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Carp: A Blessing In Disguise

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Sometimes, good things emerge out of adversity.

In the case of the Golden Knights, they might have more depth on the blue line than they originally thought.

With Alex Pietrangelo in COVID protocol and Brayden McNabb on Long Term IR with a lower-body injury, coach Pete DeBoer was forced to shuffle his defensive deck over the weekend against Los Angeles.

He knew what he had in veteran Nick Holden, so putting him back on the ice was easy. DeBoer wasn’t quite sure what he’d get from Dylan Coghlan, and, to a lesser extent, Nicolas Hague.

What he got was pleasantly surprising.

Hague looks extremely comfortable playing alongside another youngster — Zach Whitecloud. He put Coghlan with Holden and the two seemed to click. The other D-pair — Shea Theodore and Alec Martinez — moved up to the No. 1 unit.

Understand that in this weird, bizarre year, things are going to crop up periodically. How your team responds is what likely determines whether you’ll be playing in mid-May and make a run at the Stanley Cup. In the Knights’ case, there has to be a rise in the overall comfort level knowing the young guys can step in and contribute, that they don’t need to be skating up the street at the Orleans Arena with the Henderson Silver Knights.

It’s safe to say Whitecloud isn’t leaving the lineup anytime soon. He continues to display the kind of poise usually reserved for someone with far more NHL experience. He may be the most pleasant surprise of this young season so far.
He’s running DeBoer’s system perfectly, supporting the attack and getting involved offensively. Such was the case with his first goal of the season Sunday. He cruised into the open space, unnoticed by the Kings, then got the puck and ripped one past Calvin Petersen.

Defensively, he’s growing more steady and confident. The turnovers don’t come as frequently and he’s settling in and not having to worry that if he makes a mistake or two he’ll find himself a member of the taxi squad, or worse, wearing a Silver Knights uniform.

Hague is also proving to be worthy of DeBoer’s trust. He is using his size effectively and like Whitecloud, is integrating himself in the attack. The fact his skating has improved so much the past four years is a credit to Hague’s hard work as well as listening to the organization’s coaches.

Coghlan was the wild card. He made his NHL debut Friday against the Kings and paired with the experienced Holden, who could cover his back, Coghlan did a good job overall in the Knights’ 5-2 win. Playing with Marc-Andre Fleury in net didn’t hurt his cause either.

We all know Pietrangelo is important to the team’s Cup hopes. He will likely be back Tuesday against Anaheim at T-Mobile Arena. And that’s a good thing. Yes, Pietrangelo may not be off to a scorching start. But for him, this is like preseason, trying to learn a new system, playing with new teammates, and adjusting his family’s day-to-day life in a new city.

He will get better as he gets more comfortable. He has shown glimpses of that. So I’m not worried about him.

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What VGK’s Blue Line Would Look Like With Alex Pietrangelo Or Torey Krug

Yesterday we went into potential alternatives for the big-time add on the blue line for the Golden Knights. Today, we’re diving into what the Vegas defensive unit would look like if they do indeed land Alex Pietrangelo or Torey Krug.

There’s been a lot of rumblings about Alex Pietrangelo and Vegas, and someone told me today they were wondering if Vegas might take a run, if it’s not Pietrangelo, at Torey Krug. –Elliotte Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

Before we get into the pair combos, let’s start with what the Golden Knights would have to do to make it happen. Pietrangelo is likely going to command somewhere around $8-9 million where Krug will likely fall a bit lower at around $7-8.5 million. Either way, with the Golden Knights looking at about $1 million or so in available cap space currently, they’ll have to get to work.

The whole offseason must begin by settling the goalie situation. In a perfect world, Vegas would find someone to take Marc-Andre Fleury’s complete contract off their hands without forfeiting much more than a lower round pick. Then, they’d sign Robin Lehner for between $5-6 million and earn themselves a bit of relief (Fleury’s cap hit is $7 million). However, it’s more likely there will be at least a bit of Fleury’s salary retained on the Golden Knights books, or they’ll have to buy him out, and they will hope to be back at $7 million in goalies after signing Lehner long team.

The next decision would be at the center position. If the Golden Knights believe they can replace Paul Stastny with Cody Glass (or Stastny with Stephenson and Stephenson with Glass) then that would be the least invasive start to finding the cap space. That’s $6.5 million which would essentially offset the majority of the space needed to sign either defenseman.

