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Shea Theodore’s Contract Looks Better And Better By The Day

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Three years ago defenseman Shea Theodore held out of training camp to force his hand which nudged the Golden Knights to offer him a 7 year/$36M contract. From that moment forward Theodore became an emerging star and was considered one of the more vital players on the roster.

“If you’re going to do a long-term deal, you have to get the right numbers. Really have to trust your instincts, trust the experience, trust the scouting reports from your pro staff, trust the analytics data, and make a good decision. We rely on all those resources to make a good decision and we think we made one here and time will tell.”- George McPhee, September 2018

Remember, McPhee didn’t have to offer Theodore anymore than the required qualifying offer (slightly above the league minimum) and the player’s only recourse would have been to sit out the entire season. However, both parties came to an agreement locking in the young defenseman until the 2024-25 season.

When the contract was signed Theodore became the 45th highest-paid defenseman in the NHL. Three years later, he’s a top-echelon player but dropped to the 53rd most expensive d-man in the league. Today the deal looks even better than it did three seasons ago and it looks like it’s only going to get better. The front office’s gut feeling secured a great player and a long-term, team-friendly deal. It was all about the early investment for the organization.

Since 2018-19, Theodore has kept up with the NHL’s best blueliners in games played, goals, points, and shots. He’s also become one of the league’s most effective 5-on-5 offensive defensemen.

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“You Don’t Perform In Vegas, You’re Gone”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have been to the playoffs every season they’ve been in existence. They’ve won the division two of the four seasons and tied for the crown in the most recent year. They’ve been to the conference finals every year but one.

But, none of it is good enough, and the front office’s actions have proven that time and time again.

From moving on from Gerard Gallant to shipping out lovable players like Nate Schmidt, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Ryan Reaves to always being interested, and often landing, the biggest fish on the free agent market, the Golden Knights will stop at nothing to win the Stanley Cup.

In many ways, it’s everything a fan can ask for. Of course, it can be tough from time to time seeing all of the change surrounding the team, but in the end, the ultimate goal is to win and the Golden Knights are absolutely trying to do it.

From a player perspective, it should be the perfect scenario as well. Every player’s dream is to lift the Cup and see their name engraved on it immortalizing themselves in hockey history. It comes with a toll though.

Speaking in a recent interview on the Cam and Strick Podcast, goalie Robin Lehner explained the general philosophy surrounding the Golden Knights organization.

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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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George McPhee’s Has Stood Pat At Deadlines Before; How’d It Turn Out?

It’s trade deadline day, and in a few long hours, we’ll know the roster the Golden Knights will bring into the playoffs on their run for a Stanley Cup in year four of the franchise.

Deadline day is great because it’s one of the few days where hope truly springs eternal for all teams. Winning teams look for their clubs to add the final piece to the puzzle, middling teams hope for the blockbuster that changes the season, and the bottomfeeders wave the white flag and focus on a brighter future.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In Vegas, the deadline has been a day for celebration all three seasons. From Tomas Tatar to Mark Stone to Robin Lehner and Alec Martinez, the Golden Knights have swung for the fences each and every year.

Unfortunately, to this point, none of these trades have been that one missing element to help the Golden Knights lift the Cup, but that certainly doesn’t mean they haven’t had an impact on the team.

This year feels different though. This year the Golden Knights sit in a clear playoff position and have a reasonable argument to stake their claim amongst the league’s elites. They’ve raced out to an impressive 27-11-2 record, hardly ever lose at home, and they have a roster that on paper stacks up with anyone in the league. But, they are also so close to the salary cap that they can’t even afford to replace an injured player without placing him on LTIR. They’ve played multiple games shorthanded and understand that any trade must include money and players going out.

However, history tells us George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon aren’t exactly big fans of sitting on their hands at the deadline. In three seasons with Vegas, they’ve made eight trades either on or within a week of the deadline. They’ve been involved in a headline move four times and have sent away just two players off their every-day starting lineup.

