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2021-22 VGK Opening Day Trivia: Who Am I?

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There’s nothing more exciting than Opening Night. It’s a new season with new players, new rivals, and new objectives. As we prepare for tonight’s matchup against the 32nd franchise let’s have a little fun.

2021-22 Golden Knights Opening Night Trivia: Who Am I?

Surprise, I have the most opening night points in franchise history with 4 (2 Goals, 2 Assists). Who am I?

Click for answer
Mark Stone

 

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to suit up and join the boys tonight but I’ll be cheering loudly. Not sure if you remember, but last season I scored the franchise’s only opening night empty net goal. Who am I?

Click for answer
Alex Tuch

 

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New Interpretation Of Cross-Checking Could Help Golden Knights In Area They Struggle

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It seems like every year when the preseason rolls around the NHL has a different rule they want to hone in on. During the Golden Knights’ first season it was a focus on faceoff violations, a year later it was slashing, this year it’s cross-checking.

The league sent out a video showing their new interpretation of the rule, essentially indicating a renewed willingness to actually call the foul when it occurs.

Usually, these little tweaks are just something that players have to get used to and as the season goes on it becomes less and less of an issue. With this one though, if NHL refs do indeed follow through calling it the entire season, and into the playoffs, it could offer a real competitive advantage for the Golden Knights.

It’s going to be easier to get to the front of net for sure, so I think there are going to be more goals. I think it’s going to be tough for defensemen to find a solution but I think the biggest thing is going to be getting on our sticks to not allow tips. -Marchessault

Getting to the front of the net, and then succeeding when they get there, has been a thorn in the side of the Golden Knights. In playoff series against Vancouver, Dallas, Minnesota, and Montreal the area in front of goals has been a problem. Against Dallas and Montreal specifically, Vegas had a difficult time generating any traffic between the shooter and the goalie, which led to a lot of clean looks for Anton Khudobin and Carey Price.

Maybe, and this assumes the rule change is implemented and carried out over the course of an 82-game season and into the postseason, just maybe this could make life a little easier for forwards trying to get to the most dangerous area on the ice.

Well I’m probably going to take a few paddings off my shoulder pads. -Marchessault

On the other side of the ice, defensemen appear to be playing it down.

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VGK Fantasy Hockey Outlook

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If you are anything like me, when you play fantasy sports you have to have at least one player from your favorite team on your roster. You’d think being a fan of the Golden Knights would make this easy. Vegas has been one of the top three or four teams in the NHL each of the past two seasons and are right there again this year. However, fantasy hockey and actual hockey are much different.

NHL.com has released a whole host of fantasy hockey lists from Top 250 to sleepers to rookies to watch and the Golden Knights are notably absent on many of these lists. But, when they added it all up, VGK found themselves in 4th on the overall team rankings. Very confusing, let’s go through it.

The Golden Knights have eight players in the NHL Top 250. The first guy on the board doesn’t come until #24 though, that’s Robin Lehner. Then we find Max Pacioretty (#33), Mark Stone (#43), Alex Pietrangelo (#54), Shea Theodore (#63), William Karlsson (#138), Alec Martinez (#152), and Jonathan Marchessault (#164). Alex Tuch is also listed in “Key Injuries” which means he would likely have been in the Top 250 as well.

Lehner certainly earns the Golden Knights a lot of weight in the fantasy world and actually, Laurent Brossoit behind him helps out as well. The pair are ranked 4th in the NHL in fantasy goalie tandems behind the Islanders, Lightning, and Avalanche.

One slightly surprising omission is Peyton Krebs on the rookie list. Spencer Knight and Cole Caufield headline the list, but names like Marco Rossi, Jamie Drysdale, and Quinton Byfield made the cut. In fact, there are even a few “other” rookies listed and Krebs couldn’t even get his name included there.

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Hunting Career Highs: Defensemen And Goalie

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Though hockey is a team sport and the ultimate goal for every player involved is hoisting the Stanley Cup, individual numbers matter too. Each guy is always looking to build what they’ve done so far in their respective careers. With a pair of shortened seasons in the books, the last two years, and the Golden Knights primed to be one of the best teams in the NHL, many players have a chance to put up career-high numbers in numerous statistical categories.