If they don’t trust that route (which I wouldn’t), then you look to the wings. Max Pacioretty’s $7 million and Jonathan Marchessault’s $5 million are the two that jump out.

Finally, if VGK add a defenseman, they would likely be looking to move at least one of the existing ones out. The leading candidate being the $5.95 million owed to Nate Schmidt. Otherwise, Alec Martinez’s $4 million could be an option, but after trading two 2nd round picks for him, they better be able to recoup at least one, if not both of them to make that route worthwhile.

So, you can pick the path you like the most with the understanding that if they save money on the goalie exchange, it would only have to be one player, while if they don’t, it’s likely one forward and one defenseman that must go.

Now let’s get on to the fun part; what the Golden Knights look like on the blue line if they add a big-ticket defenseman this offseason. Let’s start by assuming the Golden Knights make it happen without getting rid of any current defenseman on the roster.

Add Pietrangelo / Subtract No One

Schmidt-Pietrangelo
Martinez-Theodore
McNabb-Whitecloud

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DeBoer Has No Interest In First Round Bye

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

16 teams? 20 teams? 24 teams? They’ve all been floated as the NHL tries to figure out how they’ll return to action when the pandemic finally subsides.

For the Golden Knights, because they sat atop the Pacific Division when the league was paused, the smaller the tournament, the better. But, there’s one major hurdle even teams atop their divisions believe needs to be cleared.

Whatever the answer is, whoever’s team goes on that Cup, there has to be enough integrity to the process and the decision on how we’re going to do it so that team isn’t going to have an asterisk beside it in the history books. –Pete DeBoer on ESPN on Ice

In other words, whatever the format ends up being, there has be enough teams in the playoffs to make it feel like the winner truly is the best team in the league. No matter how tight the schedule gets, there won’t be any consideration of a four-team, or even eight-team, tournament when hockey starts back up.

Which leads us to the two most likely scenarios. The first is to stick with the normal 16-team playoff format the league has used for years. Everything remains the same and if you weren’t in the playoffs when the league halted, tough break. Everyone in the playoff picture, like Vegas, believe this is the best plan, but the five or six teams on the outside have different thoughts.

That’s what birthed the second idea, which is an extended playoff with 20 or 24 teams. For an example of what that could look like, check out our friend Drew Goldfarb’s proposal.

This scenario, as well as pretty much any other one with greater than 16 teams, gives the Golden Knights a bye in the first round. That’s something that sounds great, but in the eyes of Pete DeBoer isn’t.

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Carp: Whitecloud Makes His Presence Felt On Blue Line

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

I remember when the Golden Knights signed Zach Whitecloud out of college two years ago. He was an NCAA free agent, having played at Bemidji State, Brad Hunt’s alma mater.

I met him for the first time in Buffalo where he had joined the team after signing. My thoughts at the time were: “O.K., no big deal. Seems to be a nice kid. Maybe down the road he helps their defensive depth. And it didn’t cost the team anything but money.”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

He actually got to play in an NHL game in 2018, against Edmonton late in the season. The Knights were on their way to the playoffs. They had clinched the Pacific Division. Gerard Gallant was looking to rest some guys with the postseason set to begin the following week. What harm could it do to give Whitecloud a taste of the big time?

Boy, have things changed since then.

Whitecloud has become a mainstay on the blue line. He’s playing well. Gallant is no longer his coach. Peter DeBoer is now calling the shots.

Back in 2018, the team’s D-corps consisted of Nate Schmidt, Shea Theodore, Deryk Engelland, Brayden McNabb, Colin Miller, Jon Merrill, Luca Sbisa, Hunt and Jason Garrison. Today, Schmidt, Theodore and McNabb are still regulars, Engelland and Merrill can’t crack DeBoer’s lineup, Hunt’s in Minnesota, Miller’s in Buffalo, Sbisa’s in Winnipeg and Garrison plays in Sweden.

He also has beaten out fellow rookies Nic Hague, Dylan Coghlan, Jimmy Schuldt, and Jake Bischoff for a spot on the Knights’ roster.

Whitecloud has been in the VGK lineup since Feb. 1 and it looks like he’s not going anywhere. He picked up his first NHL point in Friday’s 4-2 win over the Sabres and he appears to be comfortable competing at this level.

