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Golden Knights Post-Expansion Draft Trade Grades

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The Golden Knights have never failed to keep things interesting when it comes to the trade market. From the offseason to the deadline, Vegas is always looking to get in on the action. Since the Expansion Draft (where they made 15 trades), George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon have made 17 NHL level trades.

I went back and put three grades on every single one of them. The first grade is the short-term grade which is intended to judge just the season in which that deal was made. Mid-term grade looks two to three years into the future, and long-term grade is four years and beyond. Here are the grades.

October 6th, 2017
Calvin Pickard for Tobias Lindberg and 6th round pick (Peter Diliberatore)

Short-term grade: F
Mid-term grade: D
Long-term grade: B
Salary Cap Driven: NO

Literally a week after the deal went down, Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion and the Golden Knights had to turn to a goalie they had just declared “not ready to play in the NHL” in Malcolm Subban. Then he and Oscar Dansk got hurt and suddenly the net was Max Lagace’s with 19-year-old Dylan Ferguson as the backup. This is on a team that would eventually win the division and reach the Cup Final. The goalie injuries could have derailed the season and Vegas had traded a useable NHLer for peanuts just weeks earlier. Luckily it didn’t, and the pick they got out of it might actually turn into a useable player in Diliberatore, but boy was this a bad trade in the moment.

February 23rd, 2018
Tobias Lindberg and $2 million retained salary (Derick Brassard) for Ryan Reaves and 4th round pick (Slava Demin)

Short-term grade: B
Mid-term grade: C
Long-term grade: D
Salary Cap Driven: NO

It’s well-documented my feelings for the player the Golden Knights acquired in this trade, which is why the grades are so low. If the deal is never made, do they ever sign him to the ludicrous $2.75 million deal? He did score a game-winning goal in the Western Conference Final and then another goal in the Cup Final which makes that short-term grade look good.

February 26th, 2018
Brendan Leipsic for Philip Holm

Short-term grade: F
Mid-term grade: C
Long-term grade: C
Salary Cap Driven: NO

Our sources say this trade was a precursor to an Erik Karlsson deadline trade that fell through. Once it didn’t happen though, Vegas had given away a useable player for an unusable one on a team headed to the playoffs. The only saving grace on this trade is that Leipsic ended up having some off-ice stuff that occurred on Washington’s watch instead of Vegas’.

February 26th, 2018
1st round pick (Joseph Veleno), 2nd round pick (Robert Mastrosimone), 2021 3rd round pick for Tomas Tatar

Short-term grade: F
Mid-term grade: F
Long-term grade: F
Salary Cap Driven: NO

Disaster. There’s really no other word necessary to describe this trade, but I’ll add some more for good measure. They overpaid for him in the first place, then he didn’t fit at all with the team, and finally he was another piece of the puzzle showing the divide between Gallant and the front office. Oh, and then they had to make another bad trade to correct this one.

September 10th, 2018
Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki, 2nd round pick (Samuel Fagemo) for Max Pacioretty

Short-term grade: C
Mid-term grade: D
Long-term grade: F
Salary Cap Driven: NO

It’s bad enough that Suzuki has turned himself into a budding young star, but Tatar turned his career right back around instantly once he got out of Vegas. Pacioretty has been good for the Golden Knights but he comes with a massive salary cap hit that has been part of the reason Vegas has been in cap trouble the last few years. Vegas got a good player that has been helpful, but there’s no doubt this trade would have been better off never being made.

January 21st, 2019
Brad Hunt and 6th round pick (Nikita Nesterenko) for 5th round pick (Isaiah Saville)

Short-term grade: F
Mid-term grade: C
Long-term grade: C
Salary Cap Driven: NO

Remember what happened Game 1 of the 2019 playoffs? Colin Miller was benched as a healthy scratch and the replacement player was Nick Holden instead of Brad Hunt. Holden struggled in that game, as did the Golden Knights, and they ended up losing the series in seven games. No one will ever know if Hunt would have been better, but he certainly was a better like-for-like option than Holden. And, Vegas gave him away for nothing. Sure it was a nice thing to do for Hunt, which is the only reason why it’s not considered an F across the board.

February 25th, 2019
Oscar Lindberg, Erik Brannstrom, 2nd round pick (Egor Sokolov) for Mark Stone and Tobias Lindberg

Short-term grade: A
Mid-term grade: A
Long-term grade: A
Salary Cap Driven: NO

If there was a grade better than A, it would receive that. The Golden Knights got a superstar and really only had to part ways with a former 1st and a 2nd. Plus, that former 1st hasn’t made any impact at the NHL level to this point. Even if Brannstrom turns out to be successful, he’d have to be better than Mark Stone to make this trade anything but a rousing success, and even then, it’s still a good move because Vegas got the star when their Cup window was wide open.

