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Salary Projections For Golden Knights Heading Towards Free Agency

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Money is tight in VGK land this summer. After taking a big run at repeating as Cup champions, the Golden Knights have already allocated about 90% of their salary cap to players for next season.

The midseason acquisitions of Noah Hanifin and Tomas Hertl will likely serve as Vegas’ big splashes heading into next season. Figuring out which of the expiring contracts to spend the rest of the money on will tell the rest of the story.

Vegas have six significant pending unrestricted free agents and one key RFA with arbitration rights. They have about $7.4 million of cap space (read our salary cap primer) to work with to keep as many, or as few, of them as they choose. So the question becomes, how much will it cost to keep each guy?

Lucky for us, much of the guessing game has already been done by the brilliant consulting firm, AFP Analytics. Using past contracts as a guide, they’ve come up with a projected contract for every player in the NHL currently without a contract.

Here’s what they project for each VGK free agent. Each is followed by a little blurb by me about the player’s situation as it relates to the Golden Knights.

**Take a look at the full spreadsheet of projected contracts here. And be sure to follow @AFPAnayltics on X/Twitter.**

Jonathan Marchessault
AFP Analytics Projected Contract: 3 years at $6.285m AAV
Comps: Joe Pavelski (3 years, $7m), Alex Killorn (4 years, $6.25m), Jordan Eberle (2 years, $4.75m)

The kingpin of the offseason was always likely to take up a majority of the Golden Knights’ available space. The hope for VGK is that he and the team will be able to come up with a friendly deal that will fulfill his wish to remain in Las Vegas for the rest of his career. Before the career-high 42-goal season, Killorn was an excellent comparison. Now, Marchessault stands as a unicorn as a recent Conn Smythe winner set to hit the open market. There’s a reasonable argument for Marchessault to reach as high as $9 million, while it’s also fair to look at the Eberle contract and project him for less than $5 million. Term, age, and his incredible standing with the organization make this one nearly impossible to project, but it’s pretty clear to see, if he’s going to stay in Vegas, just about everyone else set to hit the market will have to go.

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Rebuilding Forward Depth Imperative In VGK Offseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As the NHL playoffs roll on, scoring depth has continued to prove paramount for the teams still alive. Golden Knights nemesis Barclay Goodrow has been crucial in helping the Rangers take the lead in the Eastern Conference Final while Connor Brown, Sam Steel, and former VGK Evgenii Dadonov have come up with key points in the Dallas/Edmonton series.

When the Golden Knights walked off the ice after Game 7 in Dallas they did so with arguably the deepest group of forwards in franchise history. There’s quite a bit of uncertainty with that depth though as the league calendar turns to 2024-25.

Atop the list are Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Marchessault and two-time Stanley Cup champion, Chandler Stephenson but William Carrier, Michael Amadio, and Anthony Mantha are all set to become unrestricted free agents in 35 days, Pavel Dorofeyev still needs a new RFA contract, and Henderson standouts Byron Froese and Sheldon Rempal are also on expiring contracts.

This past season the Golden Knights used 21 different forwards in the regular season. They used 14 in the playoffs and 76-game starter Paul Cotter was not one of them. The current roster has just 13 forwards under contract who have played in an NHL game.

Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Tomas Hertl, William Karlsson, Ivan Barbashev, Nic Roy, Brett Howden, and Keegan Kolesar are all under contract and make up eight of the 12 forward spots Vegas need to fill. It’s those other four where it gets a bit dicey.

With the cap space available, we can assume at least one of Marchessault or Stephenson will return. Whichever one, or both, will eat up a majority of Vegas’ flexibility though. This will leave them with nine, maybe 10, forward slots filled.

Here’s a mock lineup with Marchessault re-signing and every other UFA leaving for another team.

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Sportsnet Weighs In On Future Of Chandler Stephenson And Jonathan Marchessault

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We’ve been very open with our feelings about getting a deal done with unrestricted free agent Jonathan Marchessault. Sure, we know the organization would prefer to keep the 2023 Conn Smythe winner but as Vegas fans have heard over and over again, ‘hockey is a business.’ Understanding that, it’ll be a challenge getting deals done for Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson and the rest of VGK’s unrestricted free agent.