You can chalk it up to one of those slick George McPhee moves where he got one over on his GM colleagues around the league. A small investment appears to be paying big dividends.

It’s all about keeping it simple, paying attention to detail and doing my job every night. Work hard in practice and learn from my mistakes. -Whitecloud

DeBoer has him with Nick Holden as the third D-pair and having a veteran like Holden certain helps. Whitecloud has also played with the recently acquired Alec Martinez, another veteran.

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Kelly McCrimmon’s Answers In Recent Interviews Indicate A Lack Of Panic

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the 2nd year in a row, the Golden Knights entered November 27th with exactly one point per game in the standings. In 2018-19 they racked up 25 points in 25 games while 2019-20 has seen them tally 26 points in 26 games.

Last year was full of excuses including Nate Schmidt’s 20 game suspension, injuries to Cody Eakin (3 games), Alex Tuch (8 games), Paul Stastny (happened in Game 3), and Erik Haula (happened in Game 15). This year feels a little different, though there have been some similarities. Schmidt missed 12 (13 if you include the one he got hurt in), Tuch 17, Eakin 4, and Malcolm Subban 9.

As players worked their way in and out of the lineup each season, consistency was the main issue. Some nights they’d play well, others they wouldn’t, and there’s really no guessing which night would be which.

Last year’s team turned it around right about this time. They won five straight and won 10 of 13 from Games 23 to 35. That likely led the front office to back off and be patient with their second-year team. This year, that stretch has yet to come and there’s starting to be a sense of panic among the fan base. Upstairs though, that’s not the case… at least not yet.

Kelly McCrimmon hasn’t spoken to the media much this year, but when he has his message has been the opposite of his team’s play, consistent.

Well, I think we’ve been a little inconsistent. We’ve had stretches where we’ve played pretty well but haven’t been able to sustain it the way we’d like. As a result we’re in a clump of teams that are trying to find their way here a little bit. We expect we’ll get better as we move along but we’ve been inconsistent. –Kelly McCrimmon to Oilers NOW on 11/22/19

We’ve liked a lot of things about our team. I think the one area where we’d like to be better is just our consistency hasn’t quite been to the level we’d like it to be. When I look around the League, there’s probably a few teams that share similar thoughts. –McCrimmon to NHL.com on 11/11/19

Both interviews came directly before rough patches as Vegas lost five straight following the NHL.com one and are currently on a two-game drought following the Oilers NOW interview, but the message has remained steady. In fact, it wasn’t just that question that elicited nearly identical responses in both interviews.

We’re like a lot of teams, there are all different ways we can improve our team in terms of personnel but when you are a cap team your hands are a little bit tied with respect to that. I think personnel-wise we’re pretty comfortable with our team and like every other team we’ll evaluate opportunities that might present themselves along the way and if there’s something that makes sense that we think can improve our team we’ll definitely look at it. –McCrimmon to Oilers NOW on 11/22/19

Well, we’re a cap team, so that dictates a little bit what we can do or we will do. But I think like a lot of teams, you watch, you observe. You know there are areas where you can get better, and you see how the year plays out. –McCrimmon to NHL.com on 11/11/19

He also had matching comments on the Pacific division, including sharing the exact same story in both interviews, and another one in between.

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Golden Knights Rumored To Be “Looking For A Mobile D”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since the start of the regular season, the Golden Knights have been playing a numbers game with the salary cap. They’ve shuttled players like Nic Roy, Nic Hague, Cody Glass, Jimmy Schuldt, and Jake Bischoff between the NHL and AHL in an attempt to accrue usable cap space come trade deadline day. Thus far, they’ve sent Roy down four times, Hague three, and Glass, Schuldt, and Bischoff each once. In doing so, they’ve lessened the cap hits of all five waiver exempt rookies.

They are doing this for one reason, and one reason only, so they are in a position to make a trade and acquire a player that will help them win the Stanley Cup. Whether that trade happens today, or next week, or seconds before noon on February 24th, that’s why they are playing this game.

Which should obviously spark everyone reading this to ask the exact same question.

“Who are they looking to trade for?”

No one besides a select few inside the walls of City National Arena actually know, but over the course of the next four months there will be context clues along the way.

