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GM For A Day: Jason’s 2022-23 Vegas Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Our week of hypothetical managing rolls on. Today, it’s my (Jason) turn to play GM for a Day, and we’re going a little calmer than Ken’s plan.

I have no choice, I’m going for it now. There was an order given six seasons ago and I agreed to it. So, it’s time to deliver.

Vegas’ current roster has enough talent up and down the lineup but it hasn’t fully succeeded. However, under the right conditions, the Golden Knights can defeat almost every team on any given night. Sure, changes will be made but for the most part, I’m going to use what I already have.

TRADE – Alec Martinez traded to the Detroit Red Wings for a 2022 4th round pick.

On Tuesday I predicted the Golden Knights front office would aggressively try and unload Alec Martinez’s contract. It’s rare, but I’m in agreement with VGK’s FO. Detroit is a team that’s maturing, has cap room, and could use some veteran leadership. As the Golden Knights have done in the past with Brad Hunt, sending Martinez to Detroit would be looking out for the player as well. It’ll hurt to some capacity to lose the almost 35-year-old but Vegas opens cap space and replenishes a 4th round pick. It’s not ideal but I’d rather shed defense in order to keep my offense intact. My only fear is the Red Wings management asking for a sweetener.

Look, I’m not a miracle worker but my task is to win the Stanley Cup this year, not in 2028. With that in mind, immediately after trading Martinez I’m picking up the phone and reassuring Max Pacioretty he’s not going anywhere. It’s time for a heart-to-heart. Like Brad Pitt said to the actor playing David Justice in the movie Moneyball, “I want to milk the last ounce of baseball you got in you.” The same goes for Pacioretty. He’s on an expiring contract seeking another lucrative deal, and I need goals. I’m looking for 70+ games and 30+ goals from Pacioretty next season. In the end it could work out well for both parties.

It’ll be no secret, the pressure is on Pacioretty, Mark Stone, and yep, Jack Eichel. When a player signs a contract worth $10M annually he’s also agreeing to accept the pressure that comes along. I anticipate Eichel to play like a ten-million-dollar center this season and I expect him to get the most out of his teammates. He may not wear a C but this will be Eichel’s team. It’s just a matter of when. He wasn’t an original Misfit but The Creator’s demand of winning a Cup in six seasons applies to the top center as well. To keep the trio of Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Jack Eichel together, someone else will need to go.

TRADE – Laurent Brossoit and a 2022 7th round pick to Dallas Stars for 2023 5th round pick

Brossoit’s contract was another example of overspending on an unnecessary need. Vegas had Robin Lehner’s backup already yet overpaid for an underwhelming, established goalie. The Golden Knights didn’t get enough from Brossoit last season to continue to carry his salary. Since 2020, the Golden Knights have severely overpaid their goaltenders and last offseason the club was forced to sell off a Vezina winner for nothing. I’m going to follow suit by shipping out Brossoit, and like Vegas’ front office I’m not concerned with the return.

I’ve successfully managed to get underneath the cap without tearing apart the team. Now, it’s time to examine what I have left on the books.

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GM For A Day: Ken’s 2022-23 Vegas Golden Knights

Alright, so we’ve already shared with you what we think the Golden Knights will do this summer (Ken’s Picks, Jason’s Picks). Now, it’s time that we step into the hot seat and try our hand at playing the role of general manager. I (Ken) am going first, and I’m coming in hot!

You make me the GM, you are getting changes a plenty. In simple terms, I look at the current roster and cap situation and I think it will take a set of fortunate circumstances beyond what I believe to be realistic to win the Stanley Cup. Now, I’m not saying the roster is bad, at all, in fact, I believe it is in the Top 10 in the NHL, maybe even pushing Top 5. But, you hired me to win 16 playoff games, not 8, 9, or 10, and that’s what we plan on doing.

We’re here to take risks. We’re here to turn this thing into a true champion, and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to happen right away. My first order of business is to straighten up the most valuable asset in today’s NHL, the salary cap. Quite frankly, I look at the VGK cap and I see myself in a “you’re probably wondering how I got here” meme. Hell is far too polite a word for where the Golden Knights are salary cap-wise, so we need to straighten it out, and in a big way.

That means trades and lots of them. Buckle up, here we go.

TRADE – Jack Eichel to New Jersey Devils for 2022 1st Round Pick (#2 overall), 2022 4th Round Pick, 2023 2nd Round Pick, and Miles Wood

Yep, we’re doing it. I love Jack Eichel and I think he’s a generational talent that is bound to score 100 points in a season soon. But, I can’t have him and his no-move clause on a roster that already has $9.5 million Mark Stone and $8.8 million Alex Pietrangelo each with no-move clauses of their own. So, I have to do the only thing I can, and that’s move Eichel before that NMC kicks in on July 13th.

