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RFA Goalie Market Potential Gold Mine For Golden Knights

Even with the salary cap projected to stay flat for at least the next year, the Golden Knights aren’t in a terrible place. However, the move most hope (expect?) them to make remains nearly impossible without blowing up another part of the team.

Of course, I’m talking about re-signing Robin Lehner to a long-term extension. Reasonably, Lehner could be asking for anywhere between $5-$8 million after completing consecutive strong seasons. It’s always possible that number comes in a little lower if he gets the proper length and maybe even a no-move clause, but there’s little chance he’s going to be worth less than $3 million per season for the foreseeable future.

The Golden Knights needed two teams to retain salary to make room for Lehner when they first acquired him. Now, if they want to keep him, it’ll likely mean a major player or two shown the door.

So, rather than exploring the options of who to get rid of, let’s look at some of the potential options to replace Lehner. Aside from Lehner, there are a few free agents and there will be plenty of trade options with the Expansion Draft right around the corner, but the best place might be the under-utilized restricted free agent market, one that’s teeming with excellent back-up/long-term future options for the Golden Knights this offseason.

Here are those RFAs.

Alexandar Georgiev – New York Rangers
24-years old, 77 career NHL games (35 wins)
2019-20 Cap Hit: $792,500

The Rangers are headed for a bit of a tough spot when they break training camp to start the 2020-21 season. With Henrik Lundqvist under contract for another season at $8.5 million and a no-move clause in tow, he’s essentially guaranteed to be on the roster. They’ll then have to choose between Georgiev and fellow Russian Igor Shesterkin. Shesterkin is waiver exempt for another season, so they have the ability to keep Georgiev and hide Shesterkin in the AHL for another season, but Shesterkin was so good in his short time in the NHL that they may not want to do that.

Thus, if the Rangers believe more in Shesterkin than Georgiev, the latter could be ripe for the picking for the Golden Knights.

Tristan Jarry – Pittsburgh Penguins
25-years-old, 62 career NHL games (34 wins)
2019-20 Cap Hit: $675,000

Poaching Penguins goalies is one of the Golden Knights’ great past-times. The Penguins actually have two goalies headed for restricted free agency this offseason (Matt Murray is the other) and another under contract for $1.25 million through 2021-22 (Casey DeSmith).

Jarry might actually be the best of the three, yet he also may be the most affordable. No matter which way the Penguins go, there will be at least one goalie available and with the Expansion Draft on the horizon, they could lose another as well. Jarry shouldn’t be in line for too much of a raise and the situation could hurt his trade value as well.

Mackenzie Blackwood – New Jersey Devils
23-years-old, 70 career NHL games (32 wins)
2019-20 Cap Hit: $697,500

Blackwood is pretty clearly installed as the goalie-of-the-future for the Devils, so it would take quite a bit to pry him loose. But, with a new GM and a new head coach in place in New Jersey, long-term views on players are always a bit more up in the air.

Blackwood has been very good when given a chance in New Jersey and he’s done it behind a sub-par defensive unit. This one might end up costing quite a bit (maybe a 1st round pick plus) on the trade market, but the salary cost shouldn’t be prohibitive in the short-term.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Adin Hill – Arizona Coyotes
24-years old, 30 career NHL games (10 wins)
2019-20 Cap Hit:  $708,750

Hill would still be an unknown commodity as a long-term replacement for Fleury, but his improvements over the past few years, including posting a .918 save percentage this year, have him looking like a pretty good option for the potential cost against the cap. Hill’s waiver exempt status runs out this year and he’s currently sitting behind two solid goalies, Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta.

The Golden Knights could probably throw just about any draft pick at the Coyotes to elicit a trade as he’ll likely have to clear waivers during training camp. He might not be the sure-thing Vegas is looking for, but they’ve seen him up close once in a relief appearance of Raanta and he was fantastic, stopping 20 of 20 VGK shots.

 

**It’s important to note that Vegas does not have their own 3rd round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Thus, they are not able to sign a player to an offer sheet between $1.4 and $2.1 million, the expected offer-sheet range for most options on this list. Instead, the Golden Knights would just have to deal with the team directly by making a trade either before or after the goalie signs his RFA contract. Offer sheets remain taboo for the most part in the NHL, so it’s not that big of a deal, but it does take away one avenue to acquiring these players. Nonetheless, if Vegas wants any of them, there’s certainly a way.*

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49 Comments

  1. Stevie

    I love Georgiev. I think he’s got mad skills! I would rather keep Lehner and move Fleury, but what Covid did to the cap makes that near impossible.

