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Call Me Crazy, But…

Everyone loves a good hot take, so I’m here to provide a few of them using a format I’m borrowing from NFL Network’s Fantasy Live show. First, I’ll give my four predictions, and then I’ll share some of the best ones we got from our Discord server. Then, I want to see some from you all in the comments.

Call me crazy, but Keegan Kolesar will score more goals than Phil Kessel this season

Despite converting at a dismal 7.4% shooting rate, Kolesar still found a way to notch seven goals in his 77 appearances with the Golden Knights last year. He was constantly around the net and showed on multiple occasions he has the talent to score difficult goals. At some point, the floodgates are going to open for him and he’ll start scoring at a much more “normal” rate for NHLers. That would mean somewhere closer to 10%. I’d honestly be a bit surprised if Kolesar doesn’t hit double-digits this year and 15 or so is not out of the question.

Which brings us to the other side of the coin, Kessel. It’s mostly about the situation I expect him to find himself in as the season progresses. I just can’t see a 35-year-old suddenly committing to defense, which will lead to a decrease in minutes for a team trying to win games. He’ll probably end up struggling to get to 10 minutes and night and it wouldn’t shock me at all if he draws out of the lineup from time to time after he breaks the ironman record. His passing will still be there, so I’d suspect he can reach 30 to 40 points, which Kolesar may not, but the goal scoring is not going to jump as much as many believe.

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Kolesar Contract Works For Everyone Involved

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With a few days to spare before the scheduled arbitration hearing, Keegan Kolesar agreed to a three-year contract extension worth $1.4 million per year. It’s a length and a price that fits perfectly for everyone involved, including the cap-strapped Golden Knights.

To understand why, it starts with setting aside any preconceived notions one may have of Kolesar’s game, the chief among them being his inability to score. There’s no denying the fact that Kolesar could have doubled his goal output last season had he been more clinical around the goal. But the fact remains, even still, he scored seven goals and posted 17 assists in 77 games, and did it while shooting well under the league average at 7.4%.

If he can improve his shooting even a bit, just to around 10%, we’re counting his goals using both hands and a few toes. But even if he can’t, five to seven goals for a player in Kolesar’s role is perfectly acceptable.

That’s because there’s more to Kolesar’s game than putting the puck in the back of the net. He led the team in hits last season, dishing out 246, nearly 100 more than every other Golden Knight. He’s one of the better forecheckers on the team while also being defensively responsible. He logged the 6th most penalty kill minutes among forwards, and with Mattias Janmark leaving that number could go up. And he even filled in on the power play, scoring a goal in just 35:42 of man-advantage time.

Plus, despite my personal feelings for the role of enforcer, Kolesar fought nine times last season, accounting for literally half of the team’s total number. If you have to have a guy like that on the roster, which it seems the Golden Knights remain committed to, he might as well be able to score a few goals, chip in 20+ assists, and play in all situations.

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2022 VGK Free Agency Tracker

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

A roundup of all the signings, rumors, and rumbling surrounding the Vegas Golden Knights as free agency opens in advance of the 2022-23 season.