Yes, I’m aware this package is not nearly as good as the one this franchise gave up to get him in the first place. If I could take that deal back right now, I would, but I highly doubt the Sabres are up for that so we have to look elsewhere. The key to this trade is obviously the #2 overall pick, which we would select either Juraj Slafkovsky or Shane Wright. (I’d prefer the former, so let’s say we get him.)

We also net an extra 2nd and 4th and a usable player that I’ve been high on for a long time in Miles Wood, which we would instantly sign for $3 million AAV on a short-term deal.

The original trade for Eichel would have been a great move for most franchises based on the price, but for this one it was a mistake. It’s not because of anything to do with Eichel, it’s simply due to the cap situation. It has to be corrected and now is the only time to do it.

TRADE – Max Pacioretty and 2023 2nd Round Pick to Carolina Hurricanes for Teuvo Teravainen and Ethan Bear

Let’s keep the blockbusters going. Pacioretty’s injury history concerns me. Plus, I’m not 100% sure I’m going to have a true Cup contender this year so I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m forced to make a tricky decision on him at the deadline (especially if he’s hurt). We acquire a player who has the ability to score but is also a much more defensive-minded forward. Also, we get Ethan Bear who the Hurricanes are looking to move on from. Bear has arbitration rights but he didn’t have a great year last year so it shouldn’t be too costly to get him under contract on a shorter-term deal (let’s call it $2.8m AAV)

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Predicting The Golden Knights Offseason (Jason’s Picks)

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Over the next two months, the Golden Knights will tweak their roster in hopes of creating a legitimate contender. Every maneuver the club decides to make will need to keep the salary cap in consideration. Yesterday Ken shared his predictions, now here’s mine.

TRADE – Alec Martinez and a 5th round pick traded to the Detroit for a 4th round pick

There’s just no way around it, the Golden Knights need to shed salary. Trading Martinez to Detroit makes sense for both teams and the player. The Wings have space and could use an elder statesman to direct their young d-core, and mentor Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider. Let’s not forget to mention Martinez was born and bred in Rochester Hills, MI. It’ll hurt the Golden Knights but in a cap world space is much more important than an expensive veteran with miles. This also allows some flexibility for a possible multi-year deal with Nic Hague.

TRADE – Laurent Brossoit and a 4th round pick to Dallas for 5th round pick

Brossoit is another easy candidate for some cap relief. Logan Thompson made his case to become Robin Lehner’s backup and proved he can handle the pressure of being a number one. This allows the Golden Knights front office to undo their unnecessary spending of $2.5M last summer. It might seem like an odd destination considering new Stars coach Pete DeBoer had some sharp comments after one of Brossoit’s performances in Vegas. However, there’s space and a fit for a veteran backup to support up-and-comer Jake Oettinger.

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Cassidy Vows To Help Eichel Learn How To Play Winning Hockey

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s no secret for the Golden Knights that if they want to have success, and ultimately raise the Stanley Cup, they are going to need to get the best out of Jack Eichel.

After being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres, Eichel was able to play in 34 games with the Golden Knights. He started out hot scoring five goals in his first 13 games including two game-winning goals. But he cooled off mightily down the stretch as he went scoreless in five of the team’s final six meaningful games and was held to just one point in that span.

Vegas lost all but one of those games and watch their playoff hopes slip right through their fingertips. Understandably, as a player whose career has been marred by regular season team failure, Eichel took the brunt of the blame. Over that span, he posted a -5 rating, missed all three of his shootout attempts, and was on the ice for seven goals against.

Fair or not, it didn’t look good for a player who has been criticized consistently over his career for being more focused on his offensive game than team success.

New head coach Bruce Cassidy is not shying away from the stigma that surrounds Eichel and he’s ready to step in and help.

You’ve got a high-end offensive player that hasn’t won and now he’s got to put the crest first. And I’m not saying he didn’t do that in Buffalo because I don’t know what happened there, but at the end of the day that will be the conversation. –Cassidy on TSN 1200

Cassidy elaborated in another interview.

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Stone Expresses Optimism After Cassidy Hire With NHL Radio

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It was a difficult season for the Golden Knights and specifically captain Mark Stone. The 30-year-old forward skated in the least amount of games since his second year in the league. Injuries plagued not only his season but the entire Golden Knights roster as well. According to Stone, the locker room felt foreign due to the shuffling of player. Not only were the players dealing with injuries, they were frustrated nightly by their underperforming power play. As Stone put it, the Golden Knights tasted their first slice of humble pie.