  2. Doktor Hockey

    I don’t think the Knights will ever “move” flower. Not with the sentiment of of fans and teammates. I think he ends his career here, when HE’s ready to retire. Of course hope they can retain panda, but as pointed out a number of potential, “cheaper”, good goalies will be available. Whatever happens with that will be ok. I am just interested in the next 3 months!

  3. Mike StG

    Interesting options. Georgy and Jarry seem most likely available for trade, depending on what happens with Hank and Murray. Possibly Demko (VAN) but hard to see Nucks trading him to a big division rival. Most media think that due to economic uncertainty from Covid there won’t be many long term contracts signed this offseason, and very few above ~$2M unless they’re really elite players (eg Taylor Hall). So maybe Lehner signs a 1 yr at a lower amount if market isn’t there, although that’s probably unlikely. If Vegas wins cup this year they could (or should) trade Stastny and/or Marty to sign Lehner as the team’s goalie of the future. Exceptional goalies are in short supply. If they have a cup in hand, they can focus on reshaping team for long term success.

  4. norman

    Georgiev, Jarry or Hill would be good acquisitions . Following the Pens and Jarry’s progress, he would be my option although the Pens are not totally sold on Murray . It is a crap shoot no matter what Vegas does.

  5. Chris Valvo

    Jarry makes the most sense in my opinion. He provides the lowest cap hit and best win percentage in the list of 4 above. To add, plays against some of the best players in one of arguably the toughest divisions in the league to make the playoffs year in and year out.

  6. Tim

    Ken the guys you mentioned must have faults or their team wouldn’t trade them. Flower at 35 could get hurt at anytime and then we have to depend on one of these throw aways to lead us to the playoffs next year I don’t think so. If we learned anything from the Sharks is that they have had good teams but Martin Jones has been a problem. I don’t care how many stud centers, forwards, and blue liners you have your dead in the water with a goalie who can’t keep the puck out of the net. With my dying breath I will continue to say we sign Lehner and keep Flower trade Stansty and compete for the cup for the next 4 or 5 years. George and Kelly are smart at what they do and if you haven’t noticed they like to shock the hockey world every year with a bold move. First Patch, then Stone, then Lehner getting stars are in there DNA and I just think they’ll never let Lehner walk.

    • Who is your 2C if you trade Stastny?

      • Tim

        Worse case you have Marchy, Stephenson,and Riley, next line Patch, Wild Bill, and Stone, next line Roy, Cousins, and Tuch, next line Reeves, Carrier, and Nosek,
        I could live with that to keep both goalies. You have Glass and Elevens, and maybe they steal someone like Stephenson from someone. I’ll worry about that in training camp knowing my goal is secure. By the way Ken I thought today was the deadline to name your extended roster.

        • That would be the worst group of centers in the everyday NHL. All in order to make sure you have a backup goalie. Not a good plan at all for me.

          The dates on rosters keeps moving so who knows when we’ll actually learn who is on it.

      • Mike StG

        I know your question was to Tim, but my thoughts are is they win cup this year Stastny and/or Marty can be traded if needed to make cap room to keep Lehner. If they don’t win the cup this year they will need Stastny at 2C next year and Glass can develop at 3C with a view to taking over 2C in ‘21-22 season. Could trade Marty though, which is 4M. Goalie issue is big, esp next year. Fleury has been injured 2 of past 3 years so it’s a concern. And the compressed schedule next year will give advantage to teams that have true 1A/1B tandems.

        • Somehow the ultimate goal gets lost every time the Lehner discussion comes up. The goal is not to win the President’s Trophy, the goal is to win the Cup. Having a $5+ million player guaranteed to be on the bench every single night in the playoffs is foolish.

