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Offseason Outlook FAQ: Predictions On What The Golden Knights Will Do

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The offseason is going to be an interesting one of the Golden Knights. Not only do they have four players from the NHL roster set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1st, but they also have seven other UFAs, 10 RFAs including William Karlsson, Nikita Gusev, and Jimmy Schuldt, and they are pushing up against the salary cap.

Like every offseason, moves will be made. Players will come, players will go, and the 2019-20 Golden Knights won’t look like the 2018-19 team.

There are plenty of moving parts and literally thousands of options on the table, but we’re going to take an early stab at exactly what may happen anyway.

And because we are so familiar with the questions (because you all keep asking them incessantly), we’re going to do it in an FAQ format. So, here we go.

What do you think will happen with each of the UFAs?

There are four major ones, Bellemare, Engelland, Pirri, and Carpenter. Of the four, there’s only one who is close to a sure thing one way or the other, and that’s Brandon Pirri. He almost certainly won’t be a Golden Knight next season. He made it clear on exit day that his number one priority in his next contract is an opportunity to play in the NHL. Vegas likely doesn’t offer that and even if they do, it’ll be at a minimum price. Expect someone to pony up something like $1-$1.5 million for Pirri and him to find himself in on an opening day roster for the first time since 2016.

The next one that I’m most confident on is Deryk Engelland. I expect the Golden Knights to once again sign him to a one-year contract worth somewhere around $1.5 million. If Engelland isn’t planning on retiring, which it does not appear he is, he’ll remain in Vegas. Whether he’s in the lineup on opening night, that is still a question.

As for Carpenter and Bellemare, in both cases it likely depends on what George McPhee does with the rest of the roster. Carpenter seems more likely to stay in Vegas because there will be less of a demand for him around the league, but if one team steps up and promises him a roster spot, he’ll probably head elsewhere. With Bellemare, it comes down to center depth in Vegas. If Haula isn’t a center, it makes sense to keep Bellemare, but if he is, there’s really not room for Bellemare unless they trade Cody Eakin. If I had to guess, I’ll say Bellemare is a fourth line center for another team when the dust settles on free agency.

What does William Karlsson’s contract end up looking like and is there a legitimate concern that he’s not a Golden Knight soon?

Well, first off, this what we know will happen. The Golden Knights will extend the qualifying offer of $4,750,000. Karlsson won’t sign it. Instead, he will file for arbitration and a hearing date will be set for late July to early August. From there, it truly is anyone’s guess.

I do believe both sides have an appetite to come to an agreement on a long-term deal, however, I also believe they aren’t horribly close on the dollar amount. Karlsson could reasonably command north of $7 million while the Golden Knights would probably prefer he takes something closer to $5 million.

In the end, I’d guess he lands on a bridge deal that leans towards the Golden Knights side. A three or four-year deal would make the most sense for the player as he would collect a solid payday, would stay in Vegas which is best for him for multiple reasons, and he’d be eligible for unrestricted free agency around the age of 30 which could put him in line for one more major deal.

This being said, I could see him getting all the way to arbitration (where I think he’d get around $6.5 million), I could see him signing another short term deal, or I could see him locking in long-term. Karlsson’s contract is clearly priority number one for McPhee and Co., but due to the RFA timeline, don’t bank on it being the first domino to fall.

How long and how much are the contracts going to be for Nikita Gusev and Jimmy Schuldt?

Both are incredibly difficult to project. We’ll start with Gusev. As the KHL MVP he clearly deserves quite a bit of a raise off the $925,000 entry-level deal he was forced to sign and burn. However, he’s never played an NHL game, he’s not able to negotiate with other teams, and he may not be in the NHL for the sole purpose of money. I’ll guess it ends up being a three-year deal which gets him to age 29 before he hits unrestricted free agency with a value short of $10 million total. If he goes out and dominates the NHL, his next deal will easily make up for this one, but if he doesn’t, he’ll have played it perfectly to cash in on potential while not killing the Golden Knights salary cap.

