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Kolesar Contract Works For Everyone Involved

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With a few days to spare before the scheduled arbitration hearing, Keegan Kolesar agreed to a three-year contract extension worth $1.4 million per year. It’s a length and a price that fits perfectly for everyone involved, including the cap-strapped Golden Knights.

To understand why, it starts with setting aside any preconceived notions one may have of Kolesar’s game, the chief among them being his inability to score. There’s no denying the fact that Kolesar could have doubled his goal output last season had he been more clinical around the goal. But the fact remains, even still, he scored seven goals and posted 17 assists in 77 games, and did it while shooting well under the league average at 7.4%.

If he can improve his shooting even a bit, just to around 10%, we’re counting his goals using both hands and a few toes. But even if he can’t, five to seven goals for a player in Kolesar’s role is perfectly acceptable.

That’s because there’s more to Kolesar’s game than putting the puck in the back of the net. He led the team in hits last season, dishing out 246, nearly 100 more than every other Golden Knight. He’s one of the better forecheckers on the team while also being defensively responsible. He logged the 6th most penalty kill minutes among forwards, and with Mattias Janmark leaving that number could go up. And he even filled in on the power play, scoring a goal in just 35:42 of man-advantage time.

Plus, despite my personal feelings for the role of enforcer, Kolesar fought nine times last season, accounting for literally half of the team’s total number. If you have to have a guy like that on the roster, which it seems the Golden Knights remain committed to, he might as well be able to score a few goals, chip in 20+ assists, and play in all situations.

Combine it all, and there’s no reason why Kolesar is worth anything less than $1.5 million. (Don’t believe me? Look up Zach Aston-Reese and/or Garnet Hathaway.) However, with the Golden Knights’ situation, they need to maximize every dollar they can, which is why $1.4 million is a good number for Vegas in 2022-23. Throwing on the extra years to avoid arbitration likely kept Kolesar’s contract from pushing closer to $2 million in a year VGK can barely afford to field a legal lineup.

It also sets Vegas up nicely for the future. If Kolesar can take even the smallest step forward in the finishing department, he has the capability of being about a $3 million player. Paying him just $1.5 for each of the next three years offers a rare chance for a player to significantly outperform his contract, something the Golden Knights are in desperate need of. Even if things don’t get well, $1.5 million is easy to move or bury in the AHL.

On the other hand, for Kolesar, he’s set up nicely not only for now but for three years down the road. For a player who had logged just 45 games in the first six years after being drafted, he parlayed his first true full season in the NHL into $4.5 million guaranteed.

Had he gone to arbitration, he likely would have gotten a pinch more, but the term would have been just a single year. That would have forced him into another prove-it season which could easily have resulted in a mid-season trade or even not getting a qualifying offer next season. Instead, he now has three seasons to build on his game and position himself for his next contract, when he will be a 28-year-old UFA in a year where the cap could jump 10-15%.

Keegan Kolesar is not the perfect hockey player. Heck, he’s not even the perfect fourth liner, but he’s certainly above replacement level with enough untapped offensive upside and physical intangibles to be worth much more than the league minimum.

The Golden Knights now have him locked in for three seasons in which at the absolute worst he costs less than $300,000 against the cap while buried in the AHL. At the absolute best, he’s filling the role of enforcer while potting double-digit goals and killing penalties along the way.

Low-risk, high-reward. A bet you take every time. Especially in Vegas.

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54 Comments

  1. When your back is against the wall and your cornered you do what you have to do and that’s all that can be said about this situation. Kolesar actually doesn’t have the credentials to even be in the NHL and is fortunate based on the stupidly of the splash brothers wouldn’t even be on the radar screen, He sure wasn’t the replacement for Reaves they expected and if I recall didn’t exactly stand out with his fighting ability. The team continues to get weaker but that seems to be what happens when you are under the misguided belief you can buy your way to the Cup.

    • HD, absolutely! He WAS a disappointing pick, after PDB dumped Reaves ( wasn’t that PDB’S first personnel move as new coach?) If Kolesar improves in these 3 years, then, good for the team. But we’re still short on the ” tough side” of the game, and Kolesar just isn’t the answer. Attitude is everything…Reaves had it, Kolesar doesn’t.

