A couple of days ago I illustrated how thin the Golden Knights are at forward outside of their top 12. Aside from Valentin Zykov, who scored two goals, Vegas currently does not employ a single forward who scored an NHL goal last year that will not be in their starting lineup on October 2nd.
That’s why it would probably be wise for George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon to scour the UFA list and find at least one cheap option to add some veteran depth to the Golden Knights bench.
Here are five options that could make sense, without breaking the bank.
Rieder started off his career fairly well in Arizona scoring 13, 14, and 16 goals in his first three seasons. He was then traded to the Kings at the deadline in 2018 where things didn’t work out very well. He signed a one year contract in Edmonton this past offseason where he played 67 games and went goalless. There’s no doubt his career seems to be headed in the wrong direction at the age of 26, but he’s a defensively responsible player, never takes penalties (he’s gotten Lady Byng votes in three separate seasons) and he’s been able to score in his past. Reider has consistently started more shifts in the D-zone than O-zone and yet still boasts a nearly 3:1 takeaway to giveaway margin in his career. Plus, he’s fast and he kills penalties. Last year he signed for $2 million with Edmonton and was released when he was not extended a qualifying offer that would have also paid him around $2 million. Reasonably, he should be gettable for right around $1 million, and the Golden Knights should absolutely be in the market for his services.
This former Stanley Cup Champion has failed to reach the double-digit goal total just once in the past 11 seasons. He has 181 career goals in 838 games and scored 12 last year with the Panthers. He’s scored three points in five games against the Golden Knights (all with Calgary in 2017-18). Also, McPhee knows Brouwer very well. In 2011, McPhee traded a 1st round pick to acquire Brouwer from Chicago in June of 2011. He then went on to sign Brouwer to a two-year contract in July of 2011 and extend him for another three the following offseason. Quite frankly, Brouwer offers something to the Golden Knights that they simply don’t have, a veteran who can score. With Brandon Pirri expected to be in the everyday lineup, having Brouwer as a reserve top-six option would be valuable. He’s not exactly the most fleet of foot anymore and he’s starting to have giveaway problems, but if Vegas needs someone to help in the scoring department, Brouwer is much more trustworthy than Zykov, Curtis McKenzie, or Patrick Brown. He made less than $1 million last year and would probably accept something similar for one more shot this year.
A former 1st round pick (10th overall in 2009), Paajarvi never really panned out as an offensive option in the NHL. He scored 15 goals as a rookie in Edmonton in 2010-11 but hadn’t reached the double-digit mark again until last year when he scored 11 in 80 games for the Senators. However, Paajarvi has started 38%, 43%, and 38% of his shifts in the defensive zone over the past three years and has still managed to put up nearly a full defensive point share each year. He’s never made more than $1.2 million per year in his career and made just $800,000 in Ottawa last year. He’s not exactly the most thrilling option in the world, but adding him as depth certainly wouldn’t hurt the Golden Knights in the least.
Another former 1st round pick (21st overall in 2011), Noesen has just 24 career goals and 45 career points. Most of that came in his last full season in 17-18 when he put up 13 goals and 14 assists in 72 games. Along the way, he amassed 1.6 defensive point shares, which would have been good for 6th among all Golden Knight forwards in 18-19. The Devils had a bit of an overhaul of their roster this summer and Noesen was one of the roster casualties, not being extended a qualifying offer. He had a tough year in 18-19 playing 41 games and tallying just eight points. The cost is the question as he made $1.725 million a year ago. Clearly, the Golden Knights wouldn’t want to spend that much on a player like this, but if they could get him in the $1 million range because he’s still jobless come September, he could be a great fit for the Wolves and a good option if the Golden Knights find themselves in a pinch.
Why not? Lindberg inexplicably doesn’t have a team at the moment after finishing up the season in Ottawa well. He was making $1.7 million, but with every passing day that number is likely heading south, not north. He’s proven to be a solid penalty killer for the Golden Knights and when given the chance he does have the ability to score. Gallant never really seemed to trust him completely, especially when put in a position to score, but there has to be more trust in a guy that’s been on the roster for a year and a half than guys like Valentin Zykov, Nicolas Roy, or Tyrell Goulbourne. The only way this works is if Lindberg is willing to do a one-year low-dollar deal, which is still probably unlikely. For a player who needs to prove it, heading back to a team that wouldn’t really let you prove it and then traded you while you were on the ice practicing doesn’t really make a ton of sense. However, he does have some friends here and familiarity is always a good thing. It’d be better to have him than not, right?