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GM For A Day: Jason’s 2021-22 Vegas Golden Knights

Welcome to GM For A Day, the second in a pair of articles in which the founders of SinBin.vegas take control of the Vegas Golden Knights and reshape the team in a way we each believe will bring the Stanley Cup to Las Vegas.

These articles are NOT meant to be taken as a prediction as to what we believe is going to happen this offseason. This is what we would do, not what we think the Golden Knights will do (that article is coming tomorrow).

Today, I (Jason) am on the hot seat. Let’s go.

Here we go…

*TRADE: Marc-Andre Fleury + 2022 3rd round pick to Toronto Maple Leafs for center Alex Kerfoot + 2022 2nd round pick and 2023 2nd round pick*

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In a flat cap world, there’s no way I can continue to allocate $12M in goaltending. As general manager, I would entertain every inquiry coming in from opposing front offices. In the long run, the NHL is a cold, hard business and it wouldn’t be a secret that I’m looking to move a goaltender. I understand that it could hurt my negotiations but in the end I’m trying to move money and build some depth.

There are contending teams with issues in net and one that could use a steady tender like Fleury is the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs are loaded with talent but consistently underachieve in the playoffs. Adding a leader that just so happens to be the Vezina winner would be a big confidence boost for a franchise that hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1967.

To make it work I asked for center Alex Kerfoot ($3.5M x 2) to help my club down the middle. I considered asking for defenseman Morgan Reilly but he’s on an expiring contract with an AAV of $5M. At that rate, I would find a way to re-sign Alec Martinez. At a $3.5M AAV Kerfoot isn’t exactly cheap, but he’s only locked in for two more seasons. Personally, I don’t love the trade, but it was necessary. It gave me agita dealing Fleury over last season’s mismanagement. Finally fixing the roster to pay just one one starting goaltender allows for much-needed cap relief, a solid third line center and a future draft asset we can use as capital at the deadline.

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Internal Upgrade Options For 2021-22 Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the past couple of seasons, we’ve started to see a bit more of an influx of younger players into the Golden Knights’ lineup. From Zach Whitecloud and Nic Hague taking up permanent spots on the blue line to Keegan Kolesar, Nic Roy, and Cody Glass pushing for their places in the bottom six, Vegas has been looking to inject more youth into a roster that’s growing increasingly older each year.

With a clear need for upgrades, especially offensively, the Golden Knights promised to “turn over every stone” this offseason in a search to make this team better, get them over the hump, and bring Las Vegas the Stanley Cup. One such stone they may be wise to search under is the prospect pipeline.

The surprise addition of Kolesar to the opening night roster and him sticking with the club for the entirety of the 2020-21 season proves the team is willing to give a young player extended time at the NHL level if deserved. Unlike most young players though, his situation was complicated by the waiver process in that he was not exempt like most other VGK prospects. Placing him on waivers would be exposing him to be lost to another team for nothing, a risk the Golden Knights clearly were never comfortable taking.

This season, another young player is in a similar situation. 23-year-old Dylan Coghlan heads into this offseason as a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, the same spot Kolesar was in a year ago. Coghlan is due to be extended a qualifying two-way one-year offer worth $750,000 at the NHL level. Without much negotiating power, that offer is likely to be signed by Coghlan. However, this season, unlike the last, Coghlan is no longer waiver-exempt. Thus, if the Golden Knights want to place him in the AHL, as they did on multiple occasions (using the taxi squad) last season, he would be required to clear waivers.

Like Kolesar’s situation a year ago, Vegas may see Coghlan as a valuable enough piece that they will not be willing to expose him to waiver, especially with a 32nd team entering the league.

Coghlan played in 29 games last season for the Golden Knights scoring three goals (all in the same game) and adding three assists. He’ll represent an affordable option that has shown some offensive upside and could grow into a bigger role on what is expected to be a revamped power play.

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Reilly Smith Could Be The Right Bait This Offseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Every offseason it’s inevitable that there will be roster turnover and fans will be disappointed when the news breaks. It’s happened in each of the Golden Knights’ previous summers. After the inaugural season fan-favorite, David Perron, and several others were left out in free agency. The following year it was Erik Haula who departed after a season-long injury. Then after last year’s postseason exit, Vegas moved lovable defenseman Nate Schmidt in order to make room for Alex Pietrangelo. It might suck for fans but it’s just real the business side of hockey.