(Oh, and don’t be shocked if he’s an offer-sheet candidate. It may only cost a 2nd or 3rd round pick for someone to throw an offer-sheet on him, and there are probably still some GMs who wouldn’t mind painting McPhee into a corner after the VGK Expansion Draft and the exemption in the upcoming Seattle Expansion Draft.)

Schuldt is slightly easier to project but still fairly challenging. He played in one NHL game and then was ineligible for either the NHL or AHL playoffs. He clearly wants to be in Vegas as he made the decision to come here over basically every other team in the league, but that doesn’t mean he won’t want his payday. Vegas would prefer to keep this contract shorter than four years so upon expiry he remains an RFA rather than a UFA. Let’s guess, three years, $4.75M total ($1.583M AAV)

What about the other RFAs? Tomas Nosek, Malcolm Subban, Alex Gallant, Tobias Lindberg, Tomas Hyka, Jake Bischoff, Zach Fucale

Expect qualifying offers on all but possibly Lindberg. Nosek and Subban will both file for arbitration but I’d be surprised if either makes it to their hearing. Can’t see either getting away from the Golden Knights nor can I see either cashing in for much more than $1 million. Worst case scenario is Nosek becomes a roster cut prior to opening night and has to clear waivers, but Vegas would rather take that risk than let him walk for no reason. Subban will be the back-up goalie for the Golden Knights next season, I can almost guarantee that.

It is remotely possible that one or more of the players on this list are part of a trade package as RFA’s are always valuable because they remain under team control. Nosek and Bischoff both have a bit of value in a trade, but they wouldn’t be the principal piece.

Aren’t the Golden Knights going to be over the cap? How do they fix that problem?

The cap is likely to rise to somewhere in the ballpark of $85 million next year. Per CapFriendly.com the Golden Knights currently have $82,375,000 on the books with a lot of work still to be done. The short answer is that they’ll have to do something, and by that, I mean a trade or two. The most likely candidates are guys like Cody Eakin, Colin Miller, and Ryan Reaves, but it shouldn’t come as a massive shock if the Golden Knights move on from an even bigger name. Someone like an Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, or Reilly Smith.

All six of those players mentioned have substantial cap hits, but they also all have legitimate trade value. McPhee has to do something to the roster, and likely something pretty big. I expect it to happen around the Draft on June 21st. Don’t get too comfortable with anybody on the roster currently, because something has to go down.

Can someone please explain to me how the whole David Clarkson LTIR thing works?

Truthfully, no we can’t really explain it. CapFriendly.com tries, but even that is a lot to take in. It’s a complicated process that allows a team to get salary cap relief for a player that is unable to play. Really, all you need to know is that a majority (if not all) of Clarkson’s $5,250,000 will not count against the Golden Knights salary cap.

Are the Golden Knights going to be active on July 1?

Even with the Clarkson LTIR relief, the Golden Knights are not going to have a ton of money to spend in free agency. Once they lock in their own guys, they’ll probably only have enough room to add AHL level players. Expect a few players to ink contracts with Vegas, but no one of major significance.

Which rookies have the best chance of making the team next year?

At this moment, it is going to be incredibly challenging for any rookie, except Gusev, to crack this roster. Of course, we’re expecting a trade or two that will likely open a few spots so it may look better for the rookies come September than it does today.

The most likely to find himself on the Golden Knights roster is Nic Hague, who had an incredible season in the AHL and is very highly valued by the organization. Cody Glass is going to be given an opportunity to compete for a spot, but the favorite is for him to start 2019-20 in Chicago as the center depth at the NHL level is strong.

Jimmy Schuldt is kind of the unknown rookie as he’s really not had a chance to prove himself in this organization yet. He could vault above Hague or he could find himself in Zach Whitecloud’s shoes where he just isn’t ready to break through on a team with Cup aspirations and a stout defense. I’ll make the bold prediction right now that one rookie not named Gusev is on the opening night roster, but by the end of the season, three will make their NHL debuts.

