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Predicting The Golden Knights Offseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The offseason is about to truly get going. Rosters freeze in a couple of hours, expansion lists are due slightly after that and will be released to the public tomorrow. That’s when the fun begins as each team will surrender a player to the Seattle Kraken and the deals will start coming through. Shortly after that the NHL Draft, then free agency. In the next two weeks, a whole lot of teams will look different, and the Golden Knights could be one of them.

Yes, we waited until the absolute last minute for this but now is the time. Jason and I worked together on our offseason predictions for the Golden Knights. Here’s exactly what we think will happen and what the roster will look like come Opening Night 2021-22.

NOTE: This is a guess at what we believe the Golden Knights will do. This is not an endorsement for any of these moves. (We’ll get to that when they are actually made.)

Free Agency

Alec Martinez – Unsigned

It’s simply going to cost too much for the Golden Knights to retain the two-time Cup winner. After his excellent showing in the playoffs, while playing on a broken foot, the soon-to-be 34-year old will be looking to cash in one last time. We expect him to hit the market on July 28th and sign quickly for at least $5 million AAV.

Mattias Janmark – Unsigned

George McPhee has never been a big fan of rentals, but since Kelly McCrimmon officially took the GM chair they have gone down this road a bit more. Nick Cousins was acquired and walked a few months later in free agency and we expect the same from Janmark. It’ll be interesting to see how much he can fetch on the open market as he hits unrestricted free agency for the second year running. He’s signed for $2.3 and $2.25 each of the last two years and may be headed towards that number again.

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GM For A Day: Jason’s 2021-22 Vegas Golden Knights

Welcome to GM For A Day, the second in a pair of articles in which the founders of SinBin.vegas take control of the Vegas Golden Knights and reshape the team in a way we each believe will bring the Stanley Cup to Las Vegas.

These articles are NOT meant to be taken as a prediction as to what we believe is going to happen this offseason. This is what we would do, not what we think the Golden Knights will do (that article is coming tomorrow).

Today, I (Jason) am on the hot seat. Let’s go.

Here we go…

*TRADE: Marc-Andre Fleury + 2022 3rd round pick to Toronto Maple Leafs for center Alex Kerfoot + 2022 2nd round pick and 2023 2nd round pick*

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In a flat cap world, there’s no way I can continue to allocate $12M in goaltending. As general manager, I would entertain every inquiry coming in from opposing front offices. In the long run, the NHL is a cold, hard business and it wouldn’t be a secret that I’m looking to move a goaltender. I understand that it could hurt my negotiations but in the end I’m trying to move money and build some depth.

There are contending teams with issues in net and one that could use a steady tender like Fleury is the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs are loaded with talent but consistently underachieve in the playoffs. Adding a leader that just so happens to be the Vezina winner would be a big confidence boost for a franchise that hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1967.

To make it work I asked for center Alex Kerfoot ($3.5M x 2) to help my club down the middle. I considered asking for defenseman Morgan Reilly but he’s on an expiring contract with an AAV of $5M. At that rate, I would find a way to re-sign Alec Martinez. At a $3.5M AAV Kerfoot isn’t exactly cheap, but he’s only locked in for two more seasons. Personally, I don’t love the trade, but it was necessary. It gave me agita dealing Fleury over last season’s mismanagement. Finally fixing the roster to pay just one one starting goaltender allows for much-needed cap relief, a solid third line center and a future draft asset we can use as capital at the deadline.

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Projecting The Probability Of Golden Knights Offseason Moves

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights could add a few pieces around the edges. They could go for the blockbuster and trade for Jack Eichel, Seth Jones, or Vladamir Tarasenko. They could do absolutely nothing. The options in Vegas this offseason are endless.

I, like all of you, have absolutely no clue what is actually going to end up happening, but I, like all of you, have fun trying to figure it all out and making guesses.

Next week we’re going to be publishing a series of articles giving our final guesses. Jason and I will take turns playing GM for a day and coming up with our perfect offseason if we were in charge, and then we’ll collaborate for what we think the guys who are actually in the front office will do.

But before then, let’s play the guessing game using percentages.

Will a goalie be traded?

Yes – 15% (10% Lehner, 5% Fleury)
No – 85%

For a variety of reasons it didn’t happen last season and many of those same reasons still exist now. Plus, unlike last year when they were two years away, the Golden Knights are now one year away from lowering the $7 million cap number on Fleury and having both goalies under contract at a much more affordable price. Biting the bullet for one more year seems like the runaway favorite, but 15% isn’t nothing.

