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5 Most Intriguing Games On VGK Schedule

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In the 100+ year history of the NHL, we’ve never seen a schedule quite like this one.  It’s a shortened season with baseball-style series and just seven different opponents over the 56 games. Nonetheless, it’s not lacking intrigue throughout. These are the five games I’m most looking forward to this season.

5. Vegas Golden Knights at Anaheim Ducks – February 27th

This game marks the first road back-to-back in the same city against the same team, one of four instances on the Golden Knights’ schedule. Much of the hoopla around this unique schedule is the belief that teams will hate each other a little bit more playing so often and on consecutive nights. I’m not sure I believe it, but if it is true, this one will be ripe with that extra fire. The real reason this game has me interested is because of the goalie situation. Will Vegas rotate goalies on every back-to-back? What if one guy dominates the first game? What if Fleury is gone by then? Goalie decisions have dominated the Pete DeBoer era in Vegas and that will continue in a big way with each back-to-back decision. This one will set the table for each of the other seven.

4. Vegas Golden Knights at St. Louis Blues – March 12th

Hopefully, by March, there are not just fans in the building, but a lot of fans in the building in St. Louis. This game marks Alex Pietrangelo’s first game back in STL against the team that drafted him, he captained, and he won a Stanley Cup with. It’ll give us the old expansion year feels where the other team celebrates a Golden Knight and then he stomps all over them and helps Vegas get a win.

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Vegas Golden Knights 2021 Schedule Released

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The 56-game 2020-21 season schedule has been released with the Golden Knights starting at home against the Anaheim Ducks on January 13th. The schedule is unique this season with consecutive games against the same team throughout. Vegas will have 8 back-to-backs.

JANUARY:
Thurs. Jan. 14 vs. Anaheim
Sat. Jan. 16 vs. Anaheim
Mon. Jan. 18 vs. Arizona
Wed. Jan. 20 vs. Arizona
Fri. Jan. 22 at Arizona
Sun. Jan. 24 at Arizona
Tues. Jan. 26 vs. St. Louis
Thurs. Jan. 28 vs. St. Louis

FEBRUARY:
Mon. Feb. 1 at San Jose
Wed. Feb. 3 at San Jose
Fri. Feb. 5 vs. Los Angeles
Sun. Feb. 7 vs. Los Angeles
Tue. Feb. 9 vs. Anaheim
Thurs. Feb. 11 vs. Anaheim
Sun. Feb. 14 vs. Colorado
Tues. Feb. 16 vs. Colorado
Sat. Feb. 20 at Colorado
Mon. Feb. 22 at Colorado
Fri. Feb. 26 at Anaheim
Sat. Feb. 27 at Anaheim

MARCH:
Mon. March 1 vs. Minnesota
Wed. March 3 vs. Minnesota
Fri. March 5 at San Jose
Sat. March 6 at San Jose
Mon. March 8 at Minnesota
Wed. March 10 at Minnesota
Fri. March 12 at St. Louis
Sat. March 13 at St. Louis
Mon. March 15 vs. San Jose
Wed. March 17 vs. San Jose
Fri. March 19 at Los Angeles
Sun. March 21 at Los Angeles
Thurs. March 25 at Colorado
Sat. March 27 at Colorado
Mon. March 29 vs. Los Angeles
Wed. March 31 vs. Los Angeles

APRIL:
Thurs. April 1 vs. Minnesota
Sat. April 3 vs. Minnesota
Mon. April 5 at St. Louis
Wed. April 7 at St. Louis
Fri. April 9 vs. Arizona
Sun. April 11 vs. Arizona
Mon. April 12 at Los Angeles
Wed. April 14 at Los Angeles
Fri. April 16 at Anaheim
Sun. April 18 at Anaheim
Mon. April 19 vs. San Jose
Wed. April 21 vs. San Jose
Mon. April 26 vs. Colorado
Wed. April 28 vs. Colorado
Fri. April 30 at Arizona

MAY:
Sat. May 1 at Arizona
Mon. May 3 at Minnesota
Wed. May 5 at Minnesota
Fri. May 7 vs. St. Louis
Sat. May 8 vs. St. Louis

Taxi Squad Should Make VGK Salary Cap Crunch Easier To Navigate

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The Golden Knights have a salary cap problem and now that we have a set date for the 2020-21 season to begin there’s an official deadline in which that problem must be solved.

Luckily for Vegas, the new COVID-necessitated roster rules should stand to assist the Golden Knights in navigating the muddy salary cap waters this season.

As it currently stands, according to CapFriendly.com, the Golden Knights projected starting lineup (with backup goalie) comes in over the cap by a little more than $100,000. By rule, all teams must be cap compliant by the day of the first game on the league schedule, this year being January 13th. Thus, something has to give.

