Marc-Andre Fleury. Robin Lehner. Winning the Stanley Cup (or even getting there).
Salary cap history says the Golden Knights can only select two, not all three.
Since 2009, there have been 11 Stanley Cup Champions. None of them have had a salary cap allotment of goaltenders reach higher than 11.31%. 22 teams have reached the final, the highest allotment was 12.26%. The average of all Stanley Cup Final participants since 2009, 8.83%.
Fleury is set to make $7 million next season. That’s 8.81% of the salary cap for him alone.
Conference Final Losers
In other words, Fleury alone puts the Golden Knights above the average. Figuring Lehner in sends the Golden Knights into a group that makes them an outlier even among conference final participants.
% of Cap
$3m + Min Salary
$3m + $1.5m
$4m + Min Salary
$4m + $1.5m
$5m + Min Salary
$5m + $1.5m
$6m + Min Salary
$6m + $1.5m
Fleury + Min Salary
Fleury + $1.5m
Fleury + $3m
Fleury + $4m
Fleury + $5m
Fleury + $6m
Fleury + $7m
Here’s the cap allocation for every team to make hockey’s final four since 2009.
When hockey gets back underway, the Golden Knights will hit the ice with one of the best goalie tandems in the league. Both Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner are fully capable of carrying a team through the playoffs leading most to view goaltender as an advantage Vegas has on every other team.
While I’m not here to argue against the benefits of having more than one tremendous goaltender, I would like to illustrate the challenge it will present to the man standing behind the bench.
Peter DeBoer has been the Golden Knights head coach for 22 games and has led his team to victory in 15 of them. His early success earned the Golden Knights a Pacific Division title and placed them in the round-robin in the modified playoffs. But the only memory that will last regarding his first season in Vegas will be of the outcome of the upcoming postseason. And with goalie coach Dave Prior no longer calling the shots between the pipes, DeBoer’s decision on goaltenders will, fairly or not, ultimately be the only thing to define his inaugural campaign in Vegas.
Usually, working in hypotheticals is a tiresome, useless activity, but today I’d like to throw some out to show just how impossible the job of selecting a goalie in the postseason can and will be for DeBoer come August when hockey starts back up.
Instead of creating situations, let’s use ones from the past, ones that we know the eventual outcome. Imagine a world in which each of these games was played with the Golden Knights having both Fleury and Lehner on the roster.
We start with the worst moment in franchise history.
2019 Round 1 – Game 7 – at San Jose
After six games of strong goaltending by Fleury, followed by 50 minutes of perfection, the walls started to cave in on the Golden Knights following the phantom major penalty on Cody Eakin. Before the call, Vegas led by three and were getting a strong effort in net.
The first goal happened almost instantly as a shot from the point was blocked directly to a Shark, leading to a cross-ice pass and a perfect shot that beat Fleury. It’s a save he’s made in the past, but not one anyone could ever expect him to come up with.
At this point, there’s absolutely no consideration of switching goalies to put in Lehner. (Remember, this is all a hypothetical in which we are considering what VGK would have done if they had both goalies.)
Goal two comes less than a minute later. This one is a shot pass that deflected in from a tip in the mid-slot. No goalie in NHL history is expected to make this save, but nonetheless, a three-goal lead is now one and there are still four minutes left to kill.
Pull Fleury here in order to buy some time for the penalty killers? Settle the team down? People still complain that Gallant didn’t take a timeout, switching goalies would achieve the same result. I doubt this would be a time to do it, but Monday morning QB’s everywhere would be barking nonetheless.
Fleury stays in. The Sharks tie it about four minutes into the power play. A breakdown in penalty killing leads to a shot from the high-slot that beats Fleury. He’s now allowed three in less than four minutes and blown a Game 7 lead. Is now the time to pull him and put in Lehner?
Goal four is the one that would get the coach in hot water for not switching goalies. It’s a shot Vegas allowed on the PK all series long, in fact, that was in the game plan to give that shot up. Fleury is off his angle and the softest goal of the four gets past him. Trust me, if Lehner was on the Golden Knights at this moment, fans (including myself) would not have been happy that he was sitting on the bench.
Again, Fleury stays in the game having now allowed four. We get all the way into OT, and a poke check gone awry allows a fourth-liner to net the season-ending goal for the Golden Knights. Again, if Lehner is on the team, people are none too happy he never saw the nets in this horrific road loss.
In reality, Gallant never even considered pulling his goalie to put in Subban, nor would anyone have, and thus this criticism never existed, but if the situation were exactly the same, and Lehner was on the Vegas bench, the coach would have gotten crucified over refusing to put in the trade deadline acquisition.
2018 Western Conference Final – Game 1 – at Winnipeg
Phase 2 of the NHL’s Return to Play protocol is underway which meant groups of six players were allowed to resume training on the ice at team facilities.
The Golden Knights provided a video of one of those groups including Marc-Andre Fleury, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Nick Holden, and Deryk Engelland.
Group sessions are expected to continue for the next six weeks or so until the league re-opens for training camps prior to the 24-team playoff. The target date to start training camps is mid-July while the hope is to start playing games in early August.
