Every time Jack Eichel steps on the ice his return draws a bit nearer. What felt like it would take an eternity when he was first acquired from the Buffalo Sabres is now right there in sight.
And while there won’t be a more exciting moment during the Golden Knights regular season this year than when Jack plays his first game, that moment will come with some roster consequences.
If fully healthy, the Golden Knights’ current roster sits a little more than $10 million over the salary cap. To get Eichel, Pacioretty, and Martinez all back on the ice, the Vegas front office will have to make some decisions, incredibly tough decisions that will change the makeup of this team.
We’re going to have to make adjustments but we do have a lot of guys that are hurt. We’re looking at that and making sure we don’t do something prematurely. We do have a plan, some alternatives, but we’re trying to hold off until we really see how the injuries sort out over the next 25-30 days. –The Creator
George McPhee echoed those thoughts as well.
We’ll see where we are whenever (Eichel’s) ready. If we have injuries, that’s one thing. If we don’t, then we’ll have to make a few decisions, that we’ve already sort of mapped out. We’ll see where it goes. But we’ve been aggressive so far, and we’ll continue to be, and we’ll figure it out when we get there. –George McPhee on Sportsnet 590
With Max Pacioretty expected to be sidelined for at least another month, it’s probable that when Eichel is ready the Golden Knights will still have enough money in LTIR space to activate him without doing much of anything else with the roster.
It’s after that where it gets very tricky and may require the use of a crystal ball to give this Golden Knights team the best chance to win the Stanley Cup.
The NHL trade deadline is 62 days away and the last day of the regular season is another 40 beyond that.
The next 62 days are easy, and that’s exactly what both The Creator and McPhee are referring to with their wait-and-see mentality. Depending on what happens between now and then, the decisions may be made for them. But those last 40 are where it could get problematic. While the Golden Knights may have their plans mapped out, getting rid of salary requires a trade partner.
The closer the calendar gets to March 21st, the more challenging it will become to find the perfect fit.
It’s a complicated puzzle, unlike any this franchise has seen in the past. The pieces to win a Stanley Cup are all there but it will take a bit of luck and a lot of foresight to put them all together.