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Sell Low, Buy High; How The Golden Knights Have Navigated The Salary Cap While Trying To Improve

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Marc-Andre Fleury for Mikael Hakkarainen. The reigning Vezina winner for a player that isn’t even going to play for VGK’s AHL team. The face of the franchise for literally nothing.

That’s how the deal will be reported, and it’s completely accurate. However, many will frame it in a different way, one that is also accurate.

The Golden Knights acquired $7 million in cap space. They are now able to re-sign Alec Martinez, consider bringing back Mattias Janmark and Tomas Nosek, and maybe even add a bigger piece like Phillip Danault or dare I say… Jack Eichel.

It’s absolutely true that heading into this offseason Vegas was in dire need of opening up some cap space. It was also clear that the simplest way to do it was to move one of the goalies, a luxury that proved not to be so luxurious come playoff time when one or the other was parked on the bench each night. They’ve done it. Moved out a goalie and in turn, opened up heaps of space to make the next move to help improve the team.

But, aren’t they just fixing a mess they created in the first place.

If your son swung a baseball bat in the house and shattered the chandelier you wouldn’t applaud him for cleaning up the broken glass on the floor. (No, this oddly specific example is not in any way related to my childhood, nor am I reminded of it every time I sit at the dining room table at my parents’ place.)

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GOLDEN KNIGHTS TRADE MARC-ANDRE FLEURY TO CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

The Golden Knights have traded Marc-Andre Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks for prospect Mikael Hakkarainen.

Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, quickly tweeted a response to the trade.

The Golden Knights did not retain any salary in the trade.

Hakkarainen has spent each of the last two seasons playing in both the AHL and the ECHL. He has not registered an AHL point in his 14 appearances. Kelly McCrimmon confirmed that Hakkarainen will remain with Chicago and likely play for the Rockford Ice Hogs.

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Can Vegas Find A Friend in New Jersey?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights are opposites in every which way. They both play on different coasts, the Golden Knights are built to win right now, and the Devils are way under the cap. However, the Devils are a team that may end up being one of the busiest clubs of the offseason. Sure, they’re interested in building a roster and spending money on the open market but 31 other teams might bring it directly to them. Including the Golden Knights.

We’ve talked about the Vegas goaltending and I think Lehner is the guy they’re kind of looking at. Fleury’s got one more year, who knows what he’s going to be looking at in a year. Lehner’s got some term. That one makes a bit of sense for me for Jersey. –Elliotte Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

Based on consistent comments by the organization it’s unlikely Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner gets dealt but it’s interesting to hear that there is a market.

I do think they legitimately want to improve. I don’t think for them this is simply going to be about eating deals to help out other teams. I think they want functionality. –Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

The Devils like their young goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood but by no means are they solidified in net. Clearly, if New Jersey traded for the Golden Knights secondary starter it would be a major upgrade. So what would Vegas get out of the deal?

With $31.5M in cap room the Devils are in a position to act like an old chum to financially strapped teams. As Friedman explains New Jersey wants to get better but is willing to take advantage of cap-strapped teams looking for a bailout.

Would it hurt the Golden Knights organization if they were to pay a high tax (picks, prospects) to unload $5M in flexibility? Of course, but it depends on what the end result is. Without Lehner the goalie tandem wouldn’t be the best in the NHL, but one of the best teams in the NHL became $5M more dangerous in the playoffs. With a creative front office like the Golden Knights have, anything is possible with that amount of cap room.

The definite feeling about the Golden Knights is they want to open up some cap room. The Devils can do that, they can take advantage of that. I don’t think it’s simply going to be ‘Hey, we’re going to use our cap space to help other people get out of theirs.’ I think it’s ‘Hey, we’re going to use our cap space and if you want us to take some one you may have to pay us.’ –Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast

The Devils aren’t just useful to the Golden Knights by helping them unload a goaltender but they could take on other contracts as well. It just depends on how badly Vegas wants to shed salary and get out of cap stress.