Now that there’s a format in place (kinda), fans can finally feel good about the NHL getting back on the ice. The timetable hasn’t been set yet, but before the games begin, clubs will hold some sort of training/mini-camp. George McPhee mentioned a couple of weeks back that Golden Knights players shouldn’t need much time to prepare.
I think after a week or 10 days of skating they’d be fine. Are they really going to want four weeks? I don’t think so. After a week of hard skating, they’ll probably be saying ‘You know what, I’d rather be playing than practicing, so let’s get going.’ –George McPhee on Vegas Hockey Hotline
After the training period is over and the players are ready for action, which position will be at their best first? The shooter or the stopper?
Because (goalies) motor skills don’t have to be as refined. Their crease movement is something they can practice on their driveway, they can practice in their basement. Their angle play, their awareness of the game, they can watch tape. There’s a lot of things they can do, they don’t really need ice.-Pierre McGuire, NBC Analyst
If goaltenders find their way back to form quicker, teams with better goaltending and defense have an early edge. The fear of the hot goaltender is so real reports were Montreal Canadiens star goalie Carey Price was one of the factors why the play-in series will be nothing less than a best-of-five finish.
The league initially suggested this play-in round be best two out of three and the players said no way… they felt it was not acceptable enough for the teams that had a better regular season and Pittsburgh looked at its matchup and it said ‘two out of three against Carey Price is not fair for a team that had zero percentage points to play in the playoffs.-Elliotte Friedman, SportsNet
Depending on the Golden Knights offense, either of their goalies have the ability to get hot and grab an early edge in a series. It should be a concern for any team in the Western Conference.
It certainly is for Winnipeg Jets sniper Patrick Laine.
My game is probably gonna look terrible since I haven’t skated for two months… It’s always a struggle to come back after a long period when you haven’t skated.-Patrick Laine, Jets forward
Between the pipes, Vegas should get strong goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner, so it’ll be up to their offense to advance to the later rounds. Scorers like Max Pacioretty and Reilly Smith will need to quickly get into midseason form and continue the offensive success they had in the regular season. Since scoring is projected to be low in the opening games, it’ll be important for the Golden Knights forwards to shake off any early rust.
For the offensive players there’s a tempo element to the game that really can’t be duplicated unless you’re on the ice. With hand skills, with shooting skills, with foot movements. Until you’re on the ice doing them, it doesn’t work.-McGuire, NBC Sports
If the Golden Knights score 3.5 goals per game like they did last postseason, the backend duo of Fleury and Lehner should save enough to clinch multiple playoff rounds. The question is which goalie will take on the heavier load?
The intimidation factor of a goalie. I think a goalie can get up to speed a little bit quicker than they offense can. Carey (Price) is a guy that can definitely steal a series. Vasilevskiy can steal a series.-McGuire, NBC Sports
Vegas has the goaltending and the offensive talent to go on a run, however, it will all have to come together at the right time. If the offense struggles, it could come down to which Golden Knight goalie has the longer leash, and if Pete DeBoer pushes the right buttons going back and forth.
Q. Hi SinBin, hope you are well and enjoying being home with loved ones. I’m writing because I’m having marital problems. My husband is a huge Golden Knights fan and that’s what has created the issues. We’re both working from home so already our personal space was getting cramped but now that there’s no hockey I can’t get away from him. Normally, three, maybe four times a week I had to myself while my husband was watching the Golden Knights.
I can’t explain how precious those three hours were to me. I love my husband with all of my heart but I need something to distract him a few times a week. Do you realize how backed up I am with my shows? I’m falling a part here.
-Delay of game Debra
A. You are not alone Debra. Significant others across the valley are having the same issue during the quarantine. Without the Golden Knights, there’s nothing that can easily replace the time spent watching hockey per week. Your husband is probably thinking it’s best spent with his wife. That’s clearly not working for you, and others, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
You mentioned distractions, which is a good first step in saving your marriage. I suggest you force your husband on would be game nights to catch up on highly-rated shows or movies that he may have missed over the years. He could roughly spend the same amount of time binging as he did watching the Golden Knights play. If he resists, tell him to ‘act like a man’ and watch The Godfather, The Sopranos, or Narcos. Call out his manhood, hit him where it hurts.
You could also fib and tell him he’s looking a little tight around the waist. Let him think that since the NHL pause he’s grown a little ponch, and it might be best if he spent two hours on game nights to work out. Even if your hubby is in shape, poke hard enough and he’ll worry you’re not attracted to him. We won’t admit it but men don’t like being fat-shamed.
Lastly, if he doesn’t cook, tell him to start. Pick out a few time-consuming recipes a week that will take up hours of his time. This should allow you to gain back some of your precious me time.
If none of that works, divorce him, or just “pause” your marriage. Everyone else seems to be doing it.
Q. Dear SinBin, I’ve had this problem since late February. Now that there’s more time to think about it with the pause and all, I’m ready to reveal my dilemma. I have two loves and I’m torn. Both are great, one is charming and athletic, the other is a lovable, stonewall panda. Lately, I have come to the reality that both cannot stay in my life. There’s cost, games started, styles, endorsements, etc. Please, I need your help. Who should I start?
