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Offseason Outlook: Goaltenders

Never could anyone have imagined the Golden Knights goalie depth would be tested the way it was. Five goalies used in the first 17 games gave George McPhee a pretty solid look at the present and the future of the most important position on the ice.

It would seem not much needs to happen between the pipes for the Golden Knights with Marc-Andre Fleury the clear starter, Malcolm Subban a solid backup and Oscar Dansk plus Maxime Lagace manning the crease in the AHL. However, it’s not that simple, and in fact, McPhee has plenty of decisions in the net not only this offseason but moving forward.

Marc-Andre Fleury

It’s a bit of a shame Fleury will not win any awards after that incredible season. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After posting Vezina quality numbers in the regular season and then racing out to become the Conn Smythe favorite before the final series of the playoffs, it appears Fleury’s days as a full-time starter aren’t as numbered as they appeared during the last days in Pittsburgh.

He’s mentioned playing for many more years and recently said he wants to finish his career in Vegas. Fleury has one more season left on his contract scheduled to pay him $5.75 million. Then he would become an unrestricted free agent, something the Golden Knights probably aren’t interested in letting happen.

Things do get a bit tricky though when dealing with the long-term future of a 33-year-old goalie. While it certainly appears his age isn’t getting in the way at this point, that could change at any moment. Signing Fleury to a four or five year deal is risky as his production could slip at any moment, but letting him constantly play on expiring deals keeps the control in the hands of the player rather than the organization.

If Fleury is being completely honest that he wants to finish his career with the Golden Knights, they should play the short-term contract game with him on a gentleman’s agreement that he’ll get a new deal every time he wants one and the price will be fair. There aren’t many players who any GM would be willing to go down that road with, but if there’s one, it’s probably Fleury.

There’s one concern there though, and that’s Pittsburgh. What if they come calling at some point? It’s easy to say he wants to finish his career in Vegas while sitting on stage in the same building as the Campbell Bowl, but if the idea of going back to the Penguins ever became a realistic possibility, he’d likely want to hear it out.

The best course of action for the Golden Knights is likely to keep him one year away from free agency at all times. Extend his contract each offseason so he feels comfortable, while also protecting the organization against the inevitable father time induced decline.

Malcolm Subban, Oscar Dansk, Max Lagace

Only one of these three players currently has a contract with the Golden Knights and that’s Subban. Dansk remains under Golden Knights control as he’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Lagace is an unrestricted free agent set to hit the open market on July 1st if he doesn’t reach a deal with Vegas before then.

Subban still seems to be the clear #2 behind Fleury, but his injury-riddled season has to bring pause to the organization’s desire to commit to him as the heir-apparent. Subban was hurt once during a game early in the year and then found himself unavailable two more times due to injuries that occurred during practice. Subban missed a majority of the postseason and the team opted to use Lagace as the backup over Dansk.

Dansk might be just as good a prospect as Subban, would be disappointing to lose him for nothing on waivers. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Subban remaining as the backup leaves the Golden Knights in the interesting position many teams find themselves in heading into training camp, with more goalies than they have roster spots. Unlike last year when Oscar Dansk was waiver exempt and could be shuttled back and forth between the NHL and AHL without any risk of losing him to another team, this season he must clear waivers (including out of camp). So, assuming they keep him around, which they likely will, and he doesn’t win the backup job over Subban, which he likely won’t, Dansk will be available to every team in the NHL at some point during training camp. Like the Golden Knights did picking up Subban, Dansk is an attractive option to a team looking for a young goalie. As much as McPhee would probably love to have Dansk in the AHL and have two strong options to back up Fleury, unless he makes a trade, he has no choice but to put one through waivers. My guess, it’ll be Dansk that’s the odd-man out, and he’ll be in the NHL as a backup for another team come opening night 2018-19.

Finally, there’s Lagace. Statistically it wasn’t pretty for Lagace, but he was reliable enough to keep the Golden Knights afloat when they needed him and the team felt comfortable enough with him to have him in uniform on the bench during the Stanley Cup Final. There are probably better options out there as a fourth (or third if Dansk gets scooped up) goalie on the depth chart, but the familiarity with Lagace will probably earn him another one year deal in Vegas. He will clear waivers without any issue and will be a perfectly acceptable goalie for the Chicago Wolves.