Will the Golden Knights trade for Jack Eichel?

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VGK’s Best Postseason Players All Had One Important Thing In Common

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If there’s one thing the Golden Knights were not short on as they headed into their fourth Stanley Cup playoff journey, it was experience. Before the 19 games they each played on their path to the Semifinals, the Golden Knights entered the playoffs with 1,086 games of postseason experience on the roster.

On top of that, they also boasted four prominent players that have won Stanley Cups. Between Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, and Chandler Stephenson, this version of the Golden Knights had players who had won seven of the last 13 Stanley Cups.

When you hear people talk about players like Fleury, Pietrangelo, Martinez, and Stephenson you’ll often hear them mention that accolade. In Martinez’s case, when he was acquired it was literally the only thing anyone wanted to reference when describing him as a player. And, after this season concluded, Martinez himself went right to it when talking about Pietrangelo.

He’s got that championship pedigree. He’s been through a lot of playoff runs. We actually went head-to-head quite a few times. -Alec Martinez on Pietrangelo

Personally, I’m usually a little skeptical when it comes to pedigree making a difference, but this year has made me re-think it a bit seeing the performances of the Cup-winners on the Golden Knights’ roster.

Think about it. Who were Vegas’ best three players on this postseason run?

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Who’s To Blame For The Golden Knights Underachieving… Again

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s a sad moment for fans when a hockey season abruptly ends like it did last Thursday. Reality sets in when a Cup run is over and the 31st franchise will have to wait another year for a chance at the ultimate prize. Unfortunately, the truth is, this was another wasted season for the Golden Knights. For the second straight year, Vegas faced an inferior opponent and couldn’t find a way to force a game seven. Their leaders, coaches, and framers failed again and almost identically in back-to-back years.

Against Montreal, the Golden Knights outshot the Canadiens 193 to 165 yet had two fewer goals in the Semifinals. Keep in mind the Canadiens were the 15th lowest scoring team in the regular season and Vegas was 3rd highest. The Golden Knights fell down the same hole last postseason against the Dallas Stars. Like Montreal, Dallas was another low scoring team that found a way to outscore the Golden Knights in the conference finals. It was inexcusable in 2020, and even more so in 2021 after the organization retooled in the offseason.

So, who’s to blame?

Players

Let’s begin with the leadership group. Captain Mark Stone has built quite the portfolio in Vegas, however, his stock continues to plummet in the playoffs. For three straight seasons, Stone has provided very little offense for the Golden Knights when they needed him late in a series. Going without a single point in the entire Semifinals was rock bottom for Stone. His failure to produce in the backend of a playoff series was evident again against Minnesota, Colorado, and Montreal.

In all fairness to the captain, he owned up to it.

I can praise (the Canadiens) all I want but ultimately it falls down on myself and the top players on this team. We had some guys that produced night in and night out. As far as myself I got skunked this series. That can’t happen. I’m the captain of this team, the leader of this team, I take a lot of responsibility for what just occurred. -Mark Stone

Another concern was the continuous slow starts for Vegas. In six Semifinal games, the Golden Knights allowed the first goal four times, and were sluggish to begin the 1st period in several other postseason contests. In the final 12 games of the postseason, the Golden Knights trailed at some point in 11 of them.

Is it possible the team leaders for Vegas couldn’t motivate their teammates enough to kick off the game on time? It’s hard to comprehend why, but it’s fair to point fingers at the men with letters; Stone, Reilly Smith and Alex Pietrangelo.

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One Shift Illustrated How The Golden Knights Won Game 1 And How The Can Keep Winning

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It happened early in the 2nd period, a shift from the Misfit Line of William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, and Jonathan Marchessault matched up with Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez. Playing against the strongest defensive pair and the best shutdown line Montreal can offer, the Golden Knights put together 46 seconds of dominance that encapsulated how Vegas stormed out to a 1-0 series lead and stands as a shining example of exactly what must continue to happen for the Golden Knights to punch their second ticket to the Stanley Cup Final in four years.

After the Golden Knights struggled their way through the 1st, despite getting out to a two-goal lead, they finally started doing what they set out to do in beating the Montreal Canadiens.

In this one shift, the Golden Knights demonstrated a ferocious forecheck, multiple perfect pinches by defensemen, excellent puck support by all five skaters, strength along the boards, and an offensive mindset that put Montreal under so much pressure they were forced to take a penalty.

Here it is. Watch it and focus on how often there are moments where the puck is out of VGK’s possession and how they go about getting it back in several different ways.

