The Golden Knights offseason plans are underway and time for the front office to try and improve the club for next season.
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is the big fish in free agency and as we’ve seen before, the Golden Knights aren’t afraid to hand out a massive contract. At 30-years-old, management might be cautious before handing out an expensive seven-year contract. The right-handed Pietrangelo will come at a premium, so Vegas will have to be creative matching the asking price or find other alternatives.
Another notable UFA is Boston defenseman, Torey Krug. The expected price on Krug is around $7.5-$8M per season. He’s a year younger but unlike Pietrangelo, he’s a left-handed shot, and we’ve seen Vegas target right-handed defenseman in the past. Krug’s offensive production is worth the expense, but Vegas may lean to the much taller and right-handed Pietrangelo.
There are plenty of alternative defenseman in the market this offseason, some are less-skilled but cheaper and younger. If Vegas can find the defenseman that fixes their exact deficiency they won’t need to break the bank. However, that takes great awareness and pro scouting finding that right fit. That’s when the familiarity factor comes in handy.
Two defensemen available this offseason are highly respected by Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer. Former Sharks Brenden Dillon and Justin Braun are set to hit the open market. Both played well for DeBoer and are comfortable playing his style of hockey. Either could help the transition their former coach would like to make in Vegas before next season. Dillon is a big, demanding 29-year-old d-man, while Braun is a little older but conveniently shoots right-handed. Of course, they’re less desirable free agents but they can do the job that DeBoer asks. Oh, and they cost a heck of a lot less.
It’s no secret the Golden Knights organization has six degrees of separation with the province of Manitoba, and specifically Brandon. Mark Stone, Ryan Reaves, Zach Whitecloud, Cody Glass and Keegan Kolesar all grew up in Manitoba. There’s also an obvious comfort level scouting former players from “one of the Cadillac organizations of the Western Hockey League” the Brandon Wheat Kings. There are a handful of Wheat King graduates in the organization, including assistant coach Ryan Craig. So keeping with the Kevin Bacon trend, there are two defensemen linked to GM Kelly McCrimmon who potentially could be attainable.
Travis Hamonic played for the Brandon Wheat Kings for ten games in the 2009-2010 season. The 30-year-old Manitoban doesn’t produce offensively like Pietrangelo but he’s a solid top-four defenseman. TSN’s Ray Ferraro speculated it’s unlikely Hamonic will return to Calgary, and would cost half as much as it would take to lure in St. Louis’ captain.
Lastly is Damon Severson. We examined Severson during the trade deadline period. The righty is from Brandon, Manitoba, and also played for DeBoer in NJ before the coach was relieved of his duties. A player from Manitoba and played for the current coach, now that’s like winning a roulette double zero for the front office.
Names like Erik Gustafsson, Sami Vatanen, and Tony DeAngelo seem to be the ones floating around most, but I've got my eyes on Damon Severson in NJD. He's pretty much everything VGK like/need (RHD, born in Brandon, played in WHL, 4 years on contract, puck-mover, Team Canada ties). https://t.co/aucfz1Yjpe
— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) January 27, 2020
Are any of these alternatives better than Pietrangelo? We all know they aren’t, but sometimes building a legitimate contender isn’t always about the big purchase. Finding a defenseman that fits DeBoer’s system, and is affordable might be the best way to improve an already competitive club.