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5 GM Do-Agains We Wish The Golden Knights Could Make

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We started out with the do-overs, moves made by the Golden Knights we wished could be redone. Today, we’re flipping the script and looking at some of the best moves in team history. These are moves that unequivocally advanced the roster and have made the Golden Knights much better.

Note: This is all post-Expansion Draft, otherwise it would have just been an Expansion Draft recap article.

Here we go…

5) Trading Colin Miller for a 2nd and a 5th

Even though the Golden Knights have never truly replaced Miller, especially on the power play, the value they were able to get out of a player who was a healthy scratch in a VGK playoff game is immense. Miller has simply not been the same player in Buffalo, amassing just 23 points in two seasons where he had 41 and 29 in each of his two seasons in Vegas.

Miller’s contract looked decent at the time but it’s now headed towards a pretty significant overpay for his performance. It’s hard to say where he’d be in his career had this trade never happened, which is why it’s not higher on this list, but the return on investment Vegas got for the player who has been in Buffalo is excellent.

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Report: Golden Knights Trade Colin Miller To Buffalo For 2nd And 5th Round Picks

First went the winger, now comes the defenseman.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have continued to move pieces out to get back down below the salary cap by moving Miller to the Buffalo Sabres.

Vegas gets a 2nd round pick in 2021 (originally STL’s) and a 5th in 2022. The Golden Knights now have extra 2nd round picks in each of the 2020 and 2021 Drafts.

Miller was a healthy scratch for the first game of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Golden Knights lost to the Sharks in San Jose. He was re-inserted into the lineup following that game and played the remaining six games of the series. A few days after Game 1, head coach Gerard Gallant said this…

Well when Colin plays real solid hockey it doesn’t matter who he’s playing against. It’s not the opponents (that matter), it’s the way he gets ready mentally. We were a little disappointed he didn’t play Game 1, but since then he’s played real solid hockey. -Gallant

Miller scored just three goals in 2018-19, but did post 26 assists and was a constant on the Golden Knights power play.

The Golden Knights defense now has just five players under NHL contract. Those players are Nate Schmidt, Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore, Nick Holden, and Jon Merrill. Deryk Engelland is an unrestricted free agent who could return to the Golden Knights, but even if he does, trading Miller certainly appears to open a space on the roster for a rookie.

Zach Whitecloud, Nic Hague, Dylan Coghlan, Jake Bischoff, and Jimmy Schuldt (who is an RFA) will battle for that spot in training camp.

Could Montreal Show Interest in Colin Miller?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

TSN’s Darren Dreger reported this week the Montreal Canadiens are looking to bolster their blueline. The Golden Knights are expected to make some moves this offseason and 26-year-old defenseman Colin Miller could be one of the players involved. We’ve speculated Miller could be moved in an attempt to make space for Golden Knights defensive prospects (Nic Hague, Jimmy Schuldt, Zach Whitecloud) and continue to build up organizational depth.

The sense that I’m getting is that (Bergevin’s) in the market for a good young defenseman. I don’t know who that might be, but if that’s what he’s looking for than he’s going to have to give up a good player or players. -Darren Dreger, TSN Montreal

Other defensemen rumored to be available are Islanders’ Nick Leddy, Toronto’s Nikita Zaitsev, and Calgary’s TJ Brodie. All three cost $4.5-$5.5M against the salary cap, and two shoot left-handed. Miller is more affordable (3.875M) and carries a right-handed stick.

Are there players, or is there a player that maybe didn’t have as good of a season as the team or the player expected last year of has struggled the last couple of seasons? Maybe that individual needs a change of scenery. -Dreger

One thing Montreal will take into consideration is Miller’s disappointing 2018-19 season. Accuracy was a major problem for Miller shooting a career low (2.3%), only edging out Deryk Engelland (1.9%) for the worst percentage for Golden Knights players with a minimum of 100 shots. The Canadiens front office could see that as a good problem. Montreal defenseman Shea Weber has one of history’s most lethal shots, and this could add some vital assistance.

There’s a lot of talk. There’s a lot of chatter out there. I’m going to be curious see how much of it is connected to the RFA, the restricted free agent pool. I look at the Vegas Golden Knights… they don’t have William Karlsson signed yet and they’ve got a lot of money. They’re at the cap and they’ve got players that they’ve got to attend too. I think more than ever, there are so many contracts that potentially are trying to be moved. I had a high profile player agent tell me the other he thinks there are at least 35 contracts in the league that are in play. -Dreger

Another note to mention is Montreal GM Marc Bergevin tends to make a splash early. Over the past few years Bergevin has traded for Shea Weber, Jonathan Drouin, and Max Domi in mid to late June. Miller’s not quite a big fish but he could fill a large need for the Canadiens.

