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Continuous Trade Rumors Bound To Impact Performance

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Being at odds in the workplace can leave a person confused, hopeless, and stressed. That can go for million-dollar athletes as well. After the latest TSN report, it doesn’t take an insider to tell you Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault are feeling a little underappreciated right now. (And Fleury, but that started a while ago.)

https://twitter.com/tsnhockey/status/1336650364012154880?s=12

Playing hockey is their job, a job they love, and most of us would too. However, it’s still work and at times an employee can feel like they’re on the outside looking in. We can all connect with that. It’s hard to imagine Marchessault and Pacioretty being thrilled with their names constantly mentioned in trade rumors.

Since early October, the two forwards have seen teammates traded all while wondering if they’re next.

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Golden Knights Post-Expansion Draft Trade Grades

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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

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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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High-End Players Hit The Market Much More Than Suggested

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We’ve heard it a lot from the Golden Knights front office, and we hear it pretty much any time any team ends up with a new high-end player.

We had what we believe was an incredibly rare opportunity to add a defenseman, an elite player like Alex to our team. We really viewed it as a similar situation to the opportunity to acquire Mark Stone. Generally these are players that don’t hit the market and we were fortunate to make a trade for Mark Stone and sign a contract with Alex as a free agent. -Kelly McCrimmon

A rare opportunity. These guys don’t come around often. Have to take advantage of it.

It sounds great and there’s no debating that adding Mark Stone and Alex Pietrangelo to a team is an awesome thing to do. But, is it really that rare?

Just in the three years in which the Golden Knights have been a franchise, they’ve been tied to and eventually got Stone and Pietrangelo, and along the way, they were linked to Erik Karlsson, John Tavares, Taylor Hall, and Steven Stamkos.

Around the league, just in the past five seasons, four players who finished in the top five in Hart voting have changed teams. A Vezina winner, a Selke winner, and six more guys who have finished in the top five votings in either of those awards.

In all, just since the offseason of 2016, I count 17 high-end players that have switched teams, or about three to four per offseason. (That’s counting each guy just once despite some moving multiple times.)

I’m talking about names like Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Ryan O’Reilly, Erik Karlsson, and John Tavares.

If you want to dig a bit deeper, in the All Star Games between 2016 and 2018, at least 11 players are currently on different teams including an incredible 17 of the 44 players in the 2016 game.

Again, no one is criticizing the will to add high-end players like Alex Pietrangelo and Mark Stone. But if the main reason for doing it is because these opportunities don’t come around often, history suggests otherwise.

Golden Knights Building Dangerous Reputation Concerning Loyalty

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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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Backloaded Deals Might Be A Trend This Offseason

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If there’s one thing we’re starting to learn to count on it’s that there will never be a shortage of comments from NHL agent Allan Walsh. While he’s seemingly done discussing his client Marc-Andre Fleury’s future (for now), Walsh explained a way a team like Vegas could entice a high-end free agent by paying them more later than now. It would allow a front office to go out big game hunting, potentially attracting a veteran free agent like Alex Pietrangelo.

I’ve never seen this kind of activity. The only time that compares to what’s happening right now was in 2005 when we were opening free agency after losing a whole season to the lockout… In 2005, teams had the ability to use two compliance buyouts and take money out of the system and that doesn’t exist right now. There’s a lot of teams right now that are bumping up against the top of the upper limit and still have a number of their own players to sign. Let alone look at the free agent market and see who they can be in on to bring on board and into their city. -Allan Walsh, NHL agent

The Golden Knights are one of those teams up against the cap but unlike other clubs, it won’t stop them from adding players they desire. Vegas is desperately trying to move certain players to free up cap space but the organization can get creative when talking about real salaries as their owner is never afraid to spend to make his team better, something many other owners are not.

While the hunt can’t begin until officially until tomorrow, Vegas has probably been sniffing out their competition. Sources have told SinBin.vegas that the Golden Knights intend on making a real effort to sign Pietrangelo. With the uncertainty of the cap, their internal budget, and the players’ demands, Walsh explained how a club like Vegas can entice an attractive UFA to ditch their old club for Sin City.

