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Signs Still Point To Erik Karlsson, But How Do Things Look If The Deal Doesn’t Happen

Heading into the offseason the Golden Knights had the plan of being aggressive. They wanted to use their cap space to improve the team in any way possible. That started by going out on July 1st and signing one of the biggest names available on the market, Paul Stastny. The Golden Knights also brought back Ryan Reaves and added defenseman Nick Holden. They entered the offseason with somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million of cap space available, they now sit with just under $19. Plenty to make one more highly aggressive move.

We used (the cap space) really effectively on a lot of players and a lot of picks. Right now, we’re sitting here with a pretty good team and we haven’t used any of our draft picks this summer. We have them all. We’ve been talking trade with some teams, but that requires young players and picks but we haven’t moved any of them. -George McPhee

Reading between the lines, the name Erik Karlsson is in there somewhere, but until that deal gets done, the offseason still feels incomplete.

We’re sitting there trying to decide. Again, we kept our young assets, all of our draft picks, and we’re trying to decide: do we make another move now or not? Is the right move there or not? I’ll have to decide that in the next few weeks. -McPhee

McPhee’s words sure sound like he’s in the market for something else, but his actions speak even louder than his words.

f=””> Cody Eakin’s name has been rumored to be included in a potential deal to Ottawa. That would really open up for the cap for McPhee and Co. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)[/capt

The Golden Knights stand with 43 active player contracts and according to, $18,750,000 in projected cap space left.

If Erik Karlsson ($6.5M AAV) and Bobby Ryan ($7.25M AAV) are added for nothing but picks, that would eat up a total of $13.75 million in cap space, leaving the Golden Knights with $5 million to hand out. That’s $5 million to distribute among William Karlsson, Tomas Nosek, William Carrier, Shea Theodore, and Colin Miller. Quite simply, it’s not enough.

However, the Golden Knights still have a player in David Clarkson who is eligible for long-term injured reserve (LTIR) which could potentially free up another $5 million or so. That’s now $10 million for the remaining five RFA’s.

The deal for Erik Karlsson likely would include at least one NHL piece though, which frees up even more cap space. In other words, the numbers add up perfectly for this deal to get done.

But what if it doesn’t? What does the plan look like then?

For starters, still with a really good hockey team. Last year was special, no one is debating that, but Vegas still has a great top line, an elite goaltender, a ton of center depth, a really good fourth line, multiple scoring options, and a defense that was good until the final five games of the playoffs. Of course they’d be better with Erik Karlsson, but the cupboard isn’t barren without him.

The Golden Knights would likely enter the season somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 million under the salary cap. If Erik Karlsson stays in Ottawa, the Golden Knights would likely want to keep that space open so they can make the deal happen at any point. But, if Karlsson ends up in Tampa Bay, New York, or anywhere else, the cap space becomes wasteful in 2018-19. So, the focus would likely shift elsewhere.

Could it go towards pending UFAs in a deadline rental deal? Max Pacioretty, Tyler Seguin, Wayne Simmonds, and Blake Wheeler would all fit the bill there, but the price would likely be steep if any are even available at all.

Or, would McPhee look to poach off some of the more cap-strapped teams. Chicago is pushing up against the number and if they have a season like 2017-18, maybe they’d be willing to do business. Pittsburgh, Boston, and Tampa Bay were all great teams last season, but if things head south they could be open to making moves as well.

The answer to “what if it’s not Erik Karlsson?” is an unanswerable one at this moment, even for the reigning GM of the Year.

That’s why the Karlsson deal is so crucial to the offseason plans. This is not to say if the deal doesn’t happen the offseason was a failure, but it would be left somewhat incomplete, and Plan B isn’t a quick solution. The New York Islanders missed out on John Tavares, so they turned their attention to Erik Karlsson. Vegas doesn’t have that type of fallback plan.

However, cap space is a major asset in the current state of the NHL, and having it, plus a good team, keeps the Golden Knights in a powerful position heading into 2018-19.