-Caught in the crease
A. There’s a great saying that we all know well, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You might think you love both but really there’s one that means more to you. One sentence stood out to me from your letter, “There’s cost, games started, styles, endorsements, etc.” It’s good you’re starting to realize that only one can be in your life. Is it the more established but older one? Or a giant that’s hitting their peak?
It’s a stressful time and dilemmas like this can weigh you down. Maybe it’s best to step back and allow a team president or general manager to help make that difficult decision. Either way, you should feel good about 55-60 starts next season.
The Golden Knights have a goaltending issue. Not in the desperate sense that other clubs have, instead, for Vegas, it’s a luxury problem. The problem is Vegas has two really good ones and they likely won’t be able to hold on to both. Other teams need to address their goaltending positions as well, and the Golden Knights may be a part of the carousel expected to take place.
Vancouver for one, is a team that will end up spending a lot of money on goaltending this offseason. Either ponying up to the demands of their current tender Jacob Markstrom, or by investing in one of the available free agents such as Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner.
Whenever it comes, this offseason will have a slew of unrestricted free agent goaltenders, led by Lehner, Markstrom and Braden Holtby. Each is expected to be offered term and money, something Vegas probably isn’t considering.
We weren’t sure with the work that we’ve done to position our team, with the work that we’ve done to build our team, we didn’t have confidence that we were as strong at that position as we needed to be… If anything ever happened to Marc-Andre Fleury, we weren’t strong enough to win playoff games if we get to that point. Those are hard decisions, but we felt that way. -Kelly McCrimmon on trade deadline day
Many teams will most certainly be interested in Lehner, and at 6’4″ he could be the most attractive candidate available. Teams that could be searching for a backstop include Calgary, Chicago, Detroit, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Washington. Not to say all of these clubs would pursue Lehner, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they reach out.
It is such a deep list of UFA’s this summer. It was going to be the craziest game of musical chairs we’ve ever seen potentially… Lehner should’ve been one of the guys to go off the list last year early, and for good money. He ended up signing for a one-year ticket at five million coming off a Vezina finalist season .-Kevin Woodley, NHL.com
Every year the NHL Players Association (NHLPA) conducts a poll among more than 500 players asking a wide-ranging variety of topics.
In the Golden Knights’ first season there were just two mentions of Vegas related items in the poll. Last year that number jumped to five. This year takes the cake with seven total Golden Knights mentions.
We’ll start with the team related ones. First, in a bit of a surprise, the Golden Knights were voted to have the second-best jersey in all of the NHL.
Last year T-Mobile-Arena was voted as having the best atmosphere in the league. This year that category was left off, but that didn’t keep Vegas away from the arena related items.
The best individual honor received by a Golden Knight went to Marc-Andre Fleury.
Being stuck at home isn’t ideal but it does open up time to basically do just about anything. Some are working on loose handrails, others are taking up painting, Netflix binging, but in my case going through boxes and boxes of NHL common cards.
About six months ago my young son starting getting into hockey and baseball cards. It started with a Golden Knights team set, then grew to a few packs at Target, to eventually pulling singles from the local card shop. On one visit my four-year-old became overly excited when he pulled a random Roberto Luongo card. Valued at .65 cents, it’s become one of his favorite cards. No idea why, but it doesn’t matter.
With time in hand, the boy and I decided to do some inventory. Two full seasons and a paused one later, we found the Golden Knights are well represented in the hockey card world. From common cards like Nick Holden, Jon Merrill or William Carrier, to specially autographed and game-worn jersey inserts from your favorite stars.
According to Trading Card Database, there are a total of 3,811 separate Golden Knights hockey cards. Most are common cards you find in most packs, but there are plenty of insert cards available.
Autographed or signature inserts include; Shea Theodore, Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Tuch, Cody Glass, Zach Whitecloud, Nic Roy. Not shocking, the most valuable auto-cards are Upper Deck’s Marc-Andre Fleury autographed, VGK jersey cards. Most range $175-$200 in value. Autograph cards are hard to find (1:276), as in one per every 276 individual packs.
My personal favorite inserts are game-worn jersey cards. They’re not as elusive as player signature cards. Beckett.com lists jersey cards as (1:40), or one per 40 packs. If you do get lucky, hopefully, it’s a card with value or has some sentiment. As cool as they are, most are overpriced. For instance, on eBay, you can buy an Upper Deck game-used Fleury jersey card for $2,669.99, and an Alex Tuch patch insert for $499.99. As well crafted as these cards are, there are plenty of them released so they don’t hold value. Consider them like a car. However, here are a few that could hold value.
Trading card companies don’t produce as many cards as they used to, so not every player is featured in a series. Also, companies sign contracts with younger players and develop entire lines of cards around those projected stars. Tuch has the most trading cards as a Golden Knight. Fleury would be second, but you’d be surprised who follows. Cody Glass has upwards of ten separate autograph/jersey cards, including several Draft Day autographed jersey cards. At the young age of 20, the 2017 sixth overall pick has 341 different trading cards, most being released before he played a game for Vegas. If