Prospects
Dylan Ferguson, Maxim Zhukov, Jiri Patera

Ferguson is the one that got all the headlines getting the emergency recall and eventually getting a chance to play a few minutes for the Golden Knights, but Zhukov and Patera were higher draft picks than Ferguson.

Zhukov was selected by the Golden Knights with the 96th overall pick in the 2017 Entry Draft and had an okay year (statistically) in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers. Patera, the 161st pick in last year’s draft had a similar year to Zhukov, also in the USHL.

We’ll likely see all three, plus if any other goalies are picked in this year’s draft, at Development Camp next week.

**

The Golden Knights are in a much better spot than most teams at the goaltender position. They have a permanent starter who is playing the best hockey of his life, they have multiple backups that have a chance to become the starter in the future, and they have a few prospects in the pipeline. Can’t ask for much more, but the pressure ramps up a bit on Subban if Dansk is lost to waivers.

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25 Comments

  1. RJ

    I’ve been thinking about the possibility of Fleury getting an extension this off-season and I agree it’s the right decision. Will he take a 2 year extension at $6M (slight raise). My gut thinks so, but it is also a significant undervalue of what he would get on the open market right now and likely next year when he is an UFA. Either way it seems our #CupInX hopes rest on Fleury playing at a high level for at least X years.

    • Laura

      Personally I think fleury would be listening for a 4 year x 5.5 mil deal. Gives him guaranteed money till he’s 38. That being said, wouldn’t be surprised if they settled on 3. He could easily get 7 or 8 If he hit the open market. Meaning Vegas may need to sweeten the deal with a full NMC.

      • Jeff

        There no way any GM gives Fleury 7 or 8 million or 7 or 8 years…..which ever one you meant.

        • Laura

          That is why I said the open market. He is no on the open market. Hence it makes sense to pay him 5.5 -6 .

      • RJ

        I’d love to see $5.5M over 4 years. I do think he could get $7M over 4-5y on the open market next season, but probably not from the Pens, since they are strapped for cash. If Fleury really does want to finish his career here I’d like to see him extended 3-5y for $5-6M ASAP.

  2. Jonathan

    I don’t see how you can let Dansk go, he is so much better than Lagace, who is honestly terrible. The guy is a nightmare to watch out there. Maybe he will magically morph into a suitable goaltender, I don’t know, but what I saw is a guy who routinely gives up 4-5 goals per game. He’s almost incapable of a great game. At least Dansk can get the job done and have shut-down performances.

    • It’s not Dansk vs Lagace. It’s Dansk vs Subban. If they only keep 2 goalies (which most teams do) they have to put one through waivers.

      • A Fan

        Well then since we’ve already been through having to use 5 goalies in one year, (ok 4 really) we need to have Fleury, Subban & Dansk. There is no reason to keep Lagace, he is not NHL worthy.

        • Jason

          A Fan, the point is Dansk can’t be moved back and forth between the AHL and the NHL like he was last year. In order to move him to the AHL they would have to put him on waivers, that means the rest of the NHL can claim him. That’s why the debate is Subban vs Dansk. Dansk was great in the 3 games he played but is he better than Subban. That is the big debate.

          • RJ

            It might not even be is he better, but rather is he going to be more healthy? Subban had a rough season in terms of injuries, we may be better served moving Subban and keeping Dansk as the backup. Remember last season we HAD to have Subban on the NHL roster all year because he was claimed off waivers. Not true this season.

          • A Fan

            I understand that Jason, my point was maybe since we went through all of the goalie drama last year, maybe we should do what most teams don’t and that’s have 3 goalies instead of two. And I don’t personally see why Lagace is on this team, even as a minor league player. He is there to either be groomed for the NHL or as a backup if the first two goalies are injured. Either way my feeling is he should not be on this team, there has to be ONE goalie out there that’s better for the Knights than Lagace.

  3. Bark Andre Fleury

    I agree. Dansk over Lagace!

  4. TonyC

    AFan It’s Dansk vs Subban, Legace is safe.

