Alright, so we’ve already shared with you what we think the Golden Knights will do this summer (Ken’s Picks, Jason’s Picks). Now, it’s time that we step into the hot seat and try our hand at playing the role of general manager. I (Ken) am going first, and I’m coming in hot!
You make me the GM, you are getting changes a plenty. In simple terms, I look at the current roster and cap situation and I think it will take a set of fortunate circumstances beyond what I believe to be realistic to win the Stanley Cup. Now, I’m not saying the roster is bad, at all, in fact, I believe it is in the Top 10 in the NHL, maybe even pushing Top 5. But, you hired me to win 16 playoff games, not 8, 9, or 10, and that’s what we plan on doing.
We’re here to take risks. We’re here to turn this thing into a true champion, and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to happen right away. My first order of business is to straighten up the most valuable asset in today’s NHL, the salary cap. Quite frankly, I look at the VGK cap and I see myself in a “you’re probably wondering how I got here” meme. Hell is far too polite a word for where the Golden Knights are salary cap-wise, so we need to straighten it out, and in a big way.
That means trades and lots of them. Buckle up, here we go.
TRADE – Jack Eichel to New Jersey Devils for 2022 1st Round Pick (#2 overall), 2022 4th Round Pick, 2023 2nd Round Pick, and Miles Wood
Yep, we’re doing it. I love Jack Eichel and I think he’s a generational talent that is bound to score 100 points in a season soon. But, I can’t have him and his no-move clause on a roster that already has $9.5 million Mark Stone and $8.8 million Alex Pietrangelo each with no-move clauses of their own. So, I have to do the only thing I can, and that’s move Eichel before that NMC kicks in on July 13th.
Yes, I’m aware this package is not nearly as good as the one this franchise gave up to get him in the first place. If I could take that deal back right now, I would, but I highly doubt the Sabres are up for that so we have to look elsewhere. The key to this trade is obviously the #2 overall pick, which we would select either Juraj Slafkovsky or Shane Wright. (I’d prefer the former, so let’s say we get him.)
We also net an extra 2nd and 4th and a usable player that I’ve been high on for a long time in Miles Wood, which we would instantly sign for $3 million AAV on a short-term deal.
The original trade for Eichel would have been a great move for most franchises based on the price, but for this one it was a mistake. It’s not because of anything to do with Eichel, it’s simply due to the cap situation. It has to be corrected and now is the only time to do it.
TRADE – Max Pacioretty and 2023 2nd Round Pick to Carolina Hurricanes for Teuvo Teravainen and Ethan Bear
Let’s keep the blockbusters going. Pacioretty’s injury history concerns me. Plus, I’m not 100% sure I’m going to have a true Cup contender this year so I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m forced to make a tricky decision on him at the deadline (especially if he’s hurt). We acquire a player who has the ability to score but is also a much more defensive-minded forward. Also, we get Ethan Bear who the Hurricanes are looking to move on from. Bear has arbitration rights but he didn’t have a great year last year so it shouldn’t be too costly to get him under contract on a shorter-term deal (let’s call it $2.8m AAV)
TRADE – Robin Lehner to Chicago Blackhawks for 2022 3rd Round Pick
For my overall plan to work, I need to put a lot of my eggs into the Logan Thompson basket. He’s cheap not only this year but for the next few. If he can become a legitimate starter, we’re going to be in amazing shape for the next three seasons. If he’s not, I need to know it sooner rather than later. Chicago needs a goalie again and I think their first go-around with Lehner was good enough that both he and the Hawks would be willing to try it again. Because we’re not as cap-strapped anymore, we’re able to pull a 3rd round pick out of this.
TRADE – Laurent Brossoit and 2022 5th Round Pick to Buffalo Sabres for 2023 3rd Round Pick
I needed to move Brossoit out too in order to make room for the free-agent goalie I’m going to sign for way cheaper than he’s actually worth.
TRADE – William Carrier to New York Rangers for 2024 3rd Round Pick
While I like what Carrier brings, I just see the point of having both he and Kolesar on the same roster. Kolesar is younger, typically healthier, and has a bit more scoring touch (I think). This extra $1.4 million in cap space is going to come in handy at a future deadline.