We’ve seen this reaction from the Golden Knights front office before, when they don’t win they get itchy. Rumors swirl and of course Vegas is always in the middle. Just last season, reports were the front office was attempting to unload Marc-Andre Fleury and/or Pacioretty’s contracts. Currently, the Golden Knights are apparently one of the teams haggling for Buffalo Sabres’ malcontent Jack Eichel.

What fan wouldn’t want to root for Eichel? Vegas fans would sure like to, but like last offseason, they won’t be thrilled when a popular player or two will no longer be Golden Knights. In order to upgrade there has to be casualties. The trade bait we’re talking about today is one of the few remaining original Misfits, Reilly Smith.

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GM For A Day: Ken’s 2021-22 Vegas Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Welcome to GM For A Day, the first in a pair of articles in which the founders of SinBin.vegas will take control of the Vegas Golden Knights and reshape the team in a way we each believe will bring the Stanley Cup to Las Vegas.

These articles are NOT meant to be taken as a prediction as to what we believe is going to happen this offseason. This is what we would do, not what we think the Golden Knights will do (that article is coming later in the week).

Today, I (Ken) am on the hot seat. I’ve been given the keys to the car and I’m ready to start wheeling and dealing. For me, the team isn’t in need of a lot of changes, especially at the top of the roster, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be active in this unique offseason.

Here we go…

*TRADE: Ryan Reaves + 5th Round Pick to New York Rangers for 3rd Round Pick*

First up on my list of moves would be trading Ryan Reaves to free up some cap space and eliminate any possibility my head coach would ever put him in the lineup. My thoughts have been well documented on the player and I believe we could find a team willing to take him off our hands for almost nothing. The Rangers’ season ended with continuous line brawls against the Washington Capitals after Tom Wilson injured Artemi Panarin. Their new coach, Gerard Gallant, is familiar with Reaves and actually was able to pull a bit of offense out of him. We move up two rounds in the draft and relieve ourselves of $1.75 million against the cap.

Next, we’re making the big move of the offseason.

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Projecting The Probability Of Golden Knights Offseason Moves

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights could add a few pieces around the edges. They could go for the blockbuster and trade for Jack Eichel, Seth Jones, or Vladamir Tarasenko. They could do absolutely nothing. The options in Vegas this offseason are endless.

I, like all of you, have absolutely no clue what is actually going to end up happening, but I, like all of you, have fun trying to figure it all out and making guesses.

Next week we’re going to be publishing a series of articles giving our final guesses. Jason and I will take turns playing GM for a day and coming up with our perfect offseason if we were in charge, and then we’ll collaborate for what we think the guys who are actually in the front office will do.

But before then, let’s play the guessing game using percentages.

Will a goalie be traded?

Yes – 15% (10% Lehner, 5% Fleury)
No – 85%

For a variety of reasons it didn’t happen last season and many of those same reasons still exist now. Plus, unlike last year when they were two years away, the Golden Knights are now one year away from lowering the $7 million cap number on Fleury and having both goalies under contract at a much more affordable price. Biting the bullet for one more year seems like the runaway favorite, but 15% isn’t nothing.

Will the Golden Knights trade for Jack Eichel?

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What Would The Golden Knights Have To Give Up To Get Jack Eichel?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

I’ve been avoiding this topic for weeks and my plan was to continue to avoid it until it inevitably goes away. But… then I heard Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek mention it on the 31 Thoughts Podcast and I figured, ok why the heck not. Let’s explore it, give it a real look. Does it actually make sense? Heck, is it even possible?

I’m sort of assuming that the Eichel talk is going to heat up more than it already has.  -Jeff Marek

Now I’ve had a couple people tell me that might not happen until after the Expansion Draft. And I do think this, I think Vegas is sniffing around Eichel. -Elliote Friedman

Not a surprise at all. I don’t know how they do it. A) To get the cap space and B) To make the assets available to Buffalo to make it happen. -Marek

I do think they’re looking at this, I do. –Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

As Marek suggests, to make it happen, the Golden Knights will have to do it in two parts. First, they’ll have to make the trade to acquire Jack Eichel, which will not be cheap, and second, they’ll have to maneuver their way back under the cap after adding his $10 million cap hit.

We’ll start with the easier of the two, which for the Golden Knights is getting the player himself out of Buffalo. Due to the public clarity which surrounds Eichel’s eagerness to depart, the trade price is actually going to be quite a bit lower than what it would otherwise be for a player of his caliber.