The first of those comes to us compliments of Sportsnet.ca’s superstar reporter Elliotte Friedman.

Nate Schmidt is back after a 13-game absence, and the Golden Knights badly missed him. Does Vegas feel the need to add mobility on the blue line? Opponents do think it is one of their few weaknesses. –Friedman in 31 thoughts on 11/5/19

He left it there in the written article but went on to elaborate a bit on his weekly podcast with Jeff Marek, also named 31 Thoughts.

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Gary Bettman Remains Bullish On Vegas, Golden Knights

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Among the 18,188 in attendance Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena for the Golden Knights-Nashville game was the general manager of the Seattle NHL franchise.

I assume Ron Francis was taking careful notes, both from what he was watching on the ice and what he was seeing inside The Fortress.

He would be wise to do both.

Also in attendance Tuesday, and nearly as conspicuous, was the NHL commissioner.

Yes, Gary Bettman was in the house and he kept a low profile, lest he get the crap booed out of him by the Medieval Maniacs who may never forgive him for the performance of his officials in Game 7 of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last April.

Do Knights fans have long memories? Hell yes they do.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

What was Bettman doing in Las Vegas? He was a speaker at a symposium on sports betting at the Global Gaming Expo Wednesday morning at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. He was in good spirits and rightly so, given nobody booed him and no one asked him about officiating or concussions and CTE.

He was asked about the success of the Golden Knights and what it has meant for the NHL in the team’s brief existence. He was quick with his responses, praising Bill Foley for the job he and his organization have done (Sorry Ken, Bettman did not refer to Foley as “The Creator”).

I asked him if Francis should be paying close attention to what goes on here at T-Mobile.

Seattle is its own market. I think the experience inside T-Mobile Arena is consciousness-raising. But we all know what works in Las Vegas doesn’t necessarily work elsewhere. Seattle is going to have the same opportunities in the Expansion Draft and everything is on schedule and we expect Seattle will be another fantastic NHL experience. -Bettman

For Bettman and the NHL, the growth of sports betting throughout the U.S. is an opportunity to help develop new fans and give existing hockey fans more options to connect to the game. It’s a far cry from 20 years ago when then-Mayor Oscar Goodman paid Bettman a visit in his mid-Manhattan office in an attempt to secure a franchise for Las Vegas and got the cold shoulder.

But timing is everything. The building of a first-class arena, the growth of the area’s population and rising media market and an owner who was willing to put up half a billion bucks all helped change Bettman’s mind. He became an advocate for Las Vegas and had he not backed Foley’s bid, Las Vegas might’ve been Quebec City on the outside looking in.

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Carp: A Day For Reflection On A Team And A City And Their Mutual Love For Each Other

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

I was driving home following Sunday’s preseason finale at T-Mobile Arena and I passed by the United Blood Services facility on West Charleston. I actually pass by it often on my way to my job as editor at Gaming Today. And every time I do, my thoughts circle back to October 3, 2017.

Why October 3rd?

It was less than 24 hours following the massacre across from Mandalay Bay where the Route 91 Harvest Festival become a killing zone. A deranged gunman let loose a barrage of death and destruction, cutting short the lives of 58 people he didn’t even know while wounding hundreds of others and changing the collective psyche Las Vegas forever.

I was one of the last to leave T-Mobile Arena following the Golden Knights’ final preseason game against San Jose. I left about 10 minutes before the shooting started. I’ve talked in the past about that evening, how my phone kept pinging with texts, ringing with calls, family and friends asking if everything was O.K. Watching the grim news unfold on the 11 p.m. news and knowing even though I covered hockey, my life was about to change.

Which brings me to October 3rd.

The Knights practiced at City National Arena that morning. As you can imagine, it was a somber atmosphere. As the players were on the ice, team management and staff were hard at work, trying to figure out how best the Knights could assist in the community while at the same time, having to quickly pivot from what they planned to do for the pregame ceremony for the October 10th home opener vs. Arizona. Remember, the Knights were scheduled to open on the road that Friday at Dallas, then travel to Arizona the next night.

As the players practiced, people were lining up at blood facilities all over Southern Nevada. At the United Blood Services on Charleston, the line snaked out the door and around the building as people waited hours to donate.