That’s such a short history though, so we wanted to dig a little deeper. Current GM, McCrimmon, has only held this role in Vegas, so we have to focus on the current President of Hockey Operations, McPhee.

He has been in the head seat for 19 previous deadlines. He has made at least one trade in 16 of them. He’s made multiple trades in 12, and 10 of the last 13. However, it’s the other side of the coin we’re more interested in today, the years he stood pat.

He did that with the Washington Capitals three times in 16 seasons at the helm. Those seasons were 2011-12, 2008-09, and 1999-00. We’ll start with the most recent, in which McPhee was quoted after the deadline saying this…

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Fleury To Former GM: “Get Me To Vegas”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This past offseason most Golden Knights fans thought the face of the franchise would be traded. Based on reports, it almost happened. However, that face, Marc-Andre Fleury, made it known publicly that he desired to stay in Las Vegas and hadn’t asked to be moved. Luckily for the Golden Knights front office, a deal never materialized.

The front office that gifted the Golden Knights with the future Hall of Famer knew long before, that Fleury wanted to resume his career in Las Vegas.

I knew he had lots, lots left in him. In Fleury’s case, when he knew that he was the odd man out he came and met with me and said ‘if there’s any way you can get me to Las Vegas, that’s where I’d like to go.’ So, I made sure I made that happen. I felt like I owed that to him. –Jim Rutherford, former Penguins GM w/ Cam & Strick podcast

Long before his name was called by The Creator in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, Fleury was focused on becoming the starting goaltender for the Golden Knights.

After being drafted by Vegas, the 33-year-old, at the time, went on to have one of the best seasons of his career. After losing his starting position in Pittsburgh, the “I’ll show them” motivation factor was high for Fleury. Sort of like what’s happening this season.

I’m emotionally connected to guys that I win a championship with. The Marc-Andre Fleury trade was the hardest one for me, because I love the guy. He’s a special, very special person. –Rutherford, former Penguins GM

Last night’s 1-0 defeat to Minnesota was only Fleury’s fourth of the season. In those four losses, the goaltender allowed eight goals combined. He’s second in the league with a 2.04 GAA in losses, and number one overall with a 1.57 GAA. Win or lose, the numbers show that Fleury keeps his team in the game more than any other goalie in the NHL.

Of course, they’ll be no way to prove it but the handwriting was on the wall for the goaltender and the new franchise. Pittsburgh knew they had to move on, Fleury was aware and the Golden Knights were opportunistic. It was the perfect second marriage, and both parties were excited to form a union of misfits.

I make a lot of trades, I’m not going to get them all right. When I don’t get one right I’m not afraid to say it. I move on. –Rutherford, former Penguins GM

It was set up to be a storybook ending for Fleury in Vegas, but questionable decisions seemed to derail that path, until now. He told Rutherford in 2017, and Golden Knights fans in 2020, the goaltender wanted to be in Vegas and didn’t want to leave Vegas. His performance this season is showing that.

Oh, and make no doubts about it, Fleury has a little motivation to prove them wrong. He didn’t need to but he does nightly.

McPhee On Goalies: “I Hope We’ll Get Back To Alternating Again”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

At some point, Robin Lehner will return to the Golden Knights and they’ll once again have two legitimate starting goaltending options every single night. Prior to losing Lehner, the Golden Knights had alternated goalies every game and raced out to a spectacular 8-1-1 record, eclipsing the start of the historic expansion team.

I’m sure at the start of the season we’ll look at a 50-50 split to get their games established. Then we’ll go from there and all bets are off. -Pete DeBoer on 1/9/21

Since February 11th, when Marc-Andre Fleury got the surprise start, he’s started all six games for the Golden Knights. During that time he’s posted an impressive .956 save percentage, allowing just eight goals on 181 shots, and recording two shutouts of the Colorado Avalanche.

So, when Lehner returns, what is the plan?