    • D M R

      Exactly!

  2. VGK2018

    You do realize that there are probably 100 guys in the AHL who will hit, score 5-10 goals in the NHL and have “upside” if they could put the puck in the net with more regularity. KK would be one of those 100 if not for managements strange infatuation with him. And please stop using the word “enforcer” to describe someone who gets “rag dolled” ever time he fights. He is actually a better scorer than a fighter and that is scary.

    • Vegas 218 – where did enforcer come from you are absolutely right that certainly doesn’t describe his ability. His fighting ability isn’t any better than his overall value to the team which is marginal at best.
      .

  3. Sorvino

    I completely agree with the writer of this article

    I don’t understand the above two comments. Ryan Reaves is a really good fighter but he is a shit hockey player. Really bad I think. And he is old. Why do you want an old shit hockey player on the team. Kolesar is younger, faster, a better forechecker and more skilled. He also kills penalties. Ryan Reaves never killed a penalty in his entire life. Reaves has that nice element that happens maybe once an entire season where he’s going to beat the shit out of somebody but other than that he’s kind of shit. Nearly every single time he was on the ice last year for the Rangers he was a massive liability. The Rangers are an excellent defensive team yet he had by far the worst plus minus on the team and he was barely on the ice. With how few minutes he played when he was on the ice he got scored against just very often. Feel free to look it up. He had a team worst -13 and he barely played. At 35 years old it’s not Reaves is going to improve. Kolesar has a terrible time cashing in on his scoring chances but still produces more office than Reaves. At 25 years old at least there is a very good chance that he could keep improving although even if he doesn’t he’s so much better than Reaves. I’m really confused with the comments by HdBiker7851 and TS. I’m new to this. It’s Kolesar this blogs whipping boy or something? Again, like the writer of this article basically states, it’s not like he’s a great hockey player but he is a capable bottom six forward who forechecks well, kills penalties and is young and can improve. And has a respectable cap hit. Reaves seems like a really cool guy and is an awesome fighter but he kind of sucks. Again, I am new to this but why are they compared to each other? They weren’t treated for each other. I don’t think they really play the same role other than Kolesar having some fights last year. Reaves can’t really do anything other than fight while Kolesar can sometimes move up and down the lineup.

    • Sorvino: With me, Reaves didn’t always have to fight. It was more about his attitude– he knew how to get under opponents’ skin. It kept other teams’ lines off- balance. He pissed off other guys without having use his fists. He brought some cockiness and MOJO to the team, which I thought was the role he enjoyed and excelled at. Yeah, not a great skater. But an asset that PDB had prior problems with, and couldn’t wait to trade away..and we STILL need that intimating guy on the team.

      • Sorvino

        TS, I liked Ryan Reaves, it’s hard not to with his infectious personality. They were paying him too much money. He took too much space on the cap. It was great when they had him at a 1.125 million cap hit in 2017-18 but then they resigned him a 2.775 million per year (yikes) Kolesar makes half the money. This matters to a team that is too tight to the cap. Reaves eventually took a huge decrease in salary in his next contract and now makes 1.775, probably a little too much. Ryan Reaves was the right guy at the right time but he is now 35 years old and steadily declining. Like Marc Andre Fluery he is a blast from the past but too old.

    • The above didn’t imply Reaves was any better, he couldn’t skate worth a dam nor was he a goal scorer. Neither of them belonged on the Knights

    • Sorvino – just as a matter of info nothing else as you stated your new to this site. Where did you accumulate your hockey knowledge ????

      • Sorvino

        I’ve been around and involved in the sport for my entire life. When the first two comments had mentioned Ryan Reaves I made the assumption that Kolesar and Reaves were somehow being compared to each other. I didn’t understand that as they weren’t traded for each other and Kolesar can do much more things. You have clarified that that wasn’t your intention as you stated…….

        “The above didn’t imply Reaves was any better, he couldn’t skate worth a dam nor was he a goal scorer. Neither of them belonged on the Knights.”