We’re taking a look at each individual player and choosing the statistic they are most likely to set their career high in this season. Today we start with goalies and defensemen, later in the week we’ll move on to forwards.

Robin Lehner
Stat: Wins
Career High – 25

Lehner has his name engraved on the Jennings Trophy twice in the past three seasons. He has also received Vezina votes in two of those years. He did both of those as part of a goalie tandem though. Before that, he was the starter in Buffalo but for just two seasons, neither of which were his best. Now, Lehner has been handed the reins in Vegas and will likely be looking at 55-60 games in the net. His career-high mark in wins is just 25, the year he came in 2nd for the Vezina. Assuming health, he should get there with ease.

Other options: Shutouts (6), Quality Starts (32), Games Started (58)

Shea Theodore
Stat: Points
Career High – 46

Shea is the perfect guy to break through statistically this year because he doesn’t even need to improve his game to do it. In the 71 game season, in which he finished 6th in Norris, Theodore posted 46 points, an awesome number, but very reachable with 11 more games. He improved on it last year going off for 42 in 53 games. That’s 0.8 points per game. To set his career-high this year, he’ll need just 0.57 points per game.

Other options: TOI (1,588), Assists (34), Shots (219), Goals (13), Power Play Points (16)

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New York In Need Of Vegas’ Toughness

When former Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant was hired by the New York Rangers earlier this summer nobody in the hockey world was surprised. One of the league’s better coaches was officially a free agent and it was only a matter of time before someone scooped him up. It so happened to be the young, slick skating Rangers, that in ownership’s opinion hadn’t grown enough under their last regime. One area that needed addressing was NY’s lack of toughness. With that in mind, the Rangers added some of the street toughness the Golden Knights are known for.

When you’re a good team and you are ready to win that’s when you start filling in your roles. You get these guys you need to help push you over the top. When you have nine, ten, eleven kids that have to play. I get a kick out of people who said ‘we lacked toughness.’ I knew we weren’t that tough in New York. I knew we needed to get to it.-Jeff Gorton, former New York Rangers GM on Cam and Strick Podcast

After four seasons and one coaching change the Golden Knights have built a reputation for being tough as nails. And it’s not just about throwing bodies around. The word is out, it’s unlikely Vegas backs off from blocking a shot. The Golden Knights have been racking up points and early round playoff wins by wearing down their opponents with size, skill and taking bruises. None of that was happening in Manhattan.

https://twitter.com/camjanssen25/status/1430247771601264641?s=21

In one swift move the Original 6 team spent their offseason firing an established front office and a bright, young coach to be more like the 31st franchise.

You look at the lineup and you see a team ready to take the next big step. I want to be the hardest-working team in the league – to work hard, to battle hard, to make other teams say, ‘That team works hard every night.’-Gerard Gallant, NY Rangers Head Coach

At his introductory press conference in NY the former Golden Knights leader sounded as if it were 2017 again. His hard working style turned the highly motivated Misfits into a Stanley Cup contending team. Playing fast, along with quick decision making led the Golden Knights to the Finals, not necessarily the heavy, physical style we would see later in Vegas. It was the second season when the local club became bigger, heavier skilled players were added to the roster. The past two seasons Vegas was the biggest and beefiest team in hockey and it’s earned them three trips to the conference finals in four seasons.

Those guys are completely valuable. That’s why you see the Rangers go after Barclay Goodrow. That’s what they’re going after Reaves.-Jeff Gorton, Cam and Strick Podcast

One of the uglier incidents last season occurred in front of Ranger fans at historic Madison Square Garden. NY star Artemi Panarin was unfairly assaulted by Capitals power forward Tom Wilson during a meaningless late season contest. Ownership was furious with Wilson, on ice officials, NHL’s Department of Player Safety and their own personnel. The one-sided scuffle in essence changed the direction of the Rangers, leading to an organizational house cleaning.