          • Mike StG

            The Prez trophy is not the goal. The goal is to win the cup AND remain competitive for the foreseeable future. If Fleury goes down next season with a mediocre backup in place it could sink the team’s playoff hopes – ie, no cup. He’s already had injury issues 2 of 3 seasons and he’ll be 36 in Nov. The compressed schedule will only increase the possibility of injury. Keeping Lehner not only addresses that possibility, but also locks in Vegas’ goalie of the future for 6-8 years. The 1A/1B tandem also allows the goalies to be fresher for playoffs, having played less games during the long season.

          • This team got 109 points playing with Max Lagace for half the season. Backup goalie is completely useless if your skaters are elite, which Vegas has.

    • Doktor Hockey

      Can’t disagree with your logic Tim.

  7. Tim

    That’s what makes it fun we all have an opinion. I guess we’ll just have to wait after the free agency and the draft to see who was right. Always enjoy your columns even at times when we don’t agree.

    • Best part about sports. I’m never against people arguing against my opinions. Just be aware that I’m always going to fire back.

  8. Tim

    Ken one last thing on this subject. I just looked into my crystal ball and I predict if they sign Lehner trade Stansty Nosek will get resigned. He’s a reliable player that gives you 110%. He may be a backup but he would remain a valuable piece plus I like him a lot.

  9. james

    Management doesn’t care about players… if lehner wins the cup for knights. Fluery is gone , one way or another. Stasnty should be traded if possible. Tuch too.. cant wait for restart . Hurry up !

    • Tim

      James also wearing thin on Tuch as big and as strong as he is he’s always hurt. I’ve got the cure for Tuch keep him this coming year and tell him straight out you perform or were trading you to Buffalo. If that doesn’t put a fire under his ass nothing will.

      • I’ll never understand the “always hurt” thing with Tuch.

        He played 78 games his rookie year (and played a few in the AHL). Then he played 74 last year. Yes, this season has fought it but he still played in 42 of the 71. If he’s injury prone, so is Mark Stone. (80, 75, 71, 58, 77, 65 for him the last 6 years.)

        • Mike StG

          Ken, agree on your Tuch comment. He just had bad injury luck this year. His upside is so huge you can’t ignore it. Hard to fault him when he played most of his games with Cody Eakin at C and several on his offwing. I think Glass is more of a concern with injury. Missed a lot of season in Portland in ‘17, and a bunch of games last year in Chicago. Started this season in NHL and didn’t play enough games to get his name on the cup if Vegas wins it.

  10. Doktor Hockey

    Love it!!!! We have hockey, more than likely, starting again in a few weeks, to compete FOR THE CUP ….. THIS year. Yet we still spend a lot of time talking about the ifs and maybes of next season & beyond. Isn’t it about time to devote out thoughts about THIS years team and what they can accomplish???????? Just saying……..

  11. Mike StG

    Ken, kind of hard to compare the group in Season 1 with the team now. But even so, would Vegas have made it past Round 1 (LAK) with Lagace? That was a war of goalies. Quick allowed 7 goals in 4 games and Fleury allowed 3. I think it’s important they lock in a ‘goalie of the future’ before the Seattle expansion draft, because after that the opportunities to get that quality guy will diminish greatly.

    • You are missing my point. You have to have one good goalie to win in the playoffs. But if you are banking on your starter to get injured, you’re sunk already.

      Wasting $5 million on a player guaranteed to be on the bench when the games matter most is poor utilization of cap.

      • Tim

        Ken you just said if you have one good goalie to win the playoffs but if you lose him your sunk. Now you’ve lost me if you have two good goalies your not sunk what am I missing? Ken your so worried about the cost of the most important position on the team. I’ve heard your podcasts and Jason and you have said you feel Lehner was the better goalie so you know Flower will someday have a statue in front of T-Mobil so he’s staying and we’ll erect another statue next to him for Lehner. Now that was a joke.

        • You need your best players in the playoffs, you do not in the regular season.

          If you lose Mark Stone, you are sunk. Lose Karlsson, sunk. Lose the starting goalie, sunk.

          However, you are already sunk going in if you have $5 million in goalie already sitting on the bench. It’s literally like entering the playoffs with a major injury that you placed upon yourself. It simply doesn’t make sense to ship out a legit 2C for a player that will not play in the most important games of the year.

          If you want to keep Lehner, get rid of Fleury. It’s really that simple.