To what degree and what is the willingness from Montreal’s standpoint to put up a good player, or players, or prospects, or draft picks to acquire this piece. -Dreger

The Golden Knights front office are clearly comfortable working with Bergevin after both parties came away satisfied after the Max Pacioretty trade late last summer. Who knows maybe both teams will work on future deals together. Possibly starting this Saturday.

Why Didn’t Colin Miller Play Game 1?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When a series goes seven games, it’s the nature of the beast for the losing team to look back at every play, every call, and every decision to come up with answers as to what went wrong.

Of course, it’s been harped on time and time again that the call on Cody Eakin was blown and it cost the Golden Knights a chance to still be playing today. However, there’s no denying the fact that Vegas lost three other games in the series that could have nullified that gaffe.

In Games 5 and 6, Vegas played well and close games just didn’t fall their way, but Game 1 was a much different story. When the series got underway in San Jose, the Golden Knights seemed to take a moment to really get going. By the time they did, it was too late and they instantly dug themselves a hole in the series they would eventually climb out of, only to fall right back in.

Over the course of the first six games, head coach Gerard Gallant made one lineup change. That was putting Colin Miller, who was scratched in Game 1, back into the lineup for Nick Holden.

It was a peculiar decision to bench Miller in the first place, and one that would only get weirder as questions would later be answered about the lineup move.

Miller played all 102 games last season, 65 of the 82 in the regular season this year, and all of the previous seven heading into playoffs. Also, Miller took part in 13 of the 14 prior meetings between the Sharks and Golden Knights, scoring three goals, putting up five assists, and recording a +4 rating. Vegas won nine of the 13 games Miller played against San Jose and lost the one he didn’t.

This was the reasoning for scratching Miller after Game 1 from the Golden Knights head coach.

That was… Like I told you the other day, we play 20 hockey players and there’s some good players that are not playing tonight so we decided he’s not going to play tonight. -Gallant

Is he healthy? – SinBin.vegas

Yes, everybody’s healthy. -Gallant

However, it clearly wasn’t that simple.

Miller took warmups prior to Game 1 against the Sharks. No other player (with the exception of Jimmy Schuldt days after he joined the team) skated in warmups and then didn’t play for the Golden Knights in 2018-19. In 2017-18 it happened only a handful of times and in every instance, it was precautionary to cover for a player who might be injured and unable to play.

As Gallant confirmed, no one was injured. Miller skated alongside the scratches in morning skate the day of Game 1, so the decision was clearly not made in the spur of the moment before the game.

To make matters even more confusing, Miller was instantly placed back in the normal rotation on the off-day between Games 1 and 2. He played in every game the rest of the series, and Gallant made an interesting comment when asked about Miller prior to Game 4.

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The Stone Age Impacts Golden Knights Defense

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — When the Golden Knights acquired Mark Stone at the NHL trade deadline back on Feb. 25, it was assumed the offense would perk up as Stone had 28 goals in the bank from his time in Ottawa.

But who knew the defense would be the unit that has come alive?

Collectively, the Vegas blue line corps is playing some of its best hockey of the year. And while it may be a coincidence that it has come since Stone’s arrival, the changes Gerard Gallant made a few weeks ago, moving Deryk Engelland with Nate Schmidt, playing Shea Theodore with Brayden McNabb and giving Jon Merrill a regular spot in the lineup, seemed to have worked.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The defense accounted for both goals in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Calgary at T-Mobile Arena. More important, the Knights have allowed just nine goals in the six games Stone has worn the steel grey No. 61.

Obviously, Marc-Andre Fleury’s play in the crease has been a big part of that. But don’t discount the job his D-men are doing in front of him.

The Knights are winning more battles in their own end. They’re more active in using their sticks to take away the cross-ice pass. They are making smarter decisions in breaking out of their own end. They are pinching in the other team’s end more judiciously and not getting caught in as many odd-man rushes the other way. They continue to block shots at a high rate. They seem to be communicating better.

All of that was again on display Saturday here in Vancouver at Rogers Arena against a Canucks team which Vegas handled a week ago, 3-0, and 6-2 Saturday for their sixth straight win. The Knights scored a franchise-record five first-period goals and there was no looking ahead to tonight’s big game at the Scotiabank Saddledome and the rematch with the Flames.

And as many predicted, Stone finally scored as a Golden Knight as he opened the scoring 1:32 into Saturday’s contest.

Gallant said you never know what’s going to happen when you change your lineup. But these moves appear to have worked so far.

It was just shaking things up. When you’re losing, you’re not happy. So we made a few changes with the D and so far it’s worked. I like the way they’ve been playing. -Gallant

You ask the defensemen what’s turned things around, you get different answers.

I think change can be good sometimes. You get a little stagnant with the way you play. I just think that it’s about trending. If you continue to play well, you want to make sure you keep doing those things that help you win. Colin Miller and Jon Merrill have been playing fantastic for us. When you have that kind of depth on your team, that’s important. -Schmidt

Theodore said the defensemen are reacting better to the puck and making the right play more consistently.