        If someone doesn’t think that Kolesar should be on the team at all then I’m not going to argue and say that they are wrong because we are not talking about the next Wayne Gretzky here. I can certainly disagree. I think you have to round out the bottom six of the roster with cheaper alternatives to stay under the salary cap. Who do you replace him with? Jake Lesyschyn??? Jack Dugan??? Those guys suck and are not NHL calibre and look what happened last year when you had a bunch of them up at the same time. I believe that replacement would have already taken place if they had someone capable for cheaper.

        My main argument here is not so much of the capabilities of Keegan Kolesar. He’s probably just not relevant or good enough to dedicate so much time to conversation. It would be great for the team if he would chip in 15 goals and become a more effective penalty killer. I guess what I really take issue with are some of the following comments which are just inaccurate and when I say inaccurate that is not based on opinion.

        One commentor said that he should make half the league minimum. That doesn’t bother me because this person is obviously stupid and there are a lot of stupid people out there. It’s called a league minimum for a reason and while some are not fans of Kolesar he is an NHL hockey player.

        Another comment said that they should have resigned him for $900,000 or in that range. That’s simply not accurate as well. That option did not exist. The player had arbitration rights. If the team thought an arbitrator would think that he was worth half the league minimum then they would’ve let the arbitration process play out. An arbitrator would have awarded him a one or two year contract in the 1.5 to 1.7 million range.

        The option of paying him $900,000 did not exist. The two options were retain him on the type of deal that they signed him for or not sign him at all and move on.

        Allow me to elaborate and bring a real life example. Yakov Trenin of the Nashville Predators. I’m not going to pretend to know too much about his overall game. I don’t think the arbitrators are necessarily hockey experts as they are lawyer types and basically look at the numbers. Like Kolesar, he had arbitration rights this year. Trenin is the same age as Kolesar. Trenin has 41 points in 146 career games and Kolesar has 37 points in 132 games.

        Trenin and the team could not come to a deal and went through the arbitration process. With those numbers, Trenin was awarded a two-year deal at 1.7 million per year. The Nashville predators could have walked away but they decided to keep the player. again, I don’t know a whole lot about Trenin but it’s the closest recent real life example available. Trenin may be a little better than Kolesar or may be a little worse. I suspect he could have more value since he scored more goals and is a centre but again, and arbitrator was not going to award Kolesar a $900,000 a year contract. That option was just never there. I suspect by looking at the result of the Yakov Trenin arbitration case that an arbitrator may have come to the conclusion that Keegan Kolesar was worth about 1.3 to 1.5 million. In the arbitration process the maximum term a player can be awarded is two years. I assume Vegas preferred the longer term to potentially maximize on a player that could be worth over 2 million in another couple of years.

        See below link and I hope this helps.

        https://www.sportsnet.ca/nhl/article/predators-yakov-trenin-wins-arbitration-case-secures-2-year-3-4m-contract/

        • Sorvino – “I’ve been around and involved in the sport for my entire life”. Your words not mine. I noticed you said sports not necessarily hockey – was there a particular reason that was the case. I find little value in comparing what VGKs do compared to other teams and care even less. So your long dissertation is of no use. My concern with the Knights is their assembling a winning team which by accident they accomplished initially as everyone was rejects for lack of a better term and had something to prove. That attitude is long past, and they have to one degree, or another gone downhill ever since. Been around or part of hockey all my life and that is how I see the current situation sadly. Just for the record since you are new to the site, I am a ROI individual which has me questioning some of the terms and dollars VGK have squandered and proven to be the case.

          • Sorvino

            HD biker, I said the sport not sports. I was referring to hockey. It was a weird question that you asked me. Why do you give a shit about my hockey knowledge? Is there a quiz at the end of the week or something? I don’t give a shit about your hockey knowledge. It’s an opinion site. In your first comment you said in “their replacement of Reaves they didn’t get what they expected.” Then I replied with my opinion that Kolesar is a better hockey player. And then you and stated that you didn’t imply to compare the two but you actually did. I just ignored that because I thought you were confused.

            If you don’t want to get an answer to a question or
            “a long dissection”, then simply don’t ask.