      • Mike StG

        I’m not banking on losing Fleury to justify having Lehner. In ‘17 Fleury looked fresh and was sharp in playoffs. That could have been because he missed a large part of early season due to injury. The general thinking these days is to be able to maintain a high level of play in playoffs a starter should play around 50-55 games in season. That means your backup would play around 30, which is why some teams are going with a 1A/1B tandem. A crap goalie playing a third of your games can make the difference between making & missing playoffs. Also, remember in ‘17 the Caps had Grubauer & Holtby (two #1’s). When Grubauer faltered in Rd 1 they put in Holtby who led them to the Cup. Every hockey analyst I’ve heard agrees that having Fleury & Lehner going into playoffs is a huge plus for Vegas. I think it comes down to whether for a year or two it’s worth the extra cost to retain one of the league’s best goalies to be the guardian of the net thru the next decade.

        • Tim

          Mike again like other posters who have seen the light two goalies increase your odds immensely. We have to make see the light. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition as we used to say back in my service days.

    • A Fan

      I’ve never understood Ken’s logic about back up goalies. If we didn’t have Flower in the first season playoffs, there would have been no Cinderella season like we had. Lagace in the playoffs, scary. Subban was supposed to be our #2 and heir to Fleury according to alot of people. Thankfully the team didn’t end up thinking that also. GM even made a comment about Subban getting traded because of potential weakness in the then upcoming playoffs. Subban had his moments, but I always hoped they would trade him, thankfully they did. Ken seems to be ignoring the reality that without a strong #2 goalie and if #1 gets injured, that having a screen door as backup will most certainly eliminate VGK from the Cup, even with the great players in front of him. Whether it’s Lehner or someone else, and with Fleury’s time probably running out fairly soon, we better have a strong #2 for the upcoming chances at the Cup and hopefully a future replacement for Fleury when he’s done. No more Lagace’s or Subban’s please.

      • Tim

        A Fan, Amen Brother I’ve been trying to drum that into Ken’s head for months.
        Ken on losing a good wing or center you can still survive by keeping the puck out of the net lose your goalie and as Don Meredith used to say ( Turn Down the Lights the Party’s Over ).

      • Mike StG

        Well said. My argument for keeping Lehner is that he’s not a run-of-the-mill or ‘decent’ goalie. He’s top 5 in the league. You lose him to free agency you’re not getting him back. Georgy and Jarry look promising but are still young and unproven. Matt Miller looked good for about 18 months but look at him now. There is no doubt with Lehner.

        • It’s VERY important to note that at no time have I suggested getting rid of Lehner. I simply suggest that if you are going to keep Fleury, you must get rid of Lehner. Same goes the other way around. If you believe Lehner is Top 5 in the league, then he should the goalie of the future.

          • Mike StG

            Ken – But why MUST you get rid of one or the other? If, for example, they could trade Marty and clear out $4M in cap space to sign Lehner, why not do it? You have tons of potential with D prospects. Wouldn’t having better goaltending offset the loss of one Dman? And by the way I love Marty and don’t want to see him traded. Why not have a sterling goalie tandem for 2 years, with Lehner taking the net after that when Fleury’s contract is over?

          • I’m assuming Marty is Marchessault. That’s another Top 6 player. I don’t know how clear I can make this. NEVER TRADE TOP 6 BACKUP GOALIE. EVER EVER EVER EVER.

      • The logic comes down to how close of a replacement you can get for a fraction of the price. In the regular season, a great backup goalie to an average one will win you a few games here or there. Maybe a max of about 6. VGK do not need 6 more wins in the regular season, they’ll be just fine without them (have been for 3 seasons). In the playoffs, the difference between a great backup and me in the goal is absolutely nothing because I’m not going to play.

        One of these days I’ll do a full article showing it, but the fact of the matter is that it does no good to have a great backup goalie, especially if it’s at the expense of your Top 6 (which is what everyone is suggesting).

        For these playoffs, yes, it’s great they have both. They are paying Lehner $1.2 million. If that number was $5 million, they wouldn’t have Alec Martinez or Shea Theodore. Skaters are WAY more important that backup goalies in the playoffs (as long as your starter is good. Which, if Fleury isn’t the guy, then move on).

        • Mike StG

          Ken – Marty is Alec Martinez (how they refer to him in LA). Marchessault is Marchie, and I agree with you 100% that they shouldn’t trade a Top 6 forward. That’s why I wouldn’t support a Stastny trade either. Alec has one year left on his contract of $4M.