Most of the Knights players visited the blood bank. Many were at Metropolitan Police headquarters to meet with the police and other first responders who had performed so bravely hours before, preventing the death toll from climbing even higher. Still others went to the Family Assistance Center at the Las Vegas Convention Center to try and console families who were dealing with the loss or the injury of loved ones.

Remember, save for Deryk Engelland, none of the players and coaches had lived in Las Vegas. This was still a new place. Many were still trying to figure out how to get around the city. Sure, they knew how to get to practice and to the arena for games. They knew how to get to the Strip. But I’ll bet none of them knew where United Blood Services was. Or where Metro headquarters was. Or even the Convention Center. So for the players, this was surreal.

Remember, 10 Golden Knights got caught up in this the night before as they were at the Cosmopolitan having a team postgame dinner when the hotel was locked down along with everything else on the Strip. They had no idea what was really going on.

But by the morning of October 3rd, everyone knew. And to a man, they quickly did what they could to comfort the community which had already embraced them as its team, which had already invested, both financially and emotionally in them. Giving back? That was the easy thing to do. But to do it tastefully and respectfully? That was the tricky part.

The team was noticeably visible. And it cemented the bond between the city and its new hockey team. Las Vegas was going to need time to heal, time to get through this, and the Golden Knights made sure they would be with the city every step of the way.

And that is why this city loves the Golden Knights.

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VGK Were In On Micheal Ferland In Free Agency

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

On Wednesday the Vancouver Canucks signed Micheal Ferland to a four-year deal with an AAV of $3.5 million per year. Ferland is winger who plays a 200-foot game, forechecks hard, plays in all situations, and has the ability to play up and down a lineup.

At the trade deadline, Ferland’s name was consistently tossed around in the rumors and the Golden Knights were apparently hot after him.

Fast forward to free agency, when Ferland was looking for a new contract as a UFA, and somehow, once again, the Golden Knights were in the mix.

I like Ferland, the only question you have about him is his health, his injuries, but there was a lot of interest in him. I heard Calgary was in on him, I heard Vegas was in on him, someone told me St. Louis was very interested in Ferland and Vancouver gave him the 4th year and they got him. Of all the guys who waited later, I think he was the guy who most teams were interested in. –Elliotte Friedman, 31 Thoughts Podcast

With what money?

Of course, we aren’t sure exactly what the Golden Knights offered, but it’s reasonable to think it was somewhere in the $2-$4 million ballpark. The exact range the Golden Knights are looking at with Nikita Gusev.

If they were willing to sign Ferland, they must have had a plan to make another move to offset the cost against the salary cap.

It makes sense why the Golden Knights would be interested as he’s essentially a safer Gusev. He’s done it year in and year out, plus he’s much more of a stylistic fit for Gerard Gallant than Gusev appears to be. But again, if they had an interest in him, there must be a blueprint to sign a 3rd line wing between the range of $2-$4 million.

Signing Ferland would have almost certainly meant the departure of Gusev, but missing out may signal something else. The offseason now rolls on, and the Gusev situation just keeps getting weirder and weirder without any conclusion seemingly in sight.

McCrimmon, McPhee, Creator Weigh In On Expanded Video Review

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Time has passed since the #NotAMajor incident that helped lead to the Golden Knights season coming to a close far earlier than most had hoped. However, the topic of changing the rules to ensure something like that never happens again remains very much on the forefront.

The Golden Knights have three powerful voices that will be involved in the process of amending the rules this offseason and they each have a slightly different idea of what should take place in regards to video review.

First, here’s GM Kelly McCrimmon’s belief, speaking on the Sports and More podcast with Dean Millard.

My feelings are that we don’t need more video review in the regular season, in fact, I think a case can be made for less video review in the regular season. I do however, at playoff time, think the rules should be different with respect to video review. If it was as simple as reviewing any overtime goal for a puck that maybe hit the netting behind the glass or was hand passed or high sticked or whatever the different situations that might occur, I think with what’s at stake at that time of year it’s most important to get it right. That’s out of respect to the players and the game, ownership, fan bases, and everyone that’s fully vested at that time of year. I just think with what’s a stake at that time of year I do believe video could be used probably more to everyone’s advantage to make sure the right calls are made whenever possible. -Kelly McCrimmon

President of Hockey Operations George McPhee took a slightly softer approach speaking to TSN at the NHL Scouting Combine.

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