So, with all that said, what do the lines and pairings look like on Opening Night?

This will change. But at the moment, here’s how I project the Golden Knights to look come next season assuming everyone is healthy.

Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone
Gusev-Haula-Tuch
Nosek-Eakin-Reaves
(Carpenter, Carrier)

Schmidt-Engelland
McNabb-Theodore
Hague-Holden
(Merrill)

Fleury
(Subban)

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39 Comments

  1. Nick R

    Ken you’re going to give me an aneurysm even mentioning the possibility of Reilly Smith being traded.

    • Jeff F

      Me too. I actually thought he had a no trade clause from his Florida contract.

      • He has a modified no trade. I believe it’s 8 teams he can’t go to. I honestly don’t think it’s likely, but he has some major value and would clear a lot up if they did decide to move on from him.

    • Stephanie Limperis

      That’s insane .I’ll def think theyve lost their mind ! We do NOT have many 200ft players , WKarlsson R.Smith ,MStone and prob Cody Eakin .McPhee will piss the hell out of me with this one .I’d rather see Stasny leave whom I like a lot .but is Not a 200ft player and that’s fine but he should Not play on the kill ever

  2. Michael Bolino

    My very undereducated opinion looking at this says there is no way we can have BOTH Eakin and Haula on the team next season…the other least invasive move would be to find a way to get rid of Holden and his contract…if we could move those two I think there is a possibility the roster stays mostly intact…I would like to see us keep Bellemare and Engelland and expect to see Gusev, Whitecloud, and Hague compete for opening day spots…unless we could land a depth NHL piece in a Holden/Eakin/Haula trade

  3. John

    Engo needs to move on IMO. I am all for giving him some sort of position in the front office, but its time. I think his foot speed has slowed to the point of an issue. I think his lack of puck moving skills really hurts a team like Vegas who thrives on transition.

    I love what Derek has done for the team, and I do want to see him stay on with the Knights. But I do think its time to pass the torch to the next guy and step aside.

  4. Will P

    Great read as always, Ken. I’ve been trying to mentally prepare myself for the inevitable trades that will go down to clear cap space, but I’ve gotta say, I won’t be too happy if Smith or Carrier get shipped. I don’t want Tuck or Eakin to be tradebait either, but I would understand the movement from GMGM.

  5. Holger

    Excellent read, but we need to move Clarkson’s contract to save some offseasons cap space. Also, the projected lineup for our defense is just frightening. Not sure how we can do it, but we have to upgrade somehow.

  6. Evan

    Those top three lines are sick! Not sure how we keep Eakin and get Gusev signed and Wild Bill re-signed though. If possible, even though I hate losing Bellemare, then that 4th line is still a nice grinder line. Probably even a better one than this past season.

    My only issue is that we probably need to move on from Engelland. I get that he has value to the organization (and the city) that goes beyond what he does or doesn’t do on the ice. However, even if they do retain him he has no business being a top 6 defenseman let alone being a top pairing defenseman. If anything, he’d be most useful as the 7th d-man being a healthy scratch most nights instead of Merrill. And if we can somehow move Holden’s contact as well, bonus points!

  7. Arvin

    Need to step up from Merrible.

  8. Mike G

    No way anyone in the top 6 + Tuch gets traded until they at least have a better idea what Gusev can do in the NHL. The Mark Stone contract kind of got lost in the euphoria of getting him at the trade deadline, but there will absolutely be some dominos that fall because of cap issues. I just hope the Karlsson thing doesn’t get ugly like Theodore’s or even worse like Mitch Marner with the Leafs last year.

    • Michael Bedrosian

      Why are you always so sold on Subban? We need a reliable back up. Flurey isn’t getting younger. Engellland showed his age last season. He has been a great ambassador for the team. He needs to go though. Reeves and Miller would ne hard to let go but numbers dictate it.

    • Joe E

      @MikeG Just a couple of things here. Wild Bill is not be in the same situation as Shea because he is arbitration eligible. It will never get to that point. Also it was Nylander for the Leafs last year.