*This article will be updated throughout the day as more information rolls in.*

  • The Golden Knights have traded Max Pacioretty and Dylan Coghlan to the Carolina Hurricanes for future considerations. (Source: @DarrenDreger & @PierreVLeBrun)
  • A handshake agreement is reportedly in place with Reilly Smith on an extension worth $5m AAV for three years. (Source: @frank_seravalli)
    • The deal is expected to be completed today. (Source: @FriedgeHNIC)
    • The deal is complete. (Source: Golden Knights)
  • The Golden Knights have extended qualifying offers to Nic Hague, Keegan Kolesar, Jake Leschyshyn, Brayden Pachal, Jonas Rondbjerg, and Nic Roy (Source: Golden Knights)
    • Roy and Kolesar are each arbitration-eligible. Both will likely file. Each can still sign extensions before their scheduled arbitration dates in August.
    • Jonas Rondbjerg has re-signed a three-year deal with an AAV of $766,666. (Source: Golden Knights)
  • Brett Howden was not extended a qualifying offer by the Golden Knights, however, reports indicate a deal is being worked on to keep him in Vegas. (Source: @DarrenDreger)
    • Howden has extended with the Golden Knights for one-year at $1.5 million. (Source: @PuckPedia)
  • VGK did not extend qualifying offers to Ben Jones, Dylan Ferguson, or Jack Dugan. All become unrestricted free agents today.
  • Daniil Miromanov signed a two-year extension to remain with the Golden Knights with an AAV of $762,500. (Source: Golden Knights)
  • The Golden Knights have signed Sakari Manninen, a 30-year-old Finnish winger who has been playing in the KHL. He scored the game-winning goal at the World Champions and won a gold medal at the Olympics. (Source: @FriedgeHNIC)
  • VGK confirmed the signings on Manninen and Spencer Foo, each for $750,000. (Source: Golden Knights)
  • Sheldon Rempal has signed a two-year, two-way deal with the Golden Knights. (Source: @DarrenDreger)
    • The NHL AAV is $762,500. (Source: Golden Knights)
  • VGK have signed goalie Michael Hutchinson to a one-year, two-way contract. (Source: @PuckPedia)
  • Byron Froese has signed a two-year contract with an AAV of $762,500. (Source: Golden Knights)

Simplified Salary Cap Tracker

  • VGK are approximately $6,452,500 UNDER the salary cap with a 17-man roster (10 F, 7 D, 2 G)
    • Eichel, Stone, Karlsson, Marchessault, Smith, Stephenson, Carrier, Amadio, Patrick, Howden – $43,012,500
    • Pietrangelo, Martinez, Theodore, McNabb, Whitecloud, Hutton – $25,700,00
    • Lehner, Brossoit – $7,325,000

**This is an inexact salary estimation designed to give a rough outline of how much cap space the Golden Knights have to operate with. For exact up-to-date salary cap information, visit PuckPedia.com.**

Assessing The Situations Of The Non-Nic VGK RFA’s

We’ve been over the sticky situation in store for Nic Hague, we’ve explored the potential cost of Nic Roy, now it’s time to dig into those not named Nic who enter this summer as restricted free agents under Golden Knights control.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Keegan Kolesar (Arbitration eligible)

As one of the most consistent performers over the course of the entire season for the Golden Knights, Kolesar heads into the offseason in a much better negotiating position than what may have been expected. His 24 points with the added value he brings as a physical presence on the ice do actually set him up nicely to cash in a little bit more than the league minimum which he has collected in his first three seasons in the NHL.

The most obvious comparable for Kolesar is commonly a linemate of his, William Carrier. In a similar situation two summers ago (Carrier was coming off a season in which he scored 19 points in 71 games), he was able to cash in $5.6 million over four seasons, or $1.4M AAV. His history in the NHL was incredibly similar to Kolesar’s both in production and style. It shouldn’t shock anyone if Kolesar’s next is structured exactly like Carrier’s.

Around the league, a few other similar-style players have also been paid a bit more than the bottom dollar price. Zach Aston-Reese made $1.725 million on a one-year deal as an RFA in Pittsburgh, Garnet Hathaway got a four-year deal from Washington at $1.5 million per year as a UFA after scoring 19 points in 76 games in Calgary, and Jujhar Khaira was given $1.2 million per by the Oilers after posting similar numbers to each of the players listed above.

Reasonably, Kolesar should be aiming for as close to $2 million as possible and be comfortable settling in the $1.3-$1.7 range.

Brett Howden (Arbitration eligible)

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108 Forward Line Combinations In 2021-22 For Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the Golden Knights’ 82 games this season, they used a total of 108 different forward line combinations. 23 forwards, Dylan Coghlan, and Daniil Miromanov comprised the 25-man group contributing to them.

In 52 different instances, a forward line was used just a single time. This included wacky combinations like Pacioretty-Kolesar-Stone, Baertschi-Leschyshyn-Janmark, Krebs-Patrick-Dadonov, and Rondbjerg-Brooks-Kolesar. It doesn’t include the seven times the Golden Knights used just 11 forwards and were left with only three full lines to start the game.