[Vegas] will be hard-pressed to re-up Marchessault, centre Chandler Stephenson and rental Anthony Mantha now that [they’ve] locked up Noah Hanifin. No one would blame the late-blooming Marchessault ($29 million in career earnings) for pulling an Alex Killorn and taking the best offer available. –Luke Fox on Sportsnet.ca

In the eyes of Vegas fans, they would like to see #81 cash in but in Las Vegas and as a Golden Knight. Sure, the fans desire isn’t necessarily VGK’s front office priorities, but they are aware of the negative attention they’ll receive if they let Marchessault walk. It will infuriate a fanbase that’s been giving almost everything they could want in seven seasons. However, a year-old Stanley Cup trophy won’t satisfy the void of the franchise’s most beloved and decorated player.

The Conn Smythe–winning Marchessault is an original Misfit integral to the defending champions’ off-ice culture and on-ice success. No doubt, in a cap-free world, the sides would be content to extend their relationship beyond this season. Yet one only need to look as far as Reilly Smith, GM Kelly McCrimmon’s 2023 cap casualty, to see the line between sentiment and business. –Fox on Sportsnet.ca

To a lesser extent, Stephenson is another Golden Knight that fans would like to see return next season. However, with only a certain amount of capital, both UFA’s are tied to one another.

The demand for both centres and proven post-season performers remains sky high in the NHL. The Detroit Red Wings splashed $25.5 million at centre J.T. Compher in 2023’s free agency, and his previous best was 52 points. Bottom line: There will be a robust market for the two-way Stephenson if he remains unsigned by July. –Fox on Sportsnet.ca

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VGK’s Deadline Overhaul Impacted By Lack Of Chemistry

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been years since Golden Knights fans have felt the empty feelings of a first round exit. Excluding the dreadful missed playoff season of 2022, Vegas has only one other first round defeat. It stunk back then and stinks again this spring.

Now that the team has been eliminated, cleaned out their lockers, and begun making summer plans, it’s time to begin diagnosing the 2023-24 season. There’s an abundance of discussions but we’ll take our time addressing them. After all, we have an unexpectedly longer summer than in years past.

How much better did the Golden Knights get after the trade deadline?

Post trade deadline the Golden Knights received extremely high grades for their late season wheeling and dealing. Completing packages for Noah Hanifin, Tomas Hertl, and Anthony Mantha, the Golden Knights put the league on notice. All signs pointed to a deep run in the playoffs with Vegas’ new flashy lineup.

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Above, Below, or Meeting Expectations: Far Too Many Golden Knights Fall Into The Wrong Category

Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas

The Golden Knights are defending Stanley Cup champions.

For the last 11 months here at SinBin.vegas we’ve used that sentence to start just about every article, literally every podcast, and everywhere else possible. Tonight might be the last time we get to use it.

That is unless the Golden Knights get improved performances from a bunch of players in Game 6 and 7.

Being the reigning champions, and bringing back a roster that is similar, if not improved on paper, means Vegas doesn’t need anyone to exceed expectations. Instead, they simply need everyone to play to their ability and they should once again be the best team in the NHL.

Through 5 games in this first round series against the Stars, that is not happening. More than half of the roster is falling short of their expectations, while just a few are exceeding them.

To illustrate this, I’ve broken the team down into those three categories, exceeding expectations, meeting expectations, or below expectations. For the Golden Knights to retain their title as defending Stanley Cup champions for even one more day, a bunch of players are going to have to take a step up from the category they’ve resided in currently in this series to at least one step higher.

**These are listed in order. For “exceeding,” first is the player most exceeding their expectation. For “meeting,” first is the player closest to exceeding, last is the player closest to below. For “below,” first is the player closest to meeting, last is the player below by the most.

Exceeding Expectations
Brayden McNabb, Logan Thompson, William Carrier

There’s a legitimate argument that Brayden McNabb has been VGK’s best player in this series. If you told me that was going to be the case coming in, I’d be certain the Golden Knights are behind in the series, and that’s exactly where they are. He’s been offensively involved and even better than his already high level defensively.