Based on everything we’ve heard plus the actions in free agency, my sense is still that Erik Karlsson and Bobby Ryan will become Golden Knights before training camp gets underway, but even if they don’t, George McPhee remains in a great spot. All the eggs may seem like they’re in the Karlsson/Ryan basket, and that might be Plan A, but if it doesn’t happen, it won’t be a time to panic, it’ll be a time to figure out what’s next.


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  1. Stan Makita

    Blackhawks have plenty of cap space. Hossa’s 6.5 mil cap hit, will be waived as he is LTIR. Cap basement is. $59mil.

    • More so the fact that they have a lot of highly paid guys. If the team isn’t playing well they may have to look to make some moves.

  2. Bobby Hull

    Ken—what do you see as the “package” from the VGK side to get a Karlsson/Ryan deal done?

    • NHL defenseman (Theodore or Miller), current bottom 6 NHL player (Nosek, Eakin, Carrier), high end prospect (Hague, Rondbjerg, Morozov, etc), two picks that are not 1sts.

      • Rob

        I’m pretty much 100% on board with your projected deal. I penciled in Suzuki as the prospect, but it could be one of the others.

        I question only a couple of things – I don’t think it gets done without giving up a 1st, since OTT doesn’t have one next year. Second, is I think we end up packaging Clarkson’s contract in the deal. It gives OTT a cheap way to stay over the salary cap floor as they rebuild without a lot of cash out of pocket (I understand it’s an insured contract).

        Here’s how I think/hope it goes down:
        OTT Gets:
        2019 1st

        VGK Gets:

        If we can do it for a pair of 2nd’s, even better.

      • Cody

        That is one lousy deal for Ottawa.

  3. BL

    Where would Ryan be slotted? Winger for the third line? Is he then stuck on a 3rd line with Tatar? With Tuch or Nosek?

  4. DGL

    2 Karlsson 1 Cup!!!!

  5. Travis Bickle

    I think VGK has a goalie crunch with Subban and Dansk regarding movement to/from minors. Why not include one of them, probably Subban, along with Theodore or Miller and a #1 and lower prospect to make this happen since we’re absorbing the Ryan $?

  6. DGL

    Rumor has it GMGM is upping the ante to compete with Dallas. Trade prospects now include the return of Canadian Strip Performer – Celine Dion, scale replica of the Eiffel Tower and attorney Ed Bernstein.

  7. JAY T

    Let’s all hope McPhee can get the trade done second time around. Last time he couldn’t seal the deal we ended up with Tatar. You only get so many opportunities to trade for a franchise player.

  8. Cody

    All that about “Who cares if they overpay for Reaves?” and now you’re talking cap space. Smh

  9. Stephanie

    Why the heck do we have to take Ryan ? Forget it

  10. Stephanie

    I agree the cupboard isn’t barren without the guy ?
    No way was Drew Doughty worth that contract btw either

  11. Mark

    Carolina signing another Defender yesterday got me wondering if a 3 team trade could happen to lessen the actual amount of assets we would give up, plus Ottawa will need a 2019 first, since Colorado has theirs.

    Carolina gets- Tatar (not bashing him, it just seems Car needs a top 6 F)

    VGK get -EK and Ryan

    Ottawa gets – Carolina 1st, Colin Miller, Oscar Lindberg and VGK 2020 2nd.

    • Mark

      Or change Miller for Hayden Fluery and Swap Carolina first for VGK first.

  12. Bent Hermit

    If the EK deal doesn’t happen GM knows he has a great plan already working for him. After watching his young D develop this year, I would not be surprised if they are not a top 5 defense in 3 years. If Brannstrom and Hague hit their projected levels they will have the best defense in the NHL. There is no need to panic if the EK deal doesn’t work Vegas has a very good future either way.

  13. Klauss

    adding 1 elite player doesn’t guarantee VGK will be as good or better than last season
    E Karlsson wants 12 million X 8 years — VGK is better off developing & signing their own — cap space = freedom & power to build & keep a TEAM competitive for years.

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