  9. B

    I think Nosek, Reaves, Miller, England are all gone to free up cap space.

    Gusev – Not that difficult to replace Nosek

    Reaves and Miller are salary cap casualties

    Love Derek England but he is just too slow to be effective.

    3rd line
    Tuch Eakin Haula – Need Eakins Defense
    Gusev Glass ?????

  10. Nick R.

    I know that you hate Reaves’s contract Ken, why no mention? As a pure hockey move I don’t like the idea of resigning Engelland. Pair him with any other d-man on the team and he hurts their Corsi. Love what he did for the team/city, love his PK ability but he has no business being on a top pairing. Schmidt needs a partner that can allow him to play his game. What the hell happened to Miller this season? Guy couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a handful of pebbles. Having the heaviest shot on the team doesn’t mean much when you’re shooting 2.3%.

  11. Bent Hermit

    From what I understand and seen Clarkson has to be on the team day 1 and then he can be moved to LTIR. That means that his salary would have to be counted toward the cap on opening day. A lot of teams move guys that are waiver exempt to the minors then back to help with the opening day cap. I don’t see Eakin being traded before Haula. For 1 Turk loves him. Plus Eakin is much better defensively and can get 20 goals. He’s also better on the PK. I could see both Miller and Holden being traded to open up cap space. This would also open some spots for the young guys.

  12. Dave Ryan

    I really think that our biggest need for next season is to shore up the D. I would keep Schmidt, Theodore, and McNabb, and let Engelland, Miller, Merrill and Holden go. Those guys, particularly Holden, drag us down much more than they help. Engelland is too old and slow, despite his sentimental value to the city. Also, Subban has to go! He is not an NHL starter-quality goalie, and will never be. Fleury is getting near the end of his prime, and we absolutely need an up and coming young back-up who can be groomed to step in and start when needed. It was quite obvious Gallant had no trust in Subban in any games that counted, burnt out Fleury over the long haul, and thus we got a first round exit. Let’s bring up several young defensemen and trade for a legit back-up goalie!

    • Merill only carries a 1.4 million cap hit, which doesn’t provide much cap relief. Anyone that replaces him is going to be making at least 925k, so you’re saving .5 million? Unless you get an offer you can’t refuse, that’s a player that you hold onto.

      • Arvin

        Sure, not saving much cap space replacing Merrill. But we will stop creating a lot of breakouts by opponents if Merrible isn’t there passing the puck straight to opposing players.

  13. Jake O.

    It seems like there is a disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff as to the value of Karlsson. The coaching staff uses him in every vital situation possible and the $3.5M arbitration offer last year was an insult to a guy coming off a 43 goal season. I really hope George isn’t burning the bridge there, because without Karlsson this isn’t anywhere close to as good of a team.

    I hope your projected centers are what actually transpires, but it seems like for cap purposes they might have to move on from either Eakin or Haula. Perhaps packaging Clarkson’s contract with a draft pick for some cap relief makes some sense. I would like to see Glass get a real chance to make the roster too.

  14. Mike StGermain

    Agree on centers – good depth, plus L4 will be more of a scoring threat. Can’t see Nosek as a starter, or staying. Maybe Bellemare or Zykov on LW4 . L3 looks dangerous. Engelland needs to retire – every D who played with him saw Corsi numbers decline. Oppo top lines embarrassed him and Nate’s offensive contributions were handcuffed by having to compensate. Put McNabb back with Nate, Holden with Theo, and Merrill with Hague or Schuldt. Miller (right shot D) & his $3M+ contract are tradable and that will help cap issues.

  15. the hockey god

    i am still traumatized……

  16. Carl

    Why can’t Bettman just effing raise the salary cap to 100 million? No player gets more than 15% of that. All problems solved (for now at least). And my VGK can stay together as the awesome team they are and win some cups!