Normally, Vegas would be in a bit more trouble than they currently are because solving the cap issue would mean sending a player or players away from the team completely and down to the AHL. Plus, they’d be left without any healthy scratch players, which is never ideal. However, with the invention of the taxi squad, the Golden Knights will be able to have players practice with the NHL team, but not count against the cap.

Due to fear of positive tests forcing players out of games at the last minute, the NHL is allowing each team a taxi squad of four to six players. These players will practice and travel with the team but will only be eligible to play in games in the case of an emergency. Technically, the taxi squad players are not part of a team’s active roster, and instead will be treated financially like they are in the AHL. (They are slated to receive NHL per diem.)

Thus, at any time, Vegas is allowed to keep six players, which must include a third goalie, around the NHL team without them counting against the cap. In the past, the Golden Knights have had to yo-yo players back and forth to properly manage the cap. We’ve seen it with guys like Nic Roy, Brandon Pirri, and Jason Garrison, and the first season Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, and Vadim Shipachyov were sent down before Opening Night to satisfy the cap, but this year they can do it on paper and keep the players around to practice and even travel with the team to road games.

So, let’s talk about exactly how it works, what the Golden Knights can and can’t do, and then lay out a few options they might take to clear the final $100,000 in cap space prior to their first game on January 13th.

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Hockey Is Back! 56 Game Season Tentatively Set To Begin On January 13th

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The NHL and NHLPA came to an agreement last night to go forward with a regular season set to begin on January 13th. The agreement still needs to be formalized but it appears hockey is officially back and a 56 game regular season followed by a full playoff will take place. Here’s everything we know to this point as it relates to the Golden Knights.

  • 56 game regular season schedule will be played completely inside of division. (Source: NHL.com)
    • The regular season is scheduled to end on May 8th with the Stanley Cup being awarded in early July. (Source: TSN.ca)
  • Golden Knights to be in a division with Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, and St. Louis (Source: @PierreVLeBrun)
  • Four teams will make the playoffs from each division (Source: @FriedgeHNIC)
  • The four playoff teams in each division will then play each other to determine one division champion to participate in conference semi-final. (Source: @FriedgeHNIC)
    • Conference final matchups will be determined by regular season points. (Source: @TheFourthPeriod)
  • Players will receive their full salaries this season, no proration. (Source: FriedgeHNIC)
  • Any players can opt-out of the season, without pay, if player or immediate family member is considered high-risk. Their contract would then be paused until they resume play. (Source: @frank_seravalli)
  • Official training camp for the Golden Knights is scheduled to begin on January 3rd (Source: @PierreVLeBrun)
  • There will be no exhibition games played. (Source: @reporterchris)
  • A 4 to 6 player “taxi squad” will be created to bring the standard team roster to 29 players.  (Source: @frank_seravalli)
    • These players would be paid AHL salary and would only count against the cap if they make more than $1.075 million. (Source: @frank_seravalli)
    • Waivers will be necessary to transport a player from an NHL roster to a taxi squad. (Source: Sportsnet.ca)
  • Teams are required to carry three goalies at all times. (Source: @reporterchris)
  • The Trade Deadline is scheduled for April 12th. (Source: @PierreVLeBrun)
  • There has been nothing reported about whether or not fans will be allowed in the buildings to watch games.

Staying Positive About The Golden Knights 2020-21 Season

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The day after Thanksgiving is usually reserved for sleeping in, leftovers, unnecessary spending, and the annual NHL Thanksgiving Showdown. This year unfortunately, basketball and football will have to fill your lazy-day sports void. But don’t get down, your gut will bounce back into shape next week and there’s a hint of positivity from the hockey world.

I have no doubt we’re going to have a season. –NHL Executive to Bruce Garioch, Ottawa Citizen

A January start date is very unlikely, but the league nor its players are giving up on a faceoff a month later. And it’s not just fans waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In Garioch’s latest article, the Ottawa scribe wrote about the silence around the league, especially after last week’s COVID breakout surrounding the Golden Knights and other organizations. Normally, things would be heating up. Early season deals are made, coaches are fired, and fanbases are fully engaged. It’s time to forget what could’ve/should’ve been and deal with reality.

It’s got to make sense… If we’re able to play it’s going to be more about player supply and player development this year than anything else. Without fans in the buildings, it’s certainly not going to be about any meaningful revenue. So yes, we’re going to want to know what the NHL is doing before we finalize what our plan is going to be. -Scott Howson, AHL CEO & President

Everyone around the sport understands the NHL needs to act first before minor leagues can make their decision. A lost season would impact a lot of people, including the players. They lose out on salary, statistics, milestones, but most importantly, a year from their careers. Older guys won’t get that season back. A layoff of a year or more allows extra time for prospects to develop, mature, and steal jobs. In other words, they do not want to skip a season.