Predicting The Golden Knights Offseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The offseason is about to truly get going. Rosters freeze in a couple of hours, expansion lists are due slightly after that and will be released to the public tomorrow. That’s when the fun begins as each team will surrender a player to the Seattle Kraken and the deals will start coming through. Shortly after that the NHL Draft, then free agency. In the next two weeks, a whole lot of teams will look different, and the Golden Knights could be one of them.

Yes, we waited until the absolute last minute for this but now is the time. Jason and I worked together on our offseason predictions for the Golden Knights. Here’s exactly what we think will happen and what the roster will look like come Opening Night 2021-22.

NOTE: This is a guess at what we believe the Golden Knights will do. This is not an endorsement for any of these moves. (We’ll get to that when they are actually made.)

Free Agency

Alec Martinez – Unsigned

It’s simply going to cost too much for the Golden Knights to retain the two-time Cup winner. After his excellent showing in the playoffs, while playing on a broken foot, the soon-to-be 34-year old will be looking to cash in one last time. We expect him to hit the market on July 28th and sign quickly for at least $5 million AAV.

Mattias Janmark – Unsigned

George McPhee has never been a big fan of rentals, but since Kelly McCrimmon officially took the GM chair they have gone down this road a bit more. Nick Cousins was acquired and walked a few months later in free agency and we expect the same from Janmark. It’ll be interesting to see how much he can fetch on the open market as he hits unrestricted free agency for the second year running. He’s signed for $2.3 and $2.25 each of the last two years and may be headed towards that number again.

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GM For A Day: Jason’s 2021-22 Vegas Golden Knights

Welcome to GM For A Day, the second in a pair of articles in which the founders of SinBin.vegas take control of the Vegas Golden Knights and reshape the team in a way we each believe will bring the Stanley Cup to Las Vegas.

These articles are NOT meant to be taken as a prediction as to what we believe is going to happen this offseason. This is what we would do, not what we think the Golden Knights will do (that article is coming tomorrow).

Today, I (Jason) am on the hot seat. Let’s go.

Here we go…

*TRADE: Marc-Andre Fleury + 2022 3rd round pick to Toronto Maple Leafs for center Alex Kerfoot + 2022 2nd round pick and 2023 2nd round pick*

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In a flat cap world, there’s no way I can continue to allocate $12M in goaltending. As general manager, I would entertain every inquiry coming in from opposing front offices. In the long run, the NHL is a cold, hard business and it wouldn’t be a secret that I’m looking to move a goaltender. I understand that it could hurt my negotiations but in the end I’m trying to move money and build some depth.

There are contending teams with issues in net and one that could use a steady tender like Fleury is the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs are loaded with talent but consistently underachieve in the playoffs. Adding a leader that just so happens to be the Vezina winner would be a big confidence boost for a franchise that hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1967.

To make it work I asked for center Alex Kerfoot ($3.5M x 2) to help my club down the middle. I considered asking for defenseman Morgan Reilly but he’s on an expiring contract with an AAV of $5M. At that rate, I would find a way to re-sign Alec Martinez. At a $3.5M AAV Kerfoot isn’t exactly cheap, but he’s only locked in for two more seasons. Personally, I don’t love the trade, but it was necessary. It gave me agita dealing Fleury over last season’s mismanagement. Finally fixing the roster to pay just one one starting goaltender allows for much-needed cap relief, a solid third line center and a future draft asset we can use as capital at the deadline.

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Reilly Smith Could Be The Right Bait This Offseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Every offseason it’s inevitable that there will be roster turnover and fans will be disappointed when the news breaks. It’s happened in each of the Golden Knights’ previous summers. After the inaugural season fan-favorite, David Perron, and several others were left out in free agency. The following year it was Erik Haula who departed after a season-long injury. Then after last year’s postseason exit, Vegas moved lovable defenseman Nate Schmidt in order to make room for Alex Pietrangelo. It might suck for fans but it’s just real the business side of hockey.