    I think both are great choices would love to keep both safe, but I would have to send subban down and keep Dansk NHL. Thinking subbans injuries would discourage others from taking him and keeping Dansk safe. I think we know subban has the skill to start, just need to see if he can stay healthy. He can show that down in Chicago if he clears, and allow more time for a Dansk Subban decision.

    • Cody

      Absolutely no one is discussing Dansk over Subban. Subban would be plucked instantly after some spectacular play last year in his first real taste. I’m not sure you understand how special it is to just get a guy like that for nothing. Of course you don’t. Dansk on the other hand is an undersized nobody with everything to prove (and his own injury issues, frankly. Did he even last a full game?) Honestly, this is why you didn’t get that GM job.

      • Laura

        I can’t say that they wouldn’t discuss moving subban. They could trade him this offseason and get more of a return than they could get with Dansk. If they plan on signing fleury they have 4 years to kill with finding a backup.

      • Travis Bickle

        Danks 6′ 3″ 200 lbs, hardly undersized and just a year older than Subban. Would definitely have liked to see more of him. Maybe trade bait for EK.

  5. BL

    I still think Subban is the clear 2. Dansk was putting up numbers in Columbus that did not force them to bring him up. And with the Wolves, his save percentage was still closer to .910 (which is a slight increase from his time before). Would it be worth it to sign Dansk to a 2 year deal, and try to build trade value for a team needing a backup?

    And with Fleury, would he take a 6 year, 5 mil deal? Age catches up with everyone, but the franchise could use someone that would remain an ambassador for the team off the ice for decades (even after playing).

    • Cody

      6 years for a guy who will be 33/34?

      • Laura

        Look at luongos contract. It isn’t all that crazy tbh. I say they do 4 years though. That brings him to age 38, also gives him a chance to resign after that at less money if he wants … or go back to Pittsburgh if that ever came calling .

        • BL

          Maybe 6 years is a stretch, but 2 year bridge deals seems like keeping a player always on the cusp of not feeling secure, especially the one brought in to be the face of the franchise. Also, would it be attractive to FA’s around the league if Vegas takes care of the face of the franchise?

  6. Raschid Olsen

    I have season tickets. I watched all the games and all the goalies. I have played goalie for 40 plus years and I can tell you Subban isn’t the future on the knights. He’s a big goalie which accounts for half his saves. He is injury prone and makes bad decisions like playing BB when you’re in the playoffs and getting hurt. Lets just say he can play but Dansk was a much better choice for the future of the knights.

    • Cody

      You maybe own goalie pads but you don’t know much about scouting the position. Guess what I play goalie too and you’re flat wrong. Too many pucks to the Lindbergh mask I guess. Subban is one of the most agile goalies in the entire league already, which is ridiculous when a guy like that is on waivers. He was…wait for it…DOMINANT…at times in his starts this year. For a guy who had played 2 Nhl games in his career and pulled in both. Dave Prior got to him and he really took the next step. “Bad decisions.” You sound like the Canadian media bashing his brother. Veiled racism? Maybe. Subban is a stud every team dreams of. Dansk is a spare part. Get a grip.

  7. Cody

    I say Dansk clears waivers. Look at Pickard. Quality backup goalie but most teams have a starter and heir apparent, if not two, already in the organization. Having to take Dansk and keep him on the roster is too big a gamble. Lagace you re-sign if you don’t like anybody else who’s available for that role. He worked hard in a tough situation last year but was not that good overall (although he seemed to get stronger as the season wore on, so, could be worth keeping to see if he progresses). Zhukov and Patera sound like about what you’d expect from later round goalies. When you wait for six goalies to drop off the board in a draft year before picking one, you can’t expect to know something 30 other teams’ scouts missed.

  8. Mark

    McPhee has to trade either Dansk or Subban. Whoever has the better value at this point. Better than losing one for nothing like Boston did with Subban already.

    Look at teams like NYI, Buffalo, Calgary and even a Washington if they trade Grubaer like rumored.

  9. Tyde

    I’ll keep it short and sweet – Subban at 2, 1 year prove it deal with Maxime (although I have a lot of appreciation for him toughing out a crucial stretch of our season as an ok goalie), take your chances with Dansk on waivers and if he’s gone you have three other potential Dansk’s in waiting.

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