Appearing on the Bob McCown Podcast, Geroge McPhee stated his preference.

In talking about the Lake Tahoe game, McPhee mentioned that both teams were using their #1 goalies. The co-host, John Shannon, later recalled that comment asking if Fleury was indeed the team’s #1 goalie. McPhee nodded in agreement and then added this.

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The Creator Opens Up On His Involvement In Trades, Coaching Changes, And More On A St. Louis Based Podcast

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are fortunate when it comes to ownership. Unlike many NHL cities (see Arizona), the owner in Vegas wants to win and he’ll spare no expense in a pursuit to make it happen.

He said he wanted to make the playoffs by year three and win the Stanley Cup by year six and he’s committed to making that second part happen, seemingly by any means necessary.

He’s constantly around. Watching over practices, sitting in his suite at the games, or hanging out in his office on his fancy computer scouting players on other teams.

The first couple of years I really just listened because I didn’t know the business. Now I’ve learned a little bit more so I’m a little more involved. –The Creator on Cam & Strick Podcast

Appearing on a podcast out of St. Louis, hosted by former NHLer Cam Janssen and local media guy Andy Strickland, The Creator went fairly in-depth not only on his involvement in the Golden Knights but also in his other businesses.

My office is next to Kelly, it’s one down from George. I go to almost all of the amateur scout meetings and all of the pro scout meetings. I’m there for the four or five days before the trade deadline. –The Creator on Cam & Strick Podcast

He continued explaining how his input really ramps up when it comes to trades.

They come to me with their proposals on who to trade, what to do, what we’re going to get, what we’re not going to get. But I try and let the guys in charge, they’ve been delegated the authority and the responsibility to make the decisions. It’s only on maybe trades that I start having some input and I try to be careful about it. If I particularly don’t like one of their ideas I say, ‘I don’t think I can do that, I just don’t know that works for me.’ That’s how I get involved on the hockey side. –The Creator on Cam & Strick Podcast

The Nate Schmidt trade was one he took particularly hard.

I was really worried about (how it would affect the locker room). That was a very difficult decision. Kelly and George convinced me that Petro was going to be a difference-maker for us on our team. Schmidty ended up being the odd-man-out, which really bothered me. –The Creator on Cam & Strick Podcast

Another place he said he’s involved is with the decision on coaching. When asked about the firing of Gerard Gallant, he let out a few interesting nuggets.

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Golden Knights Post-Expansion Draft Trade Grades

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have never failed to keep things interesting when it comes to the trade market. From the offseason to the deadline, Vegas is always looking to get in on the action. Since the Expansion Draft (where they made 15 trades), George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon have made 17 NHL level trades.

I went back and put three grades on every single one of them. The first grade is the short-term grade which is intended to judge just the season in which that deal was made. Mid-term grade looks two to three years into the future, and long-term grade is four years and beyond. Here are the grades.

October 6th, 2017
Calvin Pickard for Tobias Lindberg and 6th round pick (Peter Diliberatore)

Short-term grade: F
Mid-term grade: D
Long-term grade: B
Salary Cap Driven: NO

Literally a week after the deal went down, Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion and the Golden Knights had to turn to a goalie they had just declared “not ready to play in the NHL” in Malcolm Subban. Then he and Oscar Dansk got hurt and suddenly the net was Max Lagace’s with 19-year-old Dylan Ferguson as the backup. This is on a team that would eventually win the division and reach the Cup Final. The goalie injuries could have derailed the season and Vegas had traded a useable NHLer for peanuts just weeks earlier. Luckily it didn’t, and the pick they got out of it might actually turn into a useable player in Diliberatore, but boy was this a bad trade in the moment.

February 23rd, 2018
Tobias Lindberg and $2 million retained salary (Derick Brassard) for Ryan Reaves and 4th round pick (Slava Demin)

Short-term grade: B
Mid-term grade: C
Long-term grade: D
Salary Cap Driven: NO

It’s well-documented my feelings for the player the Golden Knights acquired in this trade, which is why the grades are so low. If the deal is never made, do they ever sign him to the ludicrous $2.75 million deal? He did score a game-winning goal in the Western Conference Final and then another goal in the Cup Final which makes that short-term grade look good.