We had some pretty fluky injuries that were really hard to recover from during the season. We’re a veteran group so it’ll be nice to get the bodies healed and ready to go for the start of the season. Kind of prove that we’re good as we think we are. Got a little taste of humble pie this season and wasn’t fun to be a part of.-Mark Stone on Sirius NHL radio

The ten year veteran watched the team flounder without his services and the likes of other vital Golden Knights players. Not only was it troublesome on the ice the club was having difficulties in the locker room as well. Stone never mentioned the roster was fractured but it was noticeably different from years past.

Everybody in that dressing room has to take a good hard look in the mirror and get back to the way things were done in the past and get back to our roots a little bit. It was a difficult year as far as adding 10-15 new players. It seemed like we had to reintroduce ourselves every night. We got to get back to being that hard working team out working our opponents. That’s when we allow our skill to take over.-Mark Stone on Sirius NHL radio

As VGK fans heard all season, extended injuries severely impacted their results. Stone openly discussed his back surgery and also mentioned the Golden Knights may be without their number one stopper for an unspecified amount of time.

Considering I got back surgery a month ago I don’t think there’s much to debate. I’m battling a pretty bad back and ended up getting a discectomy and should be ready to go first day of training camp. In the bubble Robin was one of the best goalies on the planet. As it goes for most guys this year in our team he battled tons of health issues. He got shoulder surgery and probably going to be out for quite awhile. He’s just looking to get healthy and prove everyone wrong again.-Mark Stone on Sirius NHL radio

At this point the injury plagued season is in the past and Stone is preparing mentally and physically for a bounce back season. With the addition of new coach Bruce Cassidy the captain expects more ferocity from his teammates.

I think he’s going to bring a lot of intensity to the room. I think he’s going to get the best of our players. I love the way Boston plays. They are so hard to play against. I’m excited. I love our talent and now I’m excited to see we’re we can go with him and see if he can push all the right buttons to get us over that hump. And have even more success.-Mark Stone on Sirius NHL radio

Another reason for optimism is Stone will finally be able to build chemistry with star center Jack Eichel. The Golden Knights front office traded for the high end center to match up with their highly paid, two-way winger. Barring no injuries the two will anchor VGK’s most lethal line. It’ll be up to Cassidy to figure out who will skate with Eichel and Stone.

Yeah I can’t wait. I only got to play eight games with him. I almost felt so bad for him. When he came back pretty much all of us left the lineup and weren’t able to help him. There are so many wrong takes on Jack Eichel the player and the person. More than anyone he works on his game as much as anyone I’ve ever played with him. I’m excited to get him feeling comfortable and ready to go for opening day come October.-Mark Stone on Sirius NHL radio

Unprovoked, Stone addressed the swirling comments that have surrounded Eichel since his days in Buffalo. For the most part Golden Knights fans don’t care what happened in Buffalo. It’s not their problem, he plays in Vegas now but clearly Vegas’ captain felt the need to praise his teammate’s work ethic.

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While Filling One Age Gap, The Golden Knights Have Created Another

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Due to the nature of the Expansion Draft, one of the ongoing challenges the Golden Knights have had to work through is dealing with what’s been coined “the age gap.”

We didn’t have the ability to draft (players with birth years) 1998, 97, 96, 95, or 94. We had no players available to us in those age groups. -Kelly McCrimmon

They were able to acquire a few via trade, but in Vegas’ first season they had just four regulars who were born between 1994-1998, which at the time would have made them 21-23 years old. A year later that number remained at four but there were two different players involved.

At the time, it wasn’t that big of a deal because the majority of the group was hitting their prime, somewhere between the ages of 24-30, but it was always clear what was coming on the horizon if the gap was not addressed.

So, over the course of the previous four seasons, the Golden Knights have worked hard to bulk up that group. The kingpin is 1996-born Jack Eichel (which cost a fellow 96 in Alex Tuch). Vegas also have Shea Theodore, William Carrier, Nic Roy, Zach Whitecloud, Keegan Kolesar, Michael Amadio, Dylan Coghlan, and Logan Thompson in that group. (They’ve also cycled through Dylan Sikura, Jake Bischoff, Valentin Zykov, Gage Quinney, Jimmy Schuldt, Stefan Matteau, Brendan Leipsic, and Oscar Dansk who all played NHL games.)

Trades, free agents, waivers, and diamonds in the rough have helped the Golden Knights find a group that will play next season between the ages of 24-28.