TRADE – Shea Weber’s contract and 2023 3rd Round pick to Tampa Bay Lightning for future considerations
This LTIR forever thing isn’t for me. Tampa is already committed to it as they have Brent Seabrook in the same situation, so it doesn’t hurt them too much to do this deal. We sweeten the pot a little with a 3rd, and we’re not committed to 4 years of a retired player anymore.
SIGN – Marc-Andre Fleury for 1 year at $3 million
The owner of this franchise promised this man he’d retire a Golden Knight and you better believe my first move as a GM is to right one of my boss’ wrongs. Also, this franchise needs some good vibes and this will do it in a big way.
SIGN – Chris Tierney for 1 year at $2.1 million
We hired Bruce Cassidy, so we’re going to play wonderful defensive hockey. Teravainen is going to offer a big upgrade in that department and we’re going to keep building this identity with Tierney. In a perfect world, this would have been Phil Danualt, but you hired me a year too late. Tierney is still one of the better defensive centers in the league and in this system, he’s going to anchor a 4th line expected to steal minutes from opposing 2nd and 3rd lines.
SIGN – Paul Stastny for 1 year at $2 million
See the trend here? I honestly believe this team was onto something a few years ago and we’re trying to recapture some of that energy even if I’m well aware that the players aren’t the same as they were years ago. Stastny comes in as a 3rd line center with the hopes that by the deadline he’s a healthy scratch and one heck of a depth piece if we suffer injuries. Plus, we’re trying to teach a new system this year and I think having a coach on the ice will help.
RFA’s – Re-sign Roy ($3m), Kolesar ($1.3m), Howden ($1m), and Hague ($1.2m)
I’d be willing to go a little longer on Roy and Kolesar while sticking with just a one-year deal on Howden. These are all excellent depth pieces that will be expected to anchor my bottom six this year and in the future.
I’m forcing Hague into a bit over the qualifying offer because we’re no longer in a position where he has the ability to hold out. If he’s great, I’ll have plenty of money to pay him what he deserves next summer and will give us a ton of flexibility on the blue line.
WAIVERS – Hutton, Amadio, Coghlan, and Patrick
Part of the plan with this team is to bank cap space so that we can make a massive move at the deadline if the team earns it. I’d first try to offer up each of them and take the minor draft compensation if available, but in the end I think they all get through. If one doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world. The idea of having even three of these players in the AHL as depth pieces is exciting too.
So, there you have it. We now have a 22-man roster that is about $3 million short of the salary cap. Here’s the lineup.
The plan is to be incredibly difficult to play against because of how strong we are defensively. The 2nd line would turn into a dominant shut-down line that could take care of any top-line in the league. The 1st line would get much easier minutes and play a lot with Theodore to generate as much offense as possible. We’re going to rely heavily on our power play to score the goals that we can’t generate at 5-on-5, but the plan is to win 2-1 or 3-2 most nights. Most importantly, we have an identity: Defense-first.
The most important thing we’ve done here though is creating a lineup that has a lot of flexibility. The cap space will accumulate throughout the year which will give us around $12 million in space to add a huge piece at the deadline. That is, of course, if the team earns it. If they are in the mix and we think we can make a true run, we have the ability to buy one or two superstars to supplement the roster. If not, we’re able to move on from the one-year deals and we’ll enter next offseason with upwards of $19 million in space to make the necessary adjustments.
Let’s make one thing clear, I DO NOT believe this team is better than the one currently under contract, but I believe we are much closer to competing with the likes of Colorado, Tampa, Florida, Carolina, and New York for the next few years. We have an 18-year-old superstar to build the future around, we added two extra 3rd round picks in the process of moving everyone out, and we have all sorts of cap flexibility to strike when the iron is hot, whether that’s now or in the next two seasons.
We must win a Cup before Alex Pietrangelo hits the back end of the contract, so the window is not long, but with the flat cap and the fact that Las Vegas as a destination will give us the opportunity to lure free agents at will, either this team is ready to be supplemented or we’ll continue to retool until we have one that is.
Oh, and we’re building a statue on Toshiba Plaza when #29 retires.