  4. knights fan in minny

    i guess we will have to wait and see what the new bench boss gets out of koslaer

  5. Jason N.

    “Enforcer”

  6. Blitz

    Kolesar is an meh ok player. He hits alot, but I honestly can’t remember one hit that I was like wow, he crushed that guy. Pillow hits mostly. I am ok with his fighting. He isn’t a heavyweight and people shouldn’t expect him to be. He is not Reaves, a Reaves replacement, or even in that tier. He is a better hockey player though. He can’t finish at all. Got hands of stone, but I was always impressed that he would be in high danger situations. So he has to be doing something right. Solid defense. Decent skater. I am ok with 1.4 million for a 4th liner that has a ceiling of 3rd line. If he can learn to finish he could be a solid player.

    The flip side is. DON’T put him on the PP or as a line 1 or 2 replacement. Another failure of Pete Deboer. He was his go to guy for a while.

    • Sorvino

      Blitz, I agree 1000% with you. I cringed when everytime I seen him on the powerplay.

  7. Blitz

    Oh and where you at Jim? Here is another positive piece from sinbin for you to ignore.

  8. THE hockey GOD

    strictly a 4th , or 5th line player; not much more

    VGK needs a fourth line, and hope he plays and stays there. Anything else is above his station at this point in his career.

    “it takes time to develop a power forward in NHL”
    coGMGM

    PS on a more serious note, I took advise from our leader in white house and filled up my ‘lectric Vette with some of that oil cancer in the air. I can’t make this stuff up! Week end at Bernies deju vu.

  9. Howard

    Sorvino is right. KK isn’t being paid top 6 money guys! So, Ken is right as well. Geez, a lot of Vegas fans really aren’t hockey knowledgeable IMO.

    • THE hockey GOD

      did someone just say “unsophisticated fan base” , oh no. The hate is going to come piling down.

      There is a big “enforcer” in AHL pushing KK, although I would hardly call KK an enforcer. He needs to be smarter, and stop taking silly penalties. I think no. 81 and KK lead the team in silly walks to the penalty box.

      They should give them the John Cleese, of Monty python fame, award for “silliness”. Noted for his silly walk bit, which at the time was pretty hysterical, but a bit dated by modern standards which can’t even hold a candle to great comedy of decades ago. I mean when you boo Don Rickles you know there are problems with ones sense of humor.

      Here have a cookie. Everyone gets a cookie, except Blitz, because he can’t chew a cookie when he’s still laughing. May choke on it, and that wouldn’t be good.

  10. Emmanuel

    He’s also in his prime, it’s possible he has 2 of his best seasons in the next 3 years at a bargain rate.

  11. Tim

    Ken sometimes I just don’t get the logic. Ok sign Kolesar for 1.4 million if that’s what you want to do but in the past we could have extended Tomas Nosek for the same price and in my opinion a much better hockey player but they let him walk.

    • Tim – that speaks to a number of stupid moves the splash brothers have done and continue to do. Kolesar is just lucky he has these two morons around who suck at asset management.

    • When did I suggest it was a good idea to let Nosek walk?

      • Tim

        Ken I never implied that you suggested that I was referring to management letting Nosek go when he was a 110% players. Sometimes change for the sake of change is not always a good thing. 3 Years of Kolesar just widens the gap of us being competitive. He has what we would call hands of stone.

  12. Ricky

    Kolesar should have been less than 900k for his contract. He is a bottom six forward playing with a team with players like Jack Eichel and Mark Stone. McKrimmon doesn’t know how to do his job. Very disappointing Vegas

  13. NHL Boy

    Kolesar should have been less than 900k for his contract. He is a bottom six forward playing with a team with players like Jack Eichel and Mark Stone. McKrimmon doesn’t know how to do his job. Very disappointing Vegas

    • Sorvino

      Ricky or NHL boy, respectfully you are misinformed. Kolesar at less then 900,000 was not an option. He had arbitration rights. He was going to get somewhere around the range of 1.5 to 1.7 on a one-year deal by an arbitrator if you compare him to other players of his ilk. Kolesar and the Golden Knights front office found a compromise that worked for both parties, slightly less annual salary and larger term.

      Again, Kolesar at less than 900,000 was not an option. The options were what they got him at or let him walk and not have him on the team at all. I would assume that you would have preferred that they let him walk and not be on the team at all.

  14. NHL Boy

    Sorry. NHL Boy and Ricky are the same person

  15. THE hockey God

    next up THE HAGUE !!!