It starts with a dump in from the red line by Martinez. While Karlsson wins the race to the puck, he’s hounded by two Canadiens. Karlsson recognizes he’s outnumbered and quickly jabs the puck forward to the open space and a waiting unmarked (for now) Reilly Smith.

When Smith gets it, he sees the defensemen rushing towards him and moves it around the wall. It’s hard to tell if the pass is directed towards Marchessault under the goal or all the way around to Martinez, but there’s no doubt Smith knows where the defense is lightest and moves the puck that way.

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Vegas’ Unheralded Unit Comes Through Again

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s fair to say the Golden Knights’ defensive unit have outperformed their opponents all postseason. Vegas’ defense have allowed the second least goals per game, and consistently cause star snipers to shake their heads and shrug their shoulders on the bench. However, last night was evidence of how the Golden Knights’ blue line can change the outcome differently when they’re pitching in offensively.

They got some solid d-men over there. They were finding lanes, getting pucks through and jumping in to the rush. That’s what good D does. I’ll have to find a way to mitigate that. -Carey Price, MTL goaltender

In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals, three Golden Knights defensemen scored and five registered a point. Vegas’ blue line produced more points than Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Alex Tuch, and Mattias Janmark combined. Yet it didn’t matter for Vegas.

Not only were the Golden Knights’ defensive core one of the highest-scoring in the regular season but they’ve nearly matched it in the playoffs. In the regular season, Vegas’ blueline combined for 142 points, adding 0.39 of offense per game. In the postseason it’s been equally as impressive.

VGK’s Offense From Defensemen

Regular Season: 142 Points (36 Goals, 139 Assists), 0.39 Points Per Game
Postseason: 37 Points (9 Goals, 28 Assists), 0.38 Points Per Game

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Block Party! Golden Knights Blocked Their Way To The Semi-Final

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have battled and bruised their way through 13 tough games this postseason and with two series under their belt and another a few days away, Vegas seem to have found a simple yet painful approach to beating their opponents. Blocking shots.

We presented the numbers after Game 2 against Colorado and the trend continued throughout the six-game series. The Golden Knights have become a shot-blocking brigade. After last night, the Golden Knights are 7-1 in the postseason when they block 18 or more per game. In their Game 6 clincher, VGK blocked 34 shot attempts from Colorado. We can only imagine the extra-long ice bath Alec Martinez needed after the 6-3 victory.

Playoff Blocked Shots By The Numbers

VGK 249 Total Blocked Shots (1st)
VGK 19.00 Blocked Shots Per 60 (2nd)
Alec Martinez 52 Blocked Shots (1st)
Alex Pietrangelo 36 Blocked Shots (2nd)
Zach Whitecloud 30 Blocked Shots (4th)

When Pete DeBoer took over as the Golden Knights coach he stated shot blocking would be a heavy factor in how the team defended and it was non-negotiable. Well, the coach wasn’t kidding. His players lead all playoff teams with 249 total blocked shots and have 47 more than the NY Islanders who are next with 198 blocked shots. Painful as it is, game after game the Golden Knights have sacrificed their bodies to frustrate snipers like Nathan MacKinnon.

Vegas’ next opponent the Montreal Canadiens will most likely fall victim to clogged shooting lanes and dud shot attempts as well. After two rounds the Canadiens opponents averaged 15 blocked shots per game. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets blocked a total of 170 shots in 11 games against the North Division champion. Vegas should be able to match if not exceed the average amount Montreal has faced all postseason.

The Golden Knights will need to be aware of facing shot-blockers like themselves. Defensemen Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmunson, and Jeff Petry log heavy minutes and average four or more blocked shots per game. It’s not in Martinez’s neighborhood but the Canadiens have guys that are willing to throw themselves into a hard slap shot as well.

Shot blocking isn’t the sole reason the Golden Knights have advanced to the semifinals but it’s been effective. If Vegas continues to frustrate sharpshooters and defensive weapons on the blueline they should be to limit Montreal’s offense, like they did to Colorado. Facing a goaltender like Carey Price, goals will likely be tough to come by. Relying on basic, fearless hockey could be the difference for Vegas in the penultimate series.

Just think, Martinez has 50 or so shots left to block before he can hoist the Cup. Luckily he’ll have plenty of time for his puck-sized bruises to heal in the offseason.