February 26th, 2018
Brendan Leipsic for Philip Holm

Short-term grade: F
Mid-term grade: C
Long-term grade: C
Salary Cap Driven: NO

Our sources say this trade was a precursor to an Erik Karlsson deadline trade that fell through. Once it didn’t happen though, Vegas had given away a useable player for an unusable one on a team headed to the playoffs. The only saving grace on this trade is that Leipsic ended up having some off-ice stuff that occurred on Washington’s watch instead of Vegas’.

February 26th, 2018
1st round pick (Joseph Veleno), 2nd round pick (Robert Mastrosimone), 2021 3rd round pick for Tomas Tatar

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2020-21 Pressure Index: Defensemen, Goalies, Coach, Front Office

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Yesterday we tackled the Pressure Index for the forwards, now we move on to the rest of the roster and the front office.

Alex Pietrangelo

The Golden Knights franchise is not new to working in new players, and more recently, new stars. Some have thrived immediately, others have taken some time. With Pietrangelo, he’s going to have to have it figured out pretty quickly or this team is going to struggle along with him. Dealing with the new environment, first time with a new team, and the pressure to perform having signed the mega-deal all add up to the new guy feeling some heat, but he’ll have plenty of built-in excuses plus $61 million to relieve a lot of it. Pressure Index: 5

Brayden McNabb

The likely partner for Vegas’ newest superstar has been one of the steadiest players in Golden Knights history. It’s hard to believe anyone would be a bad match for Pietrangelo but any failures Alex has early will be blamed at least in part on his partner. Throw in the fact that as a pair they’ll be playing against the opposition’s best players every night and likely starting a majority of their shifts in the D-zone and it’s a tall task for anyone. Simply put, McNabb has to have a great season or his place as VGK’s most reliable defensemen will be lost quickly. Pressure Index: 6

Shea Theodore

No one has higher expectations for the 2020-21 season than Shea. After a masterful postseason most believe Theodore’s name should be in the mix for the Norris trophy this year. The statistical expectations most have for Theodore are probably unrealistic though. He was able to post 19 points in 20 games in the playoffs which leads many to believe he should be pushing 80 points in the regular season. His career-high is just 46 in 71 games. Maybe he can reach the insane numbers he’ll be projected for, but more than likely he’ll be looking at about a 50 point season with 10-15 goals. He needs to drive offense consistently for this team to succeed. There’s no reason to believe he won’t, but the weight of expectations will be heavy. Pressure Index: 8

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Golden Knights Building Dangerous Reputation Concerning Loyalty

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are on the verge of landing the biggest fish in NHL free agency, Alex Pietrangelo. The former Stanley Cup-winning captain of the St. Louis Blues is expected to make his decision at any moment and it would come as a shock to the entire hockey world if he ends up anywhere but Las Vegas.

Like they did with Robin Lehner, Mark Stone, and Tomas Tatar at the last three deadlines, or Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny in prior offseasons, the Golden Knights will have made a splash in the name of bringing Vegas one step closer to winning the Cup.

However, as Isaac Newton taught us, with every action comes an equal and opposite reaction.

I worry about the Vegas reputation now. They are trying to win, which is admirable, but if they are getting a reputation for being a place that talks you into coming, what do you think the free agents today that are watching these guys get shipped out are saying to themselves? ‘That can be me in two years if I go there.’ There’s a fine line between trying to win and having some organizational loyalty. –Brian Burke, former Stanley Cup winning NHL GM

That reputation might end up getting even stronger after the fallout from the Pietrangelo deal too.

As Burke said, it’s all done in the name of winning, which is great, but when dealing with highly-paid professional athletes with families, that loyalty piece has to be kept in mind.

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