Thompson and Carrier are in a similar spot as both have been very good but their best moments have come in losing efforts so they get lost a bit. Thompson was out of control good in Game 3, but the team was so bad it didn’t end up making a difference. Carrier scored a wraparound goal on a wonderful individual effort, but the game-tying 1st period goal was the last Vegas scored.

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Golden Knights Appear To Be Turning A Corner At 6-on-5

(Photo from @GoldenKnights on Twitter)

For the first 57 games of the 2023-24 season, the Golden Knights struggled mightily playing with the extra skater. When they pulled their goalie, they had a hard time entering the zone, couldn’t get shots to the net, and watched the puck sail into their empty net time and time again.

Despite losing 25 games in the first four months of the year, Vegas had not rescued a single standings point with late-game heroics and it had grown to a point beyond concern.

Now though, twice in the previous eight games, VGK have netted a massive goal with their goalie pulled stealing a point in Ottawa and locking up a pair in Seattle.

Last night the Golden Knights were struggling with a familiar problem for the first 90 seconds of empty net time. They couldn’t navigate the clogged neutral zone so they were forced to dump the puck in. Their puck battle win rate was slightly better than it has been in this situation all year, which allowed them a bit more O-Zone time than they’ve been used to. Then, the magic happened.

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How The Deadline Will Clue Us In On Mark Stone’s Health And UFA Plans

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As we wait anxiously to see what the Golden Knights will do at the deadline exactly a week from today, there will be so much more to the story than simply who Vegas brings in and what they are forced to give up.

The reason why the Trade Deadline is so exciting is because there’s a clock. Any time NHL GMs are put under the gun, they are forced to show their cards concerning where they see the team heading not only this year but in the future as well.

The defending champions have a lot of balls in the air that the front office is being forced to juggle. From inconsistent results to multiple injuries to crucial players to expiring contracts on a few of the team’s leading scorers, the Golden Knights have a lot to think about before the clock strikes midnight (technically it’s noon) on March 8th.

The first, and probably most important, piece of information we will be able to gather from the Golden Knights’ actions before the trade deadline is the status of Mark Stone. The latest reporting on Stone indicates he suffered a lacerated spleen that could take anywhere from six weeks to six months to heal. TSN’s Darren Dreger on yesterday’s edition of Insider Trading indicated Vegas expects Stone to be out through the regular season, but called him questionable for the playoffs.

Obviously, the Golden Knights have more information on Stone’s health than even the most plugged-in insiders, but given their history, they are highly unlikely to share it. But, what happens at the deadline will give us a sneak peek into their expectations.

If Vegas buys one or more players on expiring contracts (and doesn’t sign them to immediate extensions), it will give a strong indication that they expect Stone back before their postseason run is over. On the flip side, if the targets are those with term, it points towards an uncertainty of Stone’s return.

Why?

It’s impossible to replace Stone’s production and value to the team. Buying players on expiring contracts means they are only available for one playoff run. If that playoff run is expected to be Mark Stone-less, their value to the organization is minimized. However, if Stone is expected to play, that one playoff run will be expected to deliver Vegas its second Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, if the Golden Knights buy players with term, it guarantees additional playoff runs, and in turn, more chances to win the Cup with Vegas’ captain healthy.

The next tip we’ll get from the Golden Knights is their plans for the future of their five key pending UFAs, Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson, Michael Amadio, William Carrier, and Alec Martinez.

Of course, deadlines spur action, so there’s a realistic possibility a contract is signed by one or more of these players. But, even if it isn’t, there will be clues.

It will be shown by how much future salary the Golden Knights take on for next season and beyond. As it currently stands, Vegas has about $21 million in expected cap space to fill the rest of their roster next season. There is a scenario that exists in which it’s enough to re-sign everyone, but the more salary they add at this deadline, the clearer it will become that one or more of those five are not in the plans.

The Golden Knights are going to be active between now and next Friday, that much we know. What else we’ll learn along the way? We’ll have to wait another 170 hours or so to find out.

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