played an NHL game, he’s not able to negotiate with other teams, and he may not be in the NHL for the sole purpose of money. I’ll guess it ends up being a three-year deal which gets him to age 29 before he hits unrestricted free agency with a value short of $10 million total. If he goes out and dominates the NHL, his next deal will easily make up for this one, but if he doesn’t, he’ll have played it perfectly to cash in on potential while not killing the Golden Knights salary cap.

(Oh, and don’t be shocked if he’s an offer-sheet candidate. It may only cost a 2nd or 3rd round pick for someone to throw an offer-sheet on him, and there are probably still some GMs who wouldn’t mind painting McPhee into a corner after the VGK Expansion Draft and the exemption in the upcoming Seattle Expansion Draft.)

Schuldt is slightly easier to project but still fairly challenging. He played in one NHL game and then was ineligible for either the NHL or AHL playoffs. He clearly wants to be in Vegas as he made the decision to come here over basically every other team in the league, but that doesn’t mean he won’t want his payday. Vegas would prefer to keep this contract shorter than four years so upon expiry he remains an RFA rather than a UFA. Let’s guess, three years, $4.75M total ($1.583M AAV)

What about the other RFAs? Tomas Nosek, Malcolm Subban, Alex Gallant, Tobias Lindberg, Tomas Hyka, Jake Bischoff, Zach Fucale

Expect qualifying offers on all but possibly Lindberg. Nosek and Subban will both file for arbitration but I’d be surprised if either makes it to their hearing. Can’t see either getting away from the Golden Knights nor can I see either cashing in for much more than $1 million. Worst case scenario is Nosek becomes a roster cut prior to opening night and has to clear waivers, but Vegas would rather take that risk than let him walk for no reason. Subban will be the back-up goalie for the Golden Knights next season, I can almost guarantee that.

It is remotely possible that one or more of the players on this list are part of a trade package as RFA’s are always valuable because they remain under team control. Nosek and Bischoff both have a bit of value in a trade, but they wouldn’t be the principal piece.

Aren’t the Golden Knights going to be over the cap? How do they fix that problem?

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