          • Martinez doesn’t get enough for Lehner and Fleury.

          • Mike StG

            If Lehner signs for $5M, Martinez is 4 + Dansk goes to HSK and that’s $700K. You’re at $4.7M, only $300K from a deal and Vegas can find that money. UFA deals will be shorter term and less money this offseason due to economic impact of Covid and Seattle expansion. Lehner won’t likely get offers at $5M+ long term. He didn’t get that last year coming off a Vezina nomination, and there’ll be cheaper goalie options. Vegas should go for the best though, not cheap.

        • Mike StG

          Ken – and I do realize that I want to ‘have my cake and eat it too’. 🙂

  12. Tim

    Well if nothing else I think you would agree Lehner is a hot topic no matter what side your on.

  13. IMHO you sit down with Robin and you’re the heir apparent. So we’ll give you terms and security here in Vegas. No taxes. If you agree to a 5-year term, light the first 2 years. Renegotiation if Fleury can’t complete the first 2. 1st is 3 million, 2nd is 3.5. 3rd, 4th, and 5th could be determined as to his real worth. So back heavy loaded. If he wants a job on a great that he knows is going to be his in a short while what does he do? Thoughts? Listen I’m just throwing shit on the wall here, but I like the guy and he could be our goalie and Patera the backup.

  14. Doktor Hockey

    Man this goalie thing IS a hot topic. Good job Ken for getting your site buzzing. You’re wrong of course on keeping both goalies, but that’s ok. None of us know just what the hell the McGMs will do. I honestly feel if we win the cup this year, it will make a big difference on what happens. A) – “Could” flower then retire after winning his 4th cup? I know most probably will disagree, but my logic is simply. After losing his dad, he lost some of that desire I think. Winning the cup would be a perfect time for him to say that’s enough! Regardless, I do think both will be kept if flower is still playing. Anyway, HOCKEY in about 3 weeks!!! Holy Cow. 🙂

  15. DEAN

    Malcom Subban will likely be available as well.

    • The scholar

      Ken, love your article and arguments, it just makes a lot of sense. Kudos to you!
      I can’t believe all the people in the comment section arguing about “keeping both”, as if that is even financially feasible! No team can sign two goalies for a total of 13+Millions. That’s simply nuts!
      The only reason we could do it this year is because Lehner’s contract is a tiny 1.2 Million. This is the last year that Lehner will make this much, he will want to multiply his earnings with his next contract.

      As Ken said folks, it’s either Lehner or Fleury! Not both.
      I’m leaning on the “keep Lehner” side, trade Fleury! He isn’t that consistent and will be 36 going into the next season.
      Lehner+Georgiev or Jarry would be a hell of a tandem. Much cheaper than Fleury+Lehner.

      • Mike StG

        It’s really not that hard to keep both. Martinez has 1 yr left at $4M. Consensus among national hockey analysts is that UFA contracts will be shorter term and lower $ value because of economic uncertainties. Lehner couldn’t get a long term contract at $5M last year, only 1 yr w/Hawks. Why do people think he’ll get that now? Trade Martinez, Dansk plays in AHL (700k) and they have 4.7M to work with. Plus other cap room, tho not much. As you said Fleury is getting older and his athletic style of play is likely to decline as he ages. A 1A/1B tandem would be awesome. Plus it would retain Lehner long term as team’s goalie for next decade, post-Fleury. Pens may protect Jarry. Georgy has been good but isn’t proven.

  16. B

    You almost never win the cup without 2 solid goalies.
    2019 – Blues Allen/Bennington
    2018 – Capitals Holtby/Grubauer
    2017 – Penguins Fleury/Murray
    2016 – Penguins Fleury/Murray
    2015 – Blackhawks Crawford/Darling (9-4-0, 1.95 GAA)
    2014 – Kings Quick/Jones

    They love Glass and he will be an excellent #2
    Roy is very underrated and is better than many #3’s in the league. DeBoer plays him up and down the lines with real good upside. #3’s average about 35 points per season, Roy will easily do that on a stable line with Tuch and Krebs/Dugan/Elvenes (mid season)
    Cousins/Stephenson #4

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