I think we’re just quick to pucks and we’re not giving them as much time and space in the corners. Usually when you give teams with good skill players time down low they’re going to make plays. I think our centers have been coming in and killing those plays and that’s been big for us. -Theodore

Engelland said it has been a collective mindset that has seen the team’s defensive uptick.

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What Colin Miller’s Return Means To The Golden Knights – Both Short-Term And Long-Term

**Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

The return of Colin Miller to the Golden Knights’ lineup should lift the spirits of every VGK fan.

Even if you don’t think he can save the Knights’ listless power play, getting the 26-year-old defenseman back on the ice is huge, both in the short term and especially long-term.

Miller missed 13 games after being injured Dec. 17 at Columbus. He confirmed after Saturday’s 7-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins that he had a concussion and given the length of time he was out, that makes sense. As we learned with Marc-Andre Fleury last year, you don’t cut corners with concussions. You let the brain heal, you get your bearings back and only then, when you are ready, do you return to the ice.

It’s crazy, four weeks feel like a year off. It’s definitely a different injury. It’s one of those things you have to deal with. It’s my first one in the pros. It’s a frustrating process because it’s such a slow process sometimes. You just have to make sure your body’s right. -Colin Miller

It was a very good performance. He logged just under 19 minutes of ice time, had two assists, was a plus-3, took six shots though only one was a shot on goal, blocked a shot and had a couple of hits. Best of all, he had no issues after the game.

Yeah. It’s just that when you’re off for that long you’re going to have a little bit of hiccups getting back into that. You know then the game starts to come together. -Miller

Yes, Jon Merrill and Brad Hunt did a good job filling in for Miller for more than a month while he recovered. And for Merrill, it appears he’s going back to the press box as a healthy scratch for now. He’ll handle it professionally and he showed he is worth keeping around.

So why is it really important that Miller is back?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

He is one of the team’s best skaters and can move the puck out of his own end with his wheels. He also knows where his forwards want the puck and he is adept at getting it to them in the right spots.

He also brings some continuity back to the blue line. Gerard Gallant paired Miller with Nick Holden and that means he’s part of the third defensive pairing and it means he doesn’t deal with the opposition’s top forwards as often as Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb do. Though with the Penguins, he found himself dealing with Geno Malkin and Phil Kessel, two top forwards. So with Miller’s return, the third pairing has bolstered the overall lineup.

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Could VGKs Lack of Defensive Scoring Be A Future Problem?

Stop worrying about 3rd line scoring, start worrying about blue line scoring. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s no secret, the Golden Knights are getting very little offense from there defense. Overall, the low production from their blue line could be a concern going forward. Sure, power play specialist Colin Miller appears ready to return to the lineup but even with him it may not be enough.

I think sometimes we’re complicated things too much. My job and Millsey’s and Schmitty’s, the guys that are back there, we have to do a better job controlling it. Instead of setting up a play and try and seam it, we just have to get pucks through. -Shea Theodore

At first glance, 97 combined points from the Golden Knights defense doesn’t look that bad, but when you look around the league it’s a very low total.

Points from Vegas defenseman in 2018-19

Theodore 21 Points (5 Goals, 16 Assists)
Miller 17 Points (2 Goals, 15 Assists)
Schmidt 16 Points (4 Goals, 12 Assists)
Holden 13 Points (3 Goals, 10 Assists)
McNabb 12 Points (1 Goal, 11 Assists)
Hunt 7 Points (2 Goals, 5 Assists)
Engelland 6 Points (1 Goals, 5 Assists)
Merrill 5 Points (1 Goal, 4 Assists)
97 Total Points from VGK defenseman
19 Goals, 78 Assists

In just the Pacific Division alone, defensemen are putting up Norris trophy type numbers.

Top 5 Defensemen in Points

Brent Burns SJ: 52 Points(9 Goals, 43 Assists)
Mark Giordano CAL: 48 Points(9 Goals, 38 Assists)
Morgan Reilly TOR: 47 Points(13 Goals, 34 Assists)
Erik Karlsson SJ: 43 Points(3 Goals, 40 Assists)
John Carlson WAS: 43 Points(6 Goals, 37 Assists)

Up in San Jose, Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson’s combined offense is roughly the same as the entire Vegas defensive unit. Calgary’s captain Mark Giordano has been heavily involved all season, and on pace for a career-high offensively. When you go through the rest of the contenders in the Western Conference, Vegas has the lowest threat from the blue line.

San Jose: 143 Points (Goals, Assists)
Nashville: 125 (Goals, Assists)
Calgary: 116 Points (Goals, Assists)
Winnipeg: 104 Points (Goals, Assists)

San Jose and Nashville are loaded with blue line scoring, what’s new right? Predators have even been down one of their weapons PK Subban to injury. Like Vegas with Miller, Winnipeg’s blue line lumber, Dustin Byfuglien has also played limited games this season. So, you have to wonder if the Jets are searching for defensive help for the postseason.

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