  16. I like the move. Good player. More diversity in the lineup.

  17. Obvious

    He’s worth about half the league minimum . Another screw up by fat bastard

  18. knights fan in minny

    is 10 goals by kolesar asking to much

  19. Sorvino

    Not all Knights fan in Minny. He basically put up virtually the exact same numbers as William Carrier last year. The two players are much more similar than people think. and now they both have the exact same cap hits at 1.4 million. They are both capable of double digit goal totals although I am a little bit more optimistic that Kolesar can do it.

    I’d say the biggest difference between the two is the perception of them from the fans. Somehow two players that are nearly an exact facsimile of each other, Carrier is loved by the fan base and Kolesar is hated by them.

    Last years numbers……

    William Carrier and in 63 games…..
    9G, 11A, 20PTS

    Keegan Kolesar in 77 games…..
    7G, 17A, 24PTS

    • knights fan in minny

      LOVE CARRIER new year new coach clean slate koslear needs to take another step

    • Sorvino,

      I enjoyed reading comments above.

      I would just point out as a season ticket holder since season 2 and attending 40 games a year I can tell you from the eye test Carrier is much faster skater and draws more penalties.

      I personally think Keegan contract is fair. I would be happy to see him get 10 goals this year.

      • Sorvino

        VGK fan, Carrier is a good player at a reasonable cap hit. I like him in the bottom six. I’m happy they have him under contract for 2 more years.

    • Mike StG

      Sorvino, if Kolesar could learn to shoot quicker, which he’s done marginally in the past season – one reason he had a few more goals than prior year – he might increase his goal output. He plays with the puck too much in front of the net, tries to set it before shooting. With today’s goalies if you give them that split second to react or recover it’s a save instead of a goal.

      He was really bad the year before last when he nearly went the whole season before netting a goal. Everyone kept saying he just had bad luck and then he was gripping his stick too tight. But it was pretty obvious that if he would just shoot it without delay he’d have better success. He seems to be improving in that regard, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up with 15g this year.

  20. JV

    Can’t keep overpaying every player 250k or more like what happened here, especially when every mismanaged cap dollar counts. Reaves Lite could have been replaced for less than 1 million.

  21. THE hockey GOD

    I think the FBI should add themselves to the FBI watchlist.

    • HA! And the Secret Service!

      • THE hockey GOD

        the secret service hasn’t done anything wrong , it’s their watch dog that is the one in trouble.

        the department of hey we’re upgrading stuff, so delete everything on record so we can get on with the update.

        re boot
        starting
        NOW

        DELETE
        DELETE
        DELETE

        hey look there’s Hillary’s 30,000 missing emails.

        STOP DELETE
        STOP DELETE

        call CSI, agent Delco, where’s CSI when you need them ?

  22. THE hockey GOD

    The NHL preseason will begin on Sept. 24.

    The Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators will play a split-squad, day-night doubleheader, while the Boston Bruins visit the Philadelphia Flyers and the Arizona Coyotes will take on the St. Louis Blues at Wichita, Kansas. The exhibition schedule will feature 108 games over 15 days in 45 NHL and neutral-site venues in North America and Europe.

  23. THE hockey GOD

    The FBI, CDC, and IRS all serve the same purpose — to screw you and protect the corrupt establishment.

  24. THE hockey GOD

    Senate Democrats just voted to hire 87,000 IRS agents to spy on and harass American families.

    These Senate Democrats didn’t add a single Border Patrol agent in their bill to help address the nation’s border crisis.

    These folks have their priorities completely wrong.

  25. Original 6 ✅

    Please can we keep this to hockey blogs. i agree with you THG. 100%. but that’s what twitter or tic toc for. this is a hockey site and i get my fill of bulshit politics other ways. i enjoy reading hockey views. Hockey can’t start soon enough so i have something to watch ! Everyone have a nice evening and a great start to another week of the grind.

  26. JV

    Waiting for Hague the penalty machine to get 5 million a year. Gotta keep up with the overpayments.

  27. Pistol Pete

    Excellent article Ken. You did a nice job balancing all the possibilities. Nicely nuanced. Here’s to some upside to KK. Again, we can hope Cassidy will be an enabler.

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