On the flip side, there were just four line combos that were rolled more than 10 times. They were Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith, who saw 40 appearances together, Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone who got 22 games as a line, Janmark-Roy-Dadonov and Janmark-Roy-Kolesar who were used 12 and 11 times respectively.

In other words, very rarely would players see the same linemates over an extended period of time. And most of the time, it was unique to see the same three guys on a line in back-to-back games.

Here’s a rundown of how many different lines every VGK forward (including the two defensemen) played on this season.

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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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Do Hits Matter For The Season 5 Golden Knights?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Hitting used to be a staple of the Golden Knights’ game. Over the course of the past three seasons, Vegas laid 5,392 hits in 209 games or 25.8 hits per game. They ranked in the top 5 in 2018-19 and 19-20 laying 27.4 per game in Year 2 and 26.5 in Year 3.

This season though, Vegas is near the bottom in the league, ranking 27th, with just 19.0 hits per game. They’ve laid fewer than 20 hits in exactly half of their 48 games, and have broken 30 just three times, a number they reached 31 times a few seasons ago.

The question remains though, does it matter?

In those three games in which the Golden Knights pounded their opponents into the boards, Vegas lost all of them in regulation, getting outscored 13-5 along the way. Meanwhile, in their three games in which they recorded fewer than 10 hits, they’ve gone 3-0-0 beating the Devils, Predators, and Stars all on the road by a combined score of 15-7.

So, using just the simple stat of when they hit the most vs when they hit the least, it directly corresponds to winning in an opposite manner. Fewer hits mean more wins while more hits mean fewer wins.

We need to dig a lot deeper than that though as a number of those games were decided fairly early.

VGK are 11-4-0 when they have recorded 15 or fewer hits, including a 4-1-0 record at home, where hits have been handed out a bit more leniently than on the road. On the flip side, the Golden Knights are 9-4-2 when they lay at least 22 hits on their opponent. Four of the six losses came at T-Mobile Arena, meaning they are a stellar 5-1-1 on the road when amassing at least 22 hits.

I asked Pete DeBoer about his team’s dropoff in hits and he unsurprisingly went directly to the absence of one player.

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With Training Camp Underway GM McCrimmon Happy For Some Normalcy

(Photo by Brandon Andreasen)

Golden Knights training camp begins today representing the return of the players and finally the fans. The start of a normally scheduled camp has the Golden Knights brass ecstatic as well. The Golden Knights’ GM addressed the media yesterday to give his expectations on training camp and making another chase for the Stanley Cup.

Really excited about 82 games. Really excited about playing 31 other teams. Last year was a challenge for a lot of people and for a lot of different reasons. We’re really optimistic that this will feel a lot more like a normal NHL season. We’re pleased with our offseason, pleased with the makeup of our team as we head into the season. -Kelly McCrimmon, Vegas GM

While the GM was satisfied with his offseason changes he’s also eager to learn more about what’s in the cupboard. Entering their fifth NHL season, Vegas’ front office would like to add contributions from some of their more experienced prospects.

I always get excited about the evolution of young players. I’m excited to see Keegan Kolesar, Dylan Coghlan, Nic Hague, Nic Roy, that group of young players. I’m excited to see their progression because that’s a big part of how your team improves. Zach Whitecloud, still a young player. I’m excited to see those players. -McCrimmon

The list of players the Golden Knights GM rattled off are under contract for one more season before entering restricted free agency. Of course, it’s an established roster but the Golden Knights at some point will need impact from the younger generation. McCrimmon also mentioned centers Nolan Patrick and Brett Howden but there are different expectations considering both are new to the organization.

Coach Pete DeBoer will have the luxury of roughly three weeks and seven preseason games to examine his younger players. DeBoer will need some to quickly become everyday NHL players. There may not be many openings in Vegas’ opening day roster but there could be bottom-six minutes up for grabs.

This year has seven preseason games, last year did not. I think there’s real value in that. Not only for your veteran players but it’s a great opportunity for young guys… I believe our forwards as a group are better than they’ve been at any point in our existence. I think we made our team better at the forward position. -McCrimmon

McCrimmon stated, and few would disagree, Vegas has a roster that only a handful of teams can match. The general manager never mentioned direct expectations but the goal has to be the same under The Creator’s ownership.