  17. Mark D. Taylor

    What we must do alot better here is McPhee, Foley and Gallant must sell Nevada as a tax haven and cost of living haven. For example, making 1,5 million in Vegas is not the same as New York, any California team or any Canadian team. Those dark blue states that are run by pinko politicians, their players get hammered by taxes, sometimes near a 60% clip. Not so here. A guy making $975,000 can buy or rent a mansion here while his counterpart in New Jersey or New York or Vancouver will be holed up in a 2 bedroom condo, paying outrageous property taxes. The difference is mega contracts are literally millions. A young guy like Gusev, will pocket millions more over a career because of our state tax policy unless our lard ass governor screws that up. You would need your head examined to sign in a dark blue states. Nevada, Dallas, the Florida teams could dominate for years to come. It’s another reason not to vote for pinkos like Bernie Sanders and his I’ll. We can attractive better players if we keep taxes lower. We, as an organization, need to tell a young talented player, Nevada is a much better option.

    • Jaydt78

      Trading Tuch, Theodore, or Smith would be horrible. Especially Tuch. He has the makings of a future captain imo. I also love the idea of a Tuch , Haula, Gusev third line. And if we were able to hang onto Eaken as the fourth line center to help with scoring and defense down there? That would be a really solid lineup.

  18. Mark D. Taylor

    What we must do alot better here is McPhee, Foley and Gallant must sell Nevada as a tax haven and cost of living haven. For example, making 1.5 million in Vegas is not the same as New York, any California team or any Canadian team. Those dark blue states that are run by pinko politicians, their players get hammered by taxes, sometimes near a 60% clip. Not so here. A guy making $975,000 can buy or rent a mansion here while his counterpart in New Jersey or New York or Vancouver will be holed up in a 2 bedroom condo, or a shitty apartment and paying outrageous property taxes. The difference is mega contracts are literally millions. A young guy like Gusev, will pocket millions more over a career because of our state tax policy unless our lard ass governor screws that up. You would need your head examined to sign in a dark blue states. Nevada, Dallas and the Florida teams could dominate for years to come. It’s another reason not to vote for pinkos like Bernie Sanders and his ilk. We can attractive better players if we keep taxes lower. We, as an organization, need to tell a young talented player, Nevada is a much better option.

  19. Jordan

    I would honestly pay Engelland 1 Million in salary as a coaching asset. All he needs to do is focus on training others on how to block pucks the way he did… because damn.

  20. d-fence

    Holden will NOT be in the opening lineup. you can bank on that, as he was not even considered among their top six in the playoffs by Gallant.

    The move of Theodore to the right side late in the season was a disaster, as was the move of Schmidt to the left side. Nate plays better on the right side where his pokecheck is more effective, and Theodore ‘s offensive moves are hampered by putting him on his backhand.

    also, the passive PK scheme has to be dumped in favor of a more aggressive approach. letting the opponents point men have time and space to pick their openings is a poor strategy.

    • Joe E

      Is this a joke? I kind of agree with the Holden statement, but everything else is just wrong. Shea on the right side actually made him more offensive and he played great. Do you see how many shorthanded chances the PK gets? That doesn’t happen to teams that are “passive.”

      • d-fence

        wrong. I was not talking about the pk in the other 2 zones . I made it clear that I was talking about the pk in the defensive zone AFTER the opponent sets up. giving the point men and the half boards guy 15 to 20 feet of space and hanging back passively.

  21. Arvin

    Dump Merrill. Has no vision up ice. Can’t make a pass more with 10 feet without it being intercepted by opponent. Saw this over and over, game after game.

  22. bad change

    Theodore playing the left side with #5= stanley cup final. Theodore playing the right side= lose in round 1.

    Nate on right side with #2= cup finals. Nate on left of #5= lose in round 1.

    proof is in the pudding.

  23. bad change

    it has more to do with the shutdown roles. Nate with McNabb were very effective playing vs the opponents top scoring line. Engelland should not be playing the opponents top line. in Calgary he was a 3rd pair guy.

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