There’s an escrow cap this coming season in 2020-21 of twenty percent. There’s a ten percent deferral that will be deferred until three, four and five years from the coming season. If you can defer money, and by that I mean put the money into the outer three years of let’s say a six-year deal, the escrow cap in those years is six percent. That means you will get your negotiated face value of the contract up to six percent that you could lose to escrow. That’s a huge difference. -Walsh

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What The Golden Knights Look For In A Draft Pick – 2020 Edition

The Golden Knights are set to participate in their fourth NHL Entry Draft. This year Vegas enters with just five picks including a 1st and two 3rds which make it their lightest draft ever. In 2017 Vegas selected 12 players then followed it up by picking eight in each of the previous two years.

Thus, the Golden Knights have made 28 draft picks to help us get a feel for exactly the type of players they prefer. The Vegas front office remains untouched but we might see a bit of variance this year with a new head coach behind the bench. First, we’ll dig into the style of player the Golden Knights prefer. (Here’s last year’s edition of this same article.)

6 – Skilled Forward (Suzuki, Elvenes, Dugan, Kruse, Dorofeyev, Donovan)
5 – All-Around Center (Glass, Morozov, Cotter, Krebs, Primeau)
5 – Two-Way Defenseman (Hague, Corcoran, Bouchard, Korczak, Ahac)
4 – Offensive Defenseman (Brannstrom, Campoli, Demin, Diliberatore)
4 – Goalie (Zhukov, Patera, Kooy, Saville)
3 – Defensive Forward (Leschyshyn, Rondbjerg, Jones)
1 – All-Around Winger (Kallionkieli)

Last year Vegas opted for two skilled forwards, two all-around centers, and a pair of two-way defensemen. They shied away from both offensive defensemen and defensive forwards for the first time. Vegas has selected a goalie in each draft.

Next we move on to the “word cloud” which helps illustrate the traits the Golden Knights looks for in draft picks. These are descriptions used from our two draft favorite Draft guides (NHL Black Book and Draft Recrutes). Only positive terms were used for this portion.

The most commonly used terms are skill (14), two-way (11), hockey sense (11), strong (10), skating (9), quickness (9), and long-stride (8). The Golden Knights also seem partial towards players who are good in transition (7), have good sticks (8), play in all situations (6), are physical (5), and have a high work rate (5).

When it comes to negative traits, the most common one we see is inconsistent which showed up on five different players. The term we rarely find, literally has been mentioned as a negative for just two VGK draft picks, is skating.

Next, we move to the league in which players come from. The OHL remains atop the leaderboard with the USHL and WHL right behind it. In the 2019 Draft, each of Vegas’ first two selections (Krebs and Korczak) were from the WHL.

6 – OHL
5 – USHL
4 – WHL
3 – Sweden
3 – US High School
2 – BCHL
2 – Russia
1 – NCAA
1 – QMJHL
1 – OJHL

Through three drafts, the Golden Knights have still never selected a Brandon Wheat King, the team Kelly McCrimmon previously owned, managed, and coached. The connection remained strong though as Marcus Kallionkieli joined the Wheaties after being selected by Vegas in the 2019 Draft.

As for size, the Golden Knights have continued to run the gamut hitting all shapes and sizes. Though they do seem to love kids that are exactly 6’2″ as 10 of their 28 draft picks hit that exact height.

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Familiar Alternatives To Free Agent Big Game Hunting

The Golden Knights offseason plans are underway and time for the front office to try and improve the club for next season.

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is the big fish in free agency and as we’ve seen before, the Golden Knights aren’t afraid to hand out a massive contract. At 30-years-old, management might be cautious before handing out an expensive seven-year contract. The right-handed Pietrangelo will come at a premium, so Vegas will have to be creative matching the asking price or find other alternatives.

Another notable UFA is Boston defenseman, Torey Krug. The expected price on Krug is around $7.5-$8M per season. He’s a year younger but unlike Pietrangelo, he’s a left-handed shot, and we’ve seen Vegas target right-handed defenseman in the past. Krug’s offensive production is worth the expense, but Vegas may lean to the much taller and right-handed Pietrangelo.