Now, you look at our team today and the players that we have in those age groups are very important. Those players are really important in (developing our identity of rolling four lines), they are really important in a salary cap world. They are good players. They help our team win. That to me is critical in your team having that depth and developing that identity that you want to see. -Kelly McCrimmon

There’s one problem. In the quest to fill one age gap, the Golden Knights have created another one, and one that is of even more significance “in the salary cap world” as McCrimmon puts it. The 94-98 group are no longer on their entry-level deals, meaning they are all being paid something close (or more) than their market value. Meanwhile, the younger group is still bound by the ELC system which caps out at less than $1 million.

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Golden Knights With The Most To Gain/Lose With The Coaching Change

Somehow almost every player I picked ended up in this picture. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Often times when teams swap coaches they see a shift in usage among players on the roster. Some guys see dramatic upticks in their ice time while others watch their’s decrease or even diminish entirely.

Of course, we still don’t know who the next coach will be, but we do know who benefitted most from Pete DeBoer’s system and who didn’t. So, here are the four players with the most to gain and the four with the most to lose as the Golden Knights switch coaches.

Most To Gain

William Karlsson

It’s no secret Karlsson’s best days in the NHL were under Gerard Gallant. The forecheck-reliant, free-flowing, transition-heavy style fit Karlsson’s game perfectly. Not only was he at his best offensively, but he and his line of Misfits were always the best defensive line as well. Under DeBoer, it often felt like Karlsson was overthinking the game which led to hesitancy in the offensive zone in favor of making the “right” play to keep them safe defensively. This seemed to sap his confidence which has proven to be a huge factor in Karlsson’s success. The new coach will likely improve his power play numbers as well. In his first two seasons in Vegas, Karlsson notched 15 PP goals in 164 games. The last three years, he had five in 186.

Jack Eichel

It’s not like Eichel struggled under DeBoer, he clearly didn’t, but there’s a pretty good chance a new coach will tailor his system more to Eichel’s skillset than we saw from DeBoer. Center was a demanding position defensively under DeBoer, and that simply isn’t Eichel’s strong suit. He’s likely to be matched with at least one stellar defensive winger, which under a less defensive-minded system could free up Eichel in the offensive zone. Also, there’s a good chance the new coach is less reliant on working the puck from low to high which very well may unleash more of Eichel’s creativity.

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Golden Knights 2021-22 Locker Cleanout Press Conference Audio

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

The Golden Knights conducted their season-end media availability today at City National Arena. This is the complete unedited audio of every press conference.

0:00 – 31:47 – Pete DeBoer

31:47 – 1:07:24 – Kelly McCrimmon

1:07:24 – 1:23:10 – Alec Martinez

1:23:10 – 1:39:20 – Max Pacioretty

1:39:20 – 1:48:27 – Shea Theodore

1:48:27 – 2:01:44 – Jack Eichel

2:01:44 – 2:13:20 – Zach Whitecloud

2:13:20 – 2:26:48 – Mark Stone

2:26:48 – 2:38:01 – Jonathan Marchessault

2:38:01 – 2:47:46 – William Karlsson

2:47:46 – 2:57:56 – Brayden McNabb

Chronicling VGK’s Failing Power Play Overhaul

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Heading into the offseason, 10 months ago, the Golden Knights had one area they really wanted to clean up.

The obvious one is the power play, that’s at the top of the list to fix. For me the power play isn’t a this year problem. I didn’t feel it was dangerous enough in the Bubble, I thought it was mediocre. At the most important time in the Bubble as we went through to the Dallas series it got cold at the wrong time. We shuffled some things, put a new set of eyes on it this year and it stumbled again. That’s going to be the priority moving forward. -Pete DeBoer in June 2021

The front office felt the same way and they got to work instantly as the new league year opened.

Evgenii Dadonov was a player we identified as a priority. We had him ahead of all players that were available in Expansion. That effectively addressed the need of adding one good foward. -Kelly McCrimmon in July 2021

To start the season, DeBoer urged fans and media to be patient with the power play, calling it a work in progress and even going as far as to dissuade questions until we see it for a full season.

Vegas started the season 0 for 19 on the power play and the concerns grew larger and larger.

Again, the front office did not sit and wait for it to fix itself, instead, they went out and made yet another blockbuster trade, acquiring superstar Jack Eichel. Of course, though, he was injured, so once again, patience was required.

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With Or Without You Standings: Which Players Absence Hurts VGK Most?

The great modern-day philosopher Bono once wrote, and then subsequently sang like 100,000 times, “I can’t live, with or without you.”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Unfortunately, for the Golden Knights, they haven’t had that option. 62 games into the season, not a single player has played in every game on the schedule, and just six have missed fewer than six games. They’ve been doing a lot of “living without you.”

Whose absence has hurt the most though?

For that, we go to the WOWY (with or without you) standings to find out the answer is clearly Keegan Kolesar. But seriously, it’s been Reilly Smith, Brayden McNabb, and Mark Stone.

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