June 27th, 2019
Erik Haula for Nic Roy and 2021 5th round pick

Short-term grade: D
Mid-term grade: B
Long-term grade: B
Salary Cap Driven: YES

The Golden Knights 2019-20 season was marred by stretches of scoring droughts. Erik Haula could have helped that problem, but the Golden Knights had to move him due to cap constraints (though there were other options). Roy appears to be a solid option moving forward, but he has a high bar to reach what Haula did that first season. Of course, Haula remains a free agent, so Vegas still has a chance to have them both.

June 28th, 2019
Colin Miller for 2nd round pick and 5th round pick

Short-term grade: C
Mid-term grade: B
Long-term grade: B
Salary Cap Driven: YES

Again, scoring was the issue and Vegas spent most of last summer trading off scoring options. So, in that sense it doesn’t look great, but Miller’s season in Buffalo was rocky at best and his price tag was always going to be an issue for Vegas. You definitely can’t have both Martinez and Pietrangelo if you have Miller, but any time you dump a player for cap reasons, you tend to be on the wrong side of the trade, even though they did fairly well in this one.

July 29th, 2019
Nikita Gusev for 3rd round pick (Lukas Cormier) and 2nd round pick

Short-term grade: F
Mid-term grade: D
Long-term grade: D
Salary Cap Driven: YES

The Golden Knights could not have botched the Nikita Gusev situation much worse. By rushing him over from Russia during the 2019 Playoffs, they created a distraction during a hotly contested series and then didn’t even use the player in that series. In turn, his entry-level contract expired without playing a single second and he was set to sign a new deal. Vegas didn’t want to pay him the price he was looking for (which ended up being nearly equal to Cody Eakin’s price) and they traded him for two picks. Gusev struggled early but scored 27 points in his final 34 games in New Jersey. Had he been on the Golden Knights on an entry-level deal he would have been an extra scoring option, but even had they paid him he still performed much better than any other bottom-six winger on the team. And, he’s only going to get better and better with more experience under his belt. It already looks bad, it’ll look so much worse if he drops 80 points in a season, which he is fully capable of doing.

December 3rd, 2019
5th round pick for Chandler Stephenson

Short-term grade: A
Mid-term grade: A
Long-term grade: A
Salary Cap Driven: NO

An absolute steal for the Golden Knights as Stephenson was set to go on waivers and Vegas forked over a measly 5th round pick to circumvent that process. He fit in instantly and became an excellent third center option. With Stastny gone he’s set to become Vegas’ 2C. He also signed a manageable deal… assuming his performance remains at his level as a Golden Knight and not as a Capital.

February 19th, 2020
2nd round pick (Will Cuylle) and 2nd round pick for Alec Martinez

Short-term grade: B
Mid-term grade: D
Long-term grade: D
Salary Cap Driven: NO

Even though Martinez played well for the Golden Knights, the price was massive for a deadline acquisition. Throw in the fact that Martinez makes $4 million and you can point directly to this trade as the reason Nate Schmidt had to be traded to make room for Pietrangelo. Unless the Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup this season, this trade will go down as a rough one for the Vegas front office.

February 21st, 2020
Cody Eakin for 4th round pick

Short-term grade: A
Mid-term grade: A
Long-term grade: A
Salary Cap Driven: YES

The fact that someone took Cody Eakin off the Golden Knights’ hands was good enough, add in the 4th round pick and this was a robbery. Eakin struggled mightily in Year 3 as a Golden Knight constantly dragging down everyone who was unfortunate enough to call him a linemate. His departure made space for both Stephenson and Roy to play bigger roles and it set up extra cap space to pull off the other trade deadline deals.

February 24th, 2020
4th round pick for Nick Cousins

Short-term grade: D
Mid-term grade: F
Long-term grade: F
Salary Cap Driven: NO

Cousins never really made an impact for the Golden Knights other than officially becoming their first trade deadline rental. It’s just a 4th round pick so it’s not the end of the world, but this was a trade that was not needed and broke a precedent the front office has been harping on for years (“no rentals”).