This certainly does not mean it will be cheap though. When they do move Eichel, the Sabres will be looking at a lengthy rebuild which means they’ll likely prefer either draft assets, prospects, or young players that will still be around when Buffalo is ready to win. This unfortunately is the place where the VGK system is least equipped.

As far as the draft, the Golden Knights hold the 30th (1st round) and 36th (NJD’s 2nd round) picks in the 2021 Draft. They also have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks for every subsequent Draft.

The prospect pool still holds a few valuable pieces. Peyton Krebs is at the top of the list as an NHL-ready player who has a chance to be a top-line center. Brendan Brisson, Vegas’ 2020 1st rounder, is still a bit away from cracking the NHL, but he’s a bonafide scorer who could become a power play weapon. Behind those two would be defenseman Kaedan Korczak, a 2019 2nd round pick. He’s certainly on the brink of being NHL ready and projects to be a middle-pair d-man with the possibility to be even more. Finally, a pair of Russian forwards may hold some value. Pavel Dorofeyev and Ivan Morozov are both looking like NHL-level talents and could be seen as attractive to the Sabres.

Then, there’s the young crop of NHLers. The lead dogs in this group are Alex Tuch, who is from the northern New York area, and Shea Theodore who is about to turn 26 and has finished 6th in back-to-back Norris votes. Both are locked up under manageable contracts and each would instantly become one of the best players on the Sabres roster if dealt for Eichel. Nic Roy, Keegan Kolesar, Nic Hague, and Zach Whitecloud would be the final group that could make sense, but none hold massive value and each would represent another piece the Golden Knights have to replace if included.

In the end, it probably costs a piece from each of the groups or multiple picks and a prospect. So, here are a few ideas…

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Expansion Draft Trade Targets

Now that the Cup has been awarded, the next item on the NHL calendar is the Expansion Draft. The Golden Knights head into this monumental event beginning on July 18th in a unique position, as the only team that will not participate. Being exempt from this draft placed Vegas in a great spot to either poach players off existing teams as they navigation their protection lists or strike a deal with Seattle once the players are selected by the Kraken.

The Golden Knights pulled off 15 trades before, during, and shortly after their Expansion Draft and it’s to be expected Seattle looks to do something similar. Here are five players that could be exposed who might make sense for the Golden Knights next season and beyond.

Mason Appleton, Winnipeg Jets
$900k (1 year)

Appleton is the type of player the Golden Knights are usually after. A right-handed center with a high hockey IQ, plays in all situations, and has shown some offensive upside to his game. He scored 12 goals in 56 games with the Jets this year and did it while being one of the teams more relied upon defensive centers. He’s under $1 million against the cap this season and will be an RFA when the 2021-22 season ends. The Golden Knights have been awesome finding gems hiding down the depth charts on other teams; William Karlsson, Chandler Stephenson, Erik Haula, just to name a few. Mason Appleton could be the next one.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Chris Tierney, Ottawa Senators
$3.5m (1 year)

Recently I suggested the Golden Knights might be wise looking for a defensive option as opposed to more scoring. The idea would be to create a shutdown defensive line that could free up the top-six to do what they’re all paid to do, which is score. Tierney’s move to Ottawa hasn’t really worked out on the stat sheet (shocking), but his defensive usage numbers certainly make him an interesting candidate for VGK. He’s started almost 70% of his shifts in the defensive zone last year in Ottawa and playing under Pete DeBoer he was a 60% D-Zone start guy in San Jose in 2016-17. There’s history with the coach, he absolutely possesses the ability to score if playing with the right guys, and he’s accustomed to a defensive role. Vegas might have to bribe Ottawa or Seattle to eat a portion of that salary which could cost a nice asset but the player himself shouldn’t be too pricey on the trade market either pre or post Expansion Draft.

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It’s Time For Alex Tuch To Crack The Top Six

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If you’ve watched every Golden Knights game or just a few over the past four years, you’ve seen the talent level of Alex Tuch. It’s tough to miss. He’s big, fast, and incredibly skilled. Three attributes many NHL players weren’t born with.

After 255 games played with Vegas, it’s hard not to wonder if Tuch’s been used properly. A clear top-six forward on most NHL teams, the 25-year-old has been largely relegated to an inconsistent third line with no identity for four straight seasons. So when will the organization, coach Pete DeBoer, and Tuch himself, decide to make that leap and become a top scoring option for Vegas?