Blocked Shots Key To Series Turnaround

In the First Round series against Minnesota, the Golden Knights threw their bodies in front of as many pucks as possible. It was effective and clearly frustrated the Wild’s top scorers. Vegas carried over their strategy into the Second Round against Colorado. Game 2 was a good example of how Vegas can quiet some of hockey’s best snipers by clogging up the shooting lanes.

Of the eight teams remaining in the playoffs, the Golden Knights lead in total blocked shots (191) and rank second in blocked shots (16.9) per game. Being vigilant in the D-zone has been one reason why they’ve won four postseason games so far. Since Vegas’ offense has had trouble finding the back of the net, they’ve found success by blocking opponents’ shots before it can get to Marc-Andre Fleury.

VGK’s Postseason Blocked Shots

16.2 blocked shots per game vs. MIN
18.7 blocked shots per game vs. COL

In Game 2, the Golden Knights were able to hold Colorado to just two goals through 60 minutes. That’s an achievement considering the Avalanche are averaging five goals per game in the playoffs. Vegas limited Colorado by stepping in the way of 28 shot attempts on Wednesday night. The outcome didn’t fall the Golden Knights way but in contrast to Game 1, an increase in blocked shots sharply impacted the Avalanche’s offense in Game 2.

Game 1 vs. Colorado
VGK 10 Blocked shots: Lost 7-1

Game 2 vs. Colorado
VGK 28 Blocked shots: Lost 3-2 OT

If the Golden Knights can continue to obstruct the Avalanche’s chances it could earn them their first victory of the series. Against Minnesota, when Vegas blocked 18 or more shots they won. In four of their five postseason losses, the Golden Knights blocked 13 or fewer shots.

It’s frustrating. It’s not just the shots but it’s great opportunities that weren’t going in. -Kevin Fiala, MIN forward

Not only are the Avalanche difficult to slow down but they are committed defensively as well. In Game 1, Colorado blocked more shots than Vegas and added 17 more in Game 2. The Golden Knights cannot afford to lose that battle tonight at T-Mobile Arena.

Vegas is fully aware that it’s an uphill battle and Game 3 is a must-win to have a real chance at eliminating Colorado. Sacrificing bodies and blocking shots will be how Vegas can compete in the game but it won’t win them a game. There aren’t enough shots to block to make up for a struggling offense.

Adapting To Opposing Team’s Strengths Crucial For Golden Knights Heading Into Playoffs

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There’s not much to like about the format of this season’s schedule, but if there is one place where it offers something unique it’s in how teams respond to each other on their second night playing the same team.

On Friday night, the Golden Knights really struggled in the first period dealing with the St. Louis forecheck.

They came out flying in the 1st and were very physical and they took it to us at the beginning of the game. -Alec Martinez

The Blues constantly caught the Golden Knights standing still in their own zone and they appeared to be a step faster all over the offensive zone because of it. Vegas eventually conceded three times in the first two periods before they really settled in.

When presented with the same challenge the very next night against the same opponent, the Golden Knights’ response was tremendous.

As a group on the back end I thought we got back a lot quicker. We made a conscious effort to kind of help each other and move the puck quicker. -Alex Pietrangelo

This season the Golden Knights have won so often in the first of the two games between teams that usually the response has had to come from the other side. Even though they did end up beating the Blues on Friday, they felt they had more to give on Saturday and that showed up.

The key to it was recognizing where the opponent challenged Vegas and adjusting to eliminate it the following game. This is exactly what it takes to win a playoff series and the Golden Knights passed the dress rehearsal with flying colors.

They have really good structure so you’ve got to try and get through that as quickly as you can and when it’s not there you have to be willing to make the simple play and play in the neutral zone. I thought we made good decisions with the puck tonight. It’s just a matter of sticking to that plan. -Pietrangelo

After a game in which that structure made life difficult on the Vegas defense, they were able to quickly adapt to the speed of the Blues forecheck and neutralize it on Saturday.

The Golden Knights are a team that truly can play any way their opponent forces them to. In the Blues case, they’re going to force Vegas to be clean with the puck breaking out of the defensive zone. On Friday, they weren’t, on Saturday, they were.

With a playoff matchup seemingly on the horizon, that’s a lesson the Golden Knights are going to need to remember. Not only how they dealt with the heavy forecheck, but how quickly and efficiently they were able to do it between Game 1 and Game 2 (and really between periods 2 and 3).

Last year, the Golden Knights struggled to change their approach when they ran into a Dallas team that gave them trouble. This year, they have a lot more practice with it in a season jammed with common opponents. The saying goes, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Last year, luck was tough to come by, hopefully, the extra preparation helps this time around.

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