February 24th, 2020
Malcolm Subban, Slava Demin, 2nd round pick (Drew Commesso), 5th round pick (Kasper Puutio) for Robin Lehner and Martins Dzierkals (rights)

Short-term grade: D
Mid-term grade: C
Long-term grade: A
Salary Cap Driven: NO

In addition to getting Lehner the Golden Knights got a big box of drama. The awkwardness surely started the moment the trade was announced and just ramped up as the playoffs went on. Now, the team is stuck with $12 million in goalies and the motzo ball of planning on going into the season with the face of the franchise riding the pine (if he’s not waived first). Long term though, the price was excellent in securing the goalie of the future, plus he signed an acceptable deal too.

October 9th, 2020
Paul Stastny for Carl Dahlstrom and 2022 4th round pick

Short-term grade: F
Mid-term grade: C
Long-term grade: C
Salary Cap Driven: YES

This trade certainly helped pave the way for Alex Pietrangelo’s arrival in Vegas but a 4th round pick and a borderline NHLer for a 50 point, defensively sound, solid center is ridiculous. At the deadline in 2017 the Jets gave up a 1st round pick to get Stastny for 20 games plus a playoff run. Now, they get him for 82 plus the playoffs for a fraction of the cost. It also leaves a massive hole in the Golden Knights roster at center, one they are hoping to fill with a collection of unproven options. It’s basically a complete salary dump, except that the player can still perform and probably will to the tune of 40+ points.

October 12th, 2020
Nate Schmidt for 2022 3rd round pick

Short-term grade: F
Mid-term grade: F
Long-term grade: F
Salary Cap Driven: YES

The Golden Knights had to make room for Alex Pietrangelo’s monster incoming salary, but it didn’t have to be Schmidt that went and it really didn’t have to be for nothing more than a bag of pucks. Schmidt has been Vegas’ most reliable defensemen for three straight seasons and he was traded for a 3rd round pick just so the Canucks would eat his salary (and don’t even get me started about him going to a division rival). It can be spun as Schmidt for Pietrangelo, which looks fine, but that’s not actually what happened. Instead, Vegas got Pietrangelo for free (in regards to assets) and then decided their way to get under the cap was to trade one of their best players for basically nothing. All while remaining with $12 million in cap space dedicated to goalies! And all of that is hockey related, the loss in the locker room might be even greater than that on the ice. The Golden Knights trapped themselves and the Canucks cashed in helping them escape.


Overall – Short-term
A – 3 (Stone, Stephenson, Eakin)
B – 2 (Reaves, Martinez)
C – 2 (Pacioretty, Miller)
D – 3 (Haula, Cousins, Lehner)
F – 7 (Pickard, Leipsic, Tatar, Hunt, Gusev, Stastny, Schmidt)
GPA – 1.6

For the most part, VGK’s moves have made them worse in the short-term, however, the ones that fall in the A/B category have been MUCH more impactful than those in the D/F range. So, while the 1.6 GPA looks horrendous, it’s really not all that bad. This offseason has a chance to make it look a lot worse though if Stastny and/or Schmidt have good seasons or if there’s any struggles for VGK. All in all though, normally when the Golden Knights make a trade, it’s probably not going to help the team right away (which is weird for a team that’s been a Cup contender for its entire existence).

Overall – Mid-term
A – 3 (Stone, Stephenson, Eakin)
B – 2 (Haula, Miller)
C – 5 (Reaves, Leipsic, Hunt, Lehner, Stastny)
D – 4 (Pickard, Pacioretty, Gusev, Martinez)
F – 3 (Tatar, Cousins, Schmidt)
GPA – 2.5

The good ones are really good and the bad ones are really bad. Going back, there’s a legitimate argument that if given the choice of all or none, Vegas would choose none. There are a lot of good players that have been sent away and the return has been a fraction of the cost of what they gave up to bring the good players in. If it wasn’t for the incredible Stephenson move, this list would look really bad.

Overall – Long-term
A – 4 (Stone, Stephenson, Eakin, Lehner)
B – 3 (Pickard, Haula, Miller)
C – 3 (Leipsic, Hunt, Stastny)
D – 3 (Reaves, Gusev, Martinez)
F – 4 (Tatar, Pacioretty, Cousins, Schmidt)
GPA – 2.6

Even though the GPA didn’t get too much higher in the long-term, Vegas’ trades do seem to age well. Aside from the entire Tatar/Pacioretty ordeal, just about everything else is either good or at least palatable. As mentioned above, this is odd for a team that has been a Cup contender since Day 1. Stone and Lehner appear to be lynchpins to VGK’s future and the group of trades behind it paved the way for another lynchpin in Pietrangelo. 2.6 would have earned me a butt-whipping at home, but that would certainly be unfair in this case due to the impact of the bigger moves.

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21 Comments

  1. VGK2018

    Great article! Thanks.