It’s understandable why the owners are hesitant to start a season without a packed house of screaming fans. They’re losing money by the day, but owners also understand that a cancelled season could damage them more.

According to several sources, a few owners have suggested to Bettman that the league might be better off financially if it shuts down next season, since playing in empty arenas could be crippling to the bottom line. The NHL is still very much a gate-driven league in comparison to a league like the NFL, which draws most of its revenue from media rights. Bettman responded that the NHL can’t lose a season because it’s too damaging in the long term, as the league has learned before in lockout seasons. –Report by Emily Kaplan & Greg Wyshynski, ESPN

Each side will need to come to an agreement, take their financial lumps, and create some type of a shortened regular season. If it’s a February target, the league will need to decide how the 2020-21 season will play out relatively soon.

The landscape is — there’s a lot of unknowns associated with where we’re going in the immediate future…Hopefully things, with all the positive news associated with vaccines and a hopeful climate that could potentially exist that we get back on track. But we have some ground to cover. -Don Sweeney, Bruins GM to Associated Press

Everything we hear or read from around the league tends to be positive, giving fans reasons to believe that their favorite players will suit up and eventually play a 2020-21 season.

What starts with me is: Let’s get the season started… I’m up for however it looks. Whatever the league and the PA think is the best way to get us back playing, whether it’s with fans, some fans, no fans, TV being (more) relevant, if you will. Whatever it takes to get this season going and get it in place. -David Poile, Predators GM to Associated Press

Normally, when a season doesn’t begin on time it’s due to some bitter work stoppage. Players, GMs, and owners are on opposite sides with little motivation to give in, but this is a unique situation. The comments from various league general managers give a sense that collectively the NHL is placing its product and their fans first.

The league and the players discussed this week and there is something on the table that if we can start on time this is what it’s going to be. It’s going to be a 60 game season, in your own arenas, MLB style schedule like back-to-backs in your own building, and an all-Canadian division. –Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet

It may not seem like it but there is real anticipation around the league. Certain GMs are being vocal now, spreading the word to fans and to the players. Since the players union and league office are ghosting each other a bit, it’s good that Poile, Sweeney, and others are giving us hope with their optimism. I think they speak for most NHL managers out there, and they help represent one side of the coin. Hopefully, things can quickly develop from there.

As fans, positive thinking is all we can do at this point, and pound down another turkey sandwich.

Short-Term Hub And/Or Series Plans Not Ideal For Best Teams

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At this point, we’ll take hockey back no matter how we can get it, but the latest pair of plans floating around might not be ideal for the Golden Knights competitively.

The Golden Knights are among the best teams in the NHL on paper and are expected to win the Pacific Division and compete for the President’s Trophy. At the very least, Vegas will be penciled in as a playoff team by anyone making prognostications.

That won’t change regardless of whichever plan the NHL lands on to bring the season back, but the current ones seem to lean towards helping middle of the road teams as opposed to elite ones.

You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. –Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner at Paley International Council Summit

That’s the more extreme of the options. The other idea is to have teams travel to each market, but play multiple games while there. In other words, each team would only take one trip to each location and essentially play a series to reduce travel.

So, why is this disadvantageous for the Golden Knights?

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Vegas Bubble: Take Two?

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The possibilities are endless. Start date, season length, realignment, you name it, the NHL is considering it for the 2020-21 season.

One such possibility, mainly due to travel restrictions, is a return to the bubble. But, this time, the league would have more than two.

The Athletic’s Michael Russo recently penned a terrific story including quotes from Bill Daly on the NHL’s plan for the upcoming season. In it, he included the idea of four regional “hubs” that would serve as central locations for each division.

Like Toronto and Edmonton, the NHL would probably “own and operate” the hotels and there will be some level of testing, but they’re not going to fence off the arena, hotels and restaurants. The league will do its best to control the environment, but players and staff should have more freedom (like going to dinner). -Michael Russo, The Athletic

Now, before you throw your hands up and scream bubble related profanities, know that these bubbles would likely include stadiums open to fans to watch.

The World Series, currently being played in Arlington, Texas, is the perfect example. Major League Baseball set up bubbles for the playoffs and now that we’ve reached the finale, they’ve actually invited fans in to watch the biggest games of the year.

The NHL could very well do the same and in fact, if they do it properly, teams could travel between bubbles a few times over the course of the year to allow more widespread competition.

Of course, Las Vegas is atop the list of potential regional bubble cities and will only become a stronger option with Lifeguard Arena opening and The Orleans laying ice for the AHL.

If it happens, it could mean up to eight teams in Vegas with multiple games daily at T-Mobile Arena, all of which are open to a limited number of fans. Sure, it’ll still be tough to be one of the 6,000 people that get to see the Golden Knights, but for any hockey fan, tickets would probably be easily available for all of the other games.

A hockey buffet for months on end on the Strip? Sign me up.

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