The company line out of Vegas is that George McPhee is not interested in taking on players without term left on their contract.
We have cap space to do things, but the inclination is to not take on rentals. –McPhee to LVRJ
However, one has to ask if maybe McPhee is missing out on a trade market by not maximizing the draw of his home market.
The Golden Knights have only been around for two years, and just one offseason, but every unrestricted free agent in that offseason went on record saying they wanted to come back. Multiple free agents from other markets made it clear they wanted to play in Vegas, and Max Pacioretty couldn’t stop gushing about the city when the trade was completed to bring him here.
McPhee’s unwillingness to bring in a rental makes sense for the long term future of the team. Giving up an asset for a guy to be with the team for two or three months isn’t a wise move for a budding franchise. However, a rental could easily turn into a long-term (or even shorter term) deal for the Golden Knights just by getting the player in the door.
Rentals are cheap compared to players with term. Might it be wise for McPhee to pay the bargain price for a player like a Marcus Johansson, Kevin Hayes, or Micheal Ferland and then bank on the city of Vegas to seal the deal of locking them into an extension?
There’s no doubt it’s risky and bold, but isn’t that what this team was built on in the Expansion Draft, and even more so, isn’t that the entire point of Las Vegas?
Plus, buying the rental helps to avoid the Tomas Tatar situation. If the player Vegas acquires doesn’t work, you let him walk and aren’t on the hook for years of salary.
Again, I understand where McPhee’s coming from, but it’s certainly something to think about as the deadline approaches and the prices come down.
Say McPhee is indeed out on rentals. So, no Panarin, Stone, Johansson, Ferland, Simmonds, Nyquist or any other UFA. Let’s take a look at some of the other options that could be on the table.
Alexander Wennberg (Columbus Blue Jackets, C, 24 y/o, $4.9M thru 22-23)
One of William Karlsson’s best friends in the hockey world, the 24-year-old is a Gallant type player. He’s defensively sound with the ability to create scoring chances for teammates. At the Expansion Draft, the Blue Jackets went above and beyond to protect Wennberg, but having a down season and needing to free up some money to try and re-sign Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel (and maybe Panarin and Bobrovsky) they could use some cap freedom. Wennberg has been held out of each of the last two games so the price may be at its lowest ever. Vegas turned around one Blue Jacket center, maybe they can do it again.
Andre Burakovsky (Washington Capitals, LW/RW, 23 y/o, $3M, RFA w/ arb this offseason)
Any time a Capital comes available you have to think McPhee is interested. Burakovsky was a 1st round pick by McPhee in the 2013 Draft and simply hasn’t found a home in the Washington lineup. He’s having the worst season of his career, but there’s no questioning the talent and skill level he possesses. He helps fill Vegas’ age gap and the cost shouldn’t be too prohibitive. Washington is without its 2020 2nd round pick, Vegas has a trio of them. Might they be able to start there?
Vladislav Namestnikov (New York Rangers, C, 26 y/o, $4M thru 19-20)
The Rangers are clearly in a fire sale, everything must go. They acquired Namestnikov at the deadline last year in the Ryan McDonough deal but he hasn’t fit in well in New York. With the Rangers rebuild still probably a few years away, Namestnikov could be an unrestricted free agent before they are ready to win. The Golden Knights have another Russian player they are trying to lure over from the KHL, Nikita Gusev, and having a third Russian might help the transition. The Rangers want picks and prospects, and it shouldn’t take a 1st to get this done.
Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers, LW, 25 y/o, $5.9M thru 22-23)
A former top-liner for Gerard Gallant, McPhee may be willing to take on the added salary if he’s able to get Huberdeau for a bargain price. Florida only has its own picks in 2020, so Vegas’ extra 2nds could come in handy to pull this one off. If Florida is interested in Colin Miller, this one could really have legs.