There are plenty of alternative defenseman in the market this offseason, some are less-skilled but cheaper and younger. If Vegas can find the defenseman that fixes their exact deficiency they won’t need to break the bank. However, that takes great awareness and pro scouting finding that right fit. That’s when the familiarity factor comes in handy.

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Bubbles Offered Unique Challenges And Benefits In Player Evaluation

Aside from the format of the 16 team tournament, not much about the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs was like any year in the past. As hard as the NHL tried, and they made the absolute best of the situation they could, the culmination of this season will always be viewed as an outlier.

That shouldn’t be used to take anything away from the team that ultimately wins, nor the players who put in the effort to make the playoffs the best they could be. But, simply put, this postseason was completely different in so many ways that moving forward, while it shouldn’t have an asterisk in the record books, it absolutely should in terms of player evaluation.

Likely there will be some players that struggled with the challenge of the bubble a little bit more than others and there might be a handful of players that having no distractions and only hockey to worry it about helped. -Kelly McCrimmon

The 2020 Playoffs offered different challenges both mentally and physically than any other in the league’s 100+ year history. It’s impossible to put a value on the sum of all of these aspects, but it’s clear it must be considered when projecting future performance.

58 or 59 days is a long time. It’s a hard situation to describe to somebody unless you are there doing it… I think in general terms it’s always a body of work you use when you make decisions on players and we have a pretty good takeaway of what players actually were by the time we were done our work there. -McCrimmon

This is much more likely to be used in giving a player a pass for a poor playoff season as opposed to praising a breakout year. Everyone who watched the Golden Knights in the playoffs this season knows there were a handful of guys who didn’t quite play to the level we’ve come to expect.

The challenge for the front office lies in weighing those underwhelming performances against the “body of work” they’ve seen historically from each player.

Decisions must be made every offseason and they’re never easy, but this one is set to be especially tricky due to the oddity of the 2020 Playoffs. In that way, the bubble may offer one of the greatest player evaluation challenges front offices have ever faced, however, there was one major benefit the bubbles did offer in that respect.

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Offseason’s “First Order Of Business” Is Between The Pipes

The weirdest season ever is over which means the weirdest offseason ever has now begun. According to the Golden Knights’ GM, the issue on the top of mind for every fan is the same as the front office.

We don’t have those answers for you right now but the first order of business in many respects is to sort (the goalie position) out. -Kelly McCrimmon

The future appears to be heading in the direction of Robin Lehner. From being handed the starting role to the Allan Walsh tweet to the reported long-term contract negotiations with Lehner, all signs point to a parting of ways with Fleury.

No one has more respect for Flower as a person or a teammate or his resume and what he’s done for this franchise and through his career but we made the decisions that gave us the best opportunity to win and we’re going to do that again going forward. -Pete DeBoer

Both Lehner and McCrimmon have denied the rumors of a handshake agreement on a 5-year $25 million ($5M AAV) contract.

It’s not true. Nothing is finalized. It’s kind of annoying that we are here in the conference final and people are saying things they don’t know. If it would have been finalized it would have been finalized. -Lehner on 9/11/20

The goalie situation will be the driving force behind all of what the Golden Knights do this offseason.

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If they decide to go with Lehner only, where does Fleury end up and what are the cap ramifications that go with it?

If they decide to keep both, where will they trim to make it work?

Can they go back to Fleury after all that’s happened? Does Fleury even want that?

They are all questions that will be answered quickly as the offseason truly ramps up in just a few weeks. The Draft is scheduled for October 6th and 7th and unrestricted free agency opens up two days later on the 9th. The Golden Knights will likely reveal their answers before the latter.

The NHL’s salary cap is set to remain at $81.5 million heading into next season and is likely to stay there for at least one more year after that. That makes life a little more difficult on the Golden Knights as they were pushing (actually went over) the Cap in 2019-20.

There are decisions to be made on plenty of free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, but the offseason starts and ends with what shakes out in goal. It will shape the present and future of the organization and until it’s figured out, not much else really matters.

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