NY ownership realized to compete, you have to be able to play like the big boys, or like the Golden Knights. Vegas has become a team other franchises are beginning to emulate. One thing we know Gallant and DeBoer both agree on is mixing it up and playing some old school hockey once in a while. Or old man hockey as Ken would say. Maybe it’s Vegas’ success, or maybe other coaches believe it’s also the style to play to make the promise land.

Here’s Why The Golden Knights Will Never Share The Coyotes Problems

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

By now most hockey fans have read the news developing down in Glendale, Arizona. The city is no longer interested in hosting the hometown Coyotes in their city funded arena. This isn’t much of surprise since the two parties have been battling for almost a decade. The situation down in Arizona is a stark difference to what’s happening here in Las Vegas.

Both the Coyotes and the NHL are one hundred percent committed to staying here, and even if our specific arena plans beyond the 2021-2022 season are not yet confirmed, I want to be very clear to you that our future is here in Arizona.- Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez

A True Expansion Team

When the Arizona Coyotes were originally formed the franchise was someone else’s leftovers. An already established club with players that made the move from dreary old Winnipeg to bright and sunny Phoenix. There was excitement in Arizona but not in the same way fans felt here in Vegas. Coyote fans were forced to cheer on a team that had finished 5th the prior year, all while the Cardinals and Suns were kicking off their seasons. It was difficult for the new addition to break through and gain the same momentum the Golden Knights did in 2017.

Also Vegas didn’t have to compete with an NFL or NBA team allowing Golden Knights fans to solely focus their attention fall on a newly formed unit called The Misfits. Both parties came together to form the greatest season in expansion history. Not sure the Cup run fairy tale would’ve happened if Las Vegas had inherited a defunct franchise’s roster.

Hidden Star Power

When the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft roster was announced it was the Vegas Golden Knights front and center. The 31st franchise didn’t have to share headlines with other incoming teams like the generation of expansion teams that came before them. Since the attention was fully on Sin City, fans only needed to focus on the player’s owner Bill Foley and GM George McPhee drafted. James Neal, David Perron and of course Marc-Andre Fleury were established names in the league but it was the unknown players that fans drew to as well. William Karlsson quickly became a star in Las Vegas after wasting away in Columbus. Same went for other Misfits. Alex Tuch, Jonathan Marchessault and even Deryk Engelland became marquees on Las Vegas Boulevard.

The roster changed slightly before the Coyotes kicked off their inaugural season featuring young captain Keith Tkachuk, future Hall of Famer Shane Doan and goaltender (the Bulin Wall) Nikolai Khabibulin. Unfortunately for Coyotes fans, stars like Teemu Selanne were sold off before the move.

Winning Of Course

The Coyotes have been operating for 24 seasons and have yet to make an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. The desert dogs once reached the Western Conference Final in 2012 but flamed out to eventual Cup winner LA Kings. In four seasons Vegas has matched and exceeded Arizona’s accomplishments. The Golden Knights have proven that hockey can “work in the desert” by winning hockey games. Plain and simple, the Coyotes haven’t done that consistently enough over their history.

In contrast, the Coyotes own the worst franchise win percentage (.479) in the NHL and the Golden Knights for now, have the best (.636) in league history. Of course the numbers favor the much youngest organization but Arizona has had plenty of seasons to climb out of the gutter.  A successful club breeds confidence and a dedicated fanbase. Vegas developed that in only four years.

Becoming A Destination

Victories lead to playoff appearances, trophies and the pick of the free agent litter. The Coyotes started off strong making the playoffs in five of their first six seasons but have qualified for postseason only four times since then. The Golden Knights accomplishments and winning attitude allowed the front office to convince Alex Pietrangelo, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Alec Martinez to long term agreements either through free agency or trade extensions. Arizona has been unable to sign that many quality players in over 20 years of existence. The Phoenix area might be a desirable location to play hockey but if the team isn’t successful, high end talent will look to play elsewhere, like in Las Vegas. That’s been the case for the Coyotes.