I’ve taken on a role of being able to move up and down the lineup. Honestly, it isn’t my decision whether or not I’m playing on the first two lines or the second two lines. I come here to do a job and that’s to play hockey and to do that to the best of my abilities. Whatever management, coaching staff feel where I should slot in the lineup that’s their decision and I’m never going to complain about that. -Alex Tuch, 06/26/21

I know he’s considered the seventh forward in the top six but it’s fair to argue if Tuch were given more shifts and better linemates he would become Vegas’ most lethal threat. I’m not ignoring Max Pacioretty’s natural ability to net pucks but Tuch is bigger, younger, and possesses a nasty release as well.

Perhaps the Misfit line’s chemistry is too consistent to break up. However, after back-to-back premature playoff exits, it’s possible there will be some roster shuffling. I’m not advocating trading a reliable two-way forward like Reilly Smith to shake things up, but to collect assets, cap relief, and create roster space it might made sense, especially with Tuch waiting in the wings.

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VGK’s Best Postseason Players All Had One Important Thing In Common

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If there’s one thing the Golden Knights were not short on as they headed into their fourth Stanley Cup playoff journey, it was experience. Before the 19 games they each played on their path to the Semifinals, the Golden Knights entered the playoffs with 1,086 games of postseason experience on the roster.

On top of that, they also boasted four prominent players that have won Stanley Cups. Between Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, and Chandler Stephenson, this version of the Golden Knights had players who had won seven of the last 13 Stanley Cups.

When you hear people talk about players like Fleury, Pietrangelo, Martinez, and Stephenson you’ll often hear them mention that accolade. In Martinez’s case, when he was acquired it was literally the only thing anyone wanted to reference when describing him as a player. And, after this season concluded, Martinez himself went right to it when talking about Pietrangelo.

He’s got that championship pedigree. He’s been through a lot of playoff runs. We actually went head-to-head quite a few times. -Alec Martinez on Pietrangelo

Personally, I’m usually a little skeptical when it comes to pedigree making a difference, but this year has made me re-think it a bit seeing the performances of the Cup-winners on the Golden Knights’ roster.

Think about it. Who were Vegas’ best three players on this postseason run?

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Playoff Pietrangelo Proves He’s Worth The Money

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When the Golden Knights inked All-Star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to a jaw-dropping $61.6M contract it sent a strong message to the rest of the NHL. In the past Vegas’ front office gleefully spoke about “big game hunting,” and they did just that by signing the former St. Louis Blues captain to a 7 year/$8.8m AAV contract. In the end the money was well spent, even if the majority was earned in 19 postseason games.

At first glance, or really first 34 glances, the 2019 Stanley Cup champion looked pedestrian. Sharp skating, good defense but he was a step behind. Surely, Pietrangelo needed time to fit and understand coach Pete DeBoer’s plan of attack. Local fans are familiar with adjustment periods after Max Pacioretty’s leap in year two as a Golden Knight. Either way, the 31-year-old didn’t impress right out of the gate.

Pietrangelo’s First 34 Regular Season Games
2.78 Shots Per Game
0.47 Points Per Game
17 Points (4 Goals, 13 Assists)

The 2008 4th overall pick began showing signs of improvement with less than a month remaining in the regular season. It was almost like Pietrangelo said to himself ‘it’s go time.’ From that moment forward the slick shooting, right-handed defenseman became more involved offensively and was, for extended periods, the Golden Knights most lethal weapon. Vegas’ alternate captain was increasingly more comfortable and more impactful when the games mattered the most.

Pietrangelo’s Final 7 Regular Season Games
4.3 Shots Per Game
0.85 Points Per Game
6 Points (3 Goals, 3 Assists)

The last seven games of the regular season were a postseason warm-up for Pietrangelo. In 19 postseason games, the first-year Golden Knight was arguably Vegas’ most reliable skater. He finished the postseason leading the team in minutes played, shots on net, and power play points. Only William Karlsson had more playoff points and points per game. The 31-year-old played up to his pricey contract and performed like a Stanley Cup winning captain.

Pietrangelo In 19 Postseason Games
4.0 Shots Per Game
0.63 Points Per Game
12 Points (3 Goals, 3 Assists)

Over his career the 13-year veteran has averaged 0.59 points per game, its nearly identical to his 0.56 points per playoff game. As Vegas fans painfully know, points are tougher to come by in the postseason.

To be honest, I thought the conversation after year one would be how Pietrangelo’s contract would end up financially haunting the organization. Based on his early play, you couldn’t blame management for having some buyer’s remorse, but then playoff Pietrangelo appeared and the cost and commitment didn’t matter. The front office paid for the player fans watched in June, not January.

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