We’ve seen this reaction from the Golden Knights front office before, when they don’t win they get itchy. Rumors swirl and of course Vegas is always in the middle. Just last season, reports were the front office was attempting to unload Marc-Andre Fleury and/or Pacioretty’s contracts. Currently, the Golden Knights are apparently one of the teams haggling for Buffalo Sabres’ malcontent Jack Eichel.

What fan wouldn’t want to root for Eichel? Vegas fans would sure like to, but like last offseason, they won’t be thrilled when a popular player or two will no longer be Golden Knights. In order to upgrade there has to be casualties. The trade bait we’re talking about today is one of the few remaining original Misfits, Reilly Smith.

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VGK’s Best Postseason Players All Had One Important Thing In Common

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If there’s one thing the Golden Knights were not short on as they headed into their fourth Stanley Cup playoff journey, it was experience. Before the 19 games they each played on their path to the Semifinals, the Golden Knights entered the playoffs with 1,086 games of postseason experience on the roster.

On top of that, they also boasted four prominent players that have won Stanley Cups. Between Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, and Chandler Stephenson, this version of the Golden Knights had players who had won seven of the last 13 Stanley Cups.

When you hear people talk about players like Fleury, Pietrangelo, Martinez, and Stephenson you’ll often hear them mention that accolade. In Martinez’s case, when he was acquired it was literally the only thing anyone wanted to reference when describing him as a player. And, after this season concluded, Martinez himself went right to it when talking about Pietrangelo.

He’s got that championship pedigree. He’s been through a lot of playoff runs. We actually went head-to-head quite a few times. -Alec Martinez on Pietrangelo

Personally, I’m usually a little skeptical when it comes to pedigree making a difference, but this year has made me re-think it a bit seeing the performances of the Cup-winners on the Golden Knights’ roster.

Think about it. Who were Vegas’ best three players on this postseason run?

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MARC-ANDRE FLEURY WINS VEZINA TROPHY

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

For the first time in his illustrious career, Marc-Andre Fleury has won the award for the best goaltender in the NHL.

Fleury finished the year with a .928 save percentage and a 1.98 goals against average. Both were the best marks of his career. He posted 26 quality starts in 36 starts and recorded six shutouts to go with his 26-10-0 record.

Fleury beat out Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy and Colorado’s Phillipp Grubauer to win the award. He received 14 of the 31 1st place votes.

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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Marc-Andre Fleury Lone Golden Knights On NHLPA Players Poll

Once a year, since 2017, the NHL Players’ Association puts out a poll of questions answered by about 500 current players. Historically, the Golden Knights, Vegas, and T-Mobile Arena have been all over these polls, but this year, there was just one mention of VGK.

That honor went to Marc-Andre Fleury for the prestigious category of “Who is the best goalie?

Fleury actually garnered fewer percentage of votes this year than he did a year ago but he passed Carey Price for the first time in poll history and rose to #2 on the list, the highest he’s ever been.

Fleury voting by year
2020-21 – 8.88% (2nd)
2019-20 – 8.93% (3rd)
2018-19 – 6.53% (4th)
2017-18 – Unranked

Last year, the Golden Knights were on the board seven different times including four player mentions. This year, Fleury is the lone Golden Knight listed, albeit on a much shorter list of questions.

Former Golden Knight Nikita Gusev cracked the list coming in 3rd place for the “most unique tape job.” Meanwhile, the Reverse Retro jersey that everyone seems to love despite it looking like a leotard was NOT listed among the top seven Reverse Retro unis.

Finally, and maybe the most interesting piece of the poll, was the fact that 292 players said they prefer the “series style” schedule the NHL used this season. About the same amount were also in favor of returning to the normal divisions, which is happening next season.

Player opinions will always be outweighed by financial ones, but the positivity towards the series-style schedule certainly may lead to it making a return in the near future. It’s unlikely we’ll see it next year, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s back at least in some fashion in 2022-23.

**You can read the whole NHLPA Players Poll here.**

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