Say No To Public Funding

Lastly, and this is a big reason why Arizona and Vegas don’t share the same problems. The Coyotes organization have been desperately campaigning for public financing to build a state of the art arena. That can come across as greedy and too risky for certain taxpayers. We see it in our own backyard as some Vegas residents despise that the city funded Allegiant Stadium. Golden Knights fans won’t have to worry about any nasty public negotiations as T-Mobile Arena was built with private money.

The future in Arizona is up in the air, but it won’t matter. The Coyotes will never own a market like the Golden Knights do, even if they were as committed to winning. After four straight successful seasons and one amazing run to the Cup Finals, Vegas fans and players have quickly bonded. That connection from the inaugural season will never get lost, even down the road after a few losing seasons. If they stay put or move, the Coyotes proved hockey may not work in all desert cities, but it sure works in Las Vegas.

$5.25 Million For A 34-Year-Old Defenseman Is A Major Risk; Even One As Good As Alec Martinez

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

After the regular season and playoffs he had with the Golden Knights in 2020-21, it seems almost unfathomable for Vegas to let Alec Martinez walk away for nothing.

In the playoffs, he was arguably the most consistent player on the roster, led the postseason in blocks despite playing fewer games than two other teams, was VGK’s most dangerous weapon on the power play, and averaged more than 22 minutes a night. Oh, and he did this all while playing on a broken foot that happened a few games before the playoffs even started.

A day after his 34th birthday, Martinez inked a three-year deal worth $15.75 million. That means he is now contractually tied, for $5.25 million per year, to the Golden Knights through 2023-24, when he will play the entire season at the age of 37-years-old.

Currently in the NHL, there are nine defensemen making at least $5 million over the age of 33. They are Brent Burns, Shea Weber, Kris Letang, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Seabrook, Mark Giordano, Johnny Boychuk, Ducan Keith, and Anton Stralman. Weber is reportedly out for the entirety of next season and his career is in jeopardy, Seabrook and Boychuk, and didn’t play a single game last year, and Vlasic, Stralman, and Keith were each shells of themselves, two of the three being moved in cap relief trades this offseason. Heck, even Giordano, who was good last year, was left unprotected in the Expansion Draft and was ultimately selected by the Seattle Kraken.

Simply put, it takes an ultra-rare specimen to succeed in the NHL as a defenseman at the age of 34, let alone 35, or 36, which the Golden Knights just committed to with Martinez.

Last year, Martinez posted some gaudy numbers in his 12th season in the NHL. He averaged 22:34 of ice time per game, scored nine goals and added 23 assists, blocked 162 shots, and added an amazing 7.2 point shares to a team that nearly won the President’s Trophy. Plus, he did it in a shortened 56-game season.

That was all at the age of 33. So, we wondered, how many d-men have met any of those criteria at the age of 34, 35, or 36 in the past decade (since 2010-11)? We head to the Stathead! Hockey-Reference.com’s incredible tool that allows us to easily look up stuff like this.

We’ll start with time on ice. Of course, last year was a truncated season in which Martinez played in 53 of the 56 games amassing 1196 minutes of ice time. Doing that math, that comes out to about 1600 minutes in a regular 82 game season. So, how many defensemen have reached this after the age of 34?

1600+ minutes
At least 34 – 55 of 272 (20.2%)
At least 35 – 38 of 194 (19.6%)
At least 36 –  22 of 130 (16.9%)

1000+ minutes
At least 34 – 166 of 272 (61.0%)
At least 35 – 116 of 194 (59.8%)
At least 36 –  73 of 130 (56.2%)

Martinez was an offensive weapon for the Golden Knights, especially on the power play where he chipped in six of PP goals. His total was 32 points in 53 games which projects to an impressive 47 points in 78 games over an 82 game season.

47 points
At least 34 – 12 of 272 (4.4%)
At least 35 – 7 of 194 (3.6%)
At least 36 –  4 of 130 (3.1%)

30 points
At least 34 – 41 of 272 (15.1%)
At least 35 – 27 of 194 (13.9%)
At least 36 –  19 of 130 (14.6%)

20 points
At least 34 – 86 of 272 (31.7%)
At least 35 – 63 of 194 (32.5%)
At least 36 –  42 of 130 (32.3%)

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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*

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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

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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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