  2. Mikegron32

    This was awesome work Ken. Really enjoyed reading this.
    Lesson learned in the Tatar debacle .. never make your boss look bad. GM liked this guy and thought he would be a great ad at a very small acquisition price. Turk has other ideas and now they have to make a deal to get rid of him that turns out horrible. That’s when the leash got significantly shorter between Turk and management

    • Mikegron32

      Also rinse and repeat this same scenario with Gusev. I think at the end of the day Turk didn’t want anything to do with him

  3. president elect - the hockey GOD

    they should have used Dominion voting counting machines, at least they give one candidate multiple votes when the ballot is repeated punched ! IT’s the machine that just keeps giving, like energizer bunny ?!

    good analysis.

    • Mike StG

      Christ! Now I have to see QAnon conspiracy theories on a hockey website?? Give it up.

      • the president Elect- Hockey God

        have no idea what you just posted, get a life, try English next time

        • Mike StG

          Your ridiculous reference to so-called Dominion voting machine problems, spewed by conservative media and websites, originated from QAnon, who is purportedly an anonymous “source” followed by thousands of mindless morons. QAnon’s main conspiracy theory is that Democratic leaders and the “deep state” form a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles that are sex-trafficking children and Trump is the only one who can stop them. So Doc, you’re spreading crap from a whacked out and malicious source. That enough English for you? I don’t read SinBin for that BS. It’s a hockey site.

          • the president Elect- Hockey God

            all i see in your post is horse hockey followed by more horse hockey and a purely indoctrinated , misinformed mind.

          • the president Elect- Hockey God

            Sidney Powell blows your post completely out of the water.

      • David

        Seriously, it’s enough to be embarrassed by “friends” posting this crap, now I have to see it on SinBin.

  4. jason mason

    Highest grade of 2.6, and it’s on the long term deals. Define “long term” for a 3 year old team that looks like it’s been pretty busy reworking a team that went to the finals in it’s first year of existence, and on it’s 2nd coach.

    I’m a fan, but not of the drama recently created, especially considering that “long term” drama will never get a very good grade.

    • jason mason

      My Bad…4+ years on the “long term” deals. Still, only 3 years in and some dramatic changes.

  5. QTim

    Like everyone else Ken I appauld you great trade brake down. The worse trade that being getting Tatar for a first, second, and third, that was brutal. Second worse trade again Tatar which we paid through the nose for and throw in Nick Suzuki and a second round pick to get Pacioretty. We could have traded Tatar separately kept Suzuki and the second round pick. Let’s face it Patch is a one trick pony who’s getting dinged up more and more. Keeping Nate Schmidt and trading Marshie the little guy with a big chip on his shoulder taking stupid penalties to show how tough he is. Eakin, Stansty, Miller, Hunt, Haula because of his injury all good moves. Stephenson and Roy great moves. Trading Gusev big mistake he’s getting the hang of North American hockey. Cousins we didn’t give much and we didn’t get much so much for him.

  6. james

    Great article . Unrelated question. 68 million question, thats what fluery made thru the years. Everyone loves flower but does flower love it here enough to cut his salary in half ? Or any amount.

  7. Mike StG

    Ken, good analysis. But I don’t agree that getting Martinez was the reason Nate had to be traded. They had to move enough money out and I’m sure they tried to move Marty before Nate, but they would’ve still needed to clear another $2mil since Nate is 6 and Marty is 4. The reason they had to trade Nate was they couldn’t move Fleury. Plus when Shea was paired with Alec his offensive stats went through the roof. Not the case with Nate & Shea paired – but that was just a side benefit.

  8. FG

    Of course this sets the stage for your next two articles.
    1. UFA grades for both VGK signings and those they let go
    2. Construct the best team with former and current VGK players

  9. sb

    A big, big hole on the Pac/Stone line. Without that playmaking center, these two dynamic players will underperform. That center was crucial to winning the Cup. To win, a Team needs two dynamic lines, not just one. Five guys are there, but the one that’s missing is huge.

  10. David

    I’m not sure you are rating trades with term properly.
    If you got Martinez at the deadline for a 2nd, it’s be good trade. We essentially do that same trade two years in a row. As you know, deadline deals are almost ways overpays from contenders and almost always rentals.
    The Vegas philosophy of deals with term or agreed extensions is good, but hard to judge compared to normal deadline deals.

  11. BrkrDave

    Very thorough and an enjoyable read

  12. A VGK Fan

    You lost credibility with me when you gave a poor grading for the Reaves deal, all because you personally undervalue what he brings to the team. Get over yourself Ken! Reaves is here to stay!

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