With the franchise’s best-ever forward unit, star-studded defense, and superb goaltending, it has to be a Cup or Bust type mentality behind closed doors. Expect another fun ride.

Roster Battles Incredibly Limited At 2021 VGK Training Camp

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When you take a hard look at the Golden Knights roster you’ll quickly realize there aren’t many question marks when it comes to lineup construction. The top-six is all but guaranteed to remain intact, the entire blue line is locked in, and there’s no longer a goalie competition for either the starting role or the backup.

There are at least 15 players out of the allowed 20 that will dress on October 12th we can essentially write in with a Sharpie marker. There would actually be a 16th if Alex Tuch were healthy, but his injury leaves at least one more spot open for discussion.

Of course, the lines and pairs could shift, but here are the names that I’d be willing to go out on a limb and guarantee (if healthy) are in the lineup in 27 days at T-Mobile Arena.

Pacioretty-Stephenson-Stone
Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith
Janmark-(Open)-Dadonov
(Open)-(Open)-(Open)

Martinez-Pietrangelo
McNabb-Theodore
(Open)-Whitecloud

Lehner
Brossoit

Thus, there are reasonably five slots that could be interchangeable.

At forward, there are five players currently under one-way NHL contracts. William Carrier, Brett Howden, Keegan Kolesar, Nic Roy, and Patrick Brown. Then, there’s Nolan Patrick who is an RFA but will likely have a contract prior to Opening Night. Throw in the waiver-exempt Peyton Krebs, Jack Dugan, and Lucas Elvenes and we’re looking at a group of nine players with a chance of suiting up against the Seattle Kraken.

Roy is probably the closest player in this group to having a guaranteed spot in the lineup, especially considering his strong postseason and massive goal in Game 4 against the Canadiens.  The other three spots truly represent the only roster competition in VGK Training Camp.

Kolesar would seem to have the next strongest case considering he was protected against waivers for the entire 2020-21 season. His game certainly progressed over the year and there’s really no reason to believe they’d be willing to risk him on waivers this year when they were in an even tighter spot a year ago.

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2021 VGK Free Agency Tracker

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

*This article will be updated throughout the day as more information rolls in.*

  • Alec Martinez has re-signed with the Golden Knights for a three-year contract worth $5.25 million AAV. (Source: @ frank_seravalli)
  • Laurent Brossoit has signed with the Golden Knights on a two-year contract worth $2.325 million AAV. (Source: @DarrenDreger)
  • Nick Holden and a 3rd Round Pick have been traded to the Ottawa Senators for Evgenii Dadonov. (Source: SinBin.vegas + @KevinWeekes)
  • Mattias Janmark will stay with the Golden Knights. (Source: @FriedgeHNIC)
  • Vegas is reportedly interested in signing Montreal’s Phillip Danault (Source: @GeorgesLaraque)
    • Danault has signed with the Kings. Six years for $5.5 million AAV. (Source: @PierreVLeBrun)
  • VGK have signed Sven Baertschi to a one-year, two-way deal worth $750K (Source: @GoldenKnights)
  • Patrick Brown has re-signed in Vegas. (Source: @GoldenKnights)
  • Gage Quinney has re-signed with the Golden Knights on a one-year, two-way deal. (Source: @GoldenKnights)
  • The Golden Knights have extended qualifying offers to both of their RFAs, Dylan Coghlan and Nolan Patrick (Source: @DavidSchoenLVRJ)
  • Tomas Nosek has signed with the Boston Bruins for two-years at $1.75 million AAV. (Source: @DarrenDreger)
  • Jimmy Schuldt’s agent confirms he will not be re-signing with the Golden Knights. (Source: @VeritasHockey)
    • Schuldt signed with the Buffalo Sabres for one-year at $750K (Source: @SabresPR)
  • Erik Haula has signed with the Boston Bruins for two-years at $2.375 million AAV. (Source: @PierreVLeBrun)
  • Carl Dahlstrom signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Source: @MapleLeafs)
  • Ryan Murphy signed with the Detroit Red Wings. (Source: @DetroitRedWings)

For up-to-date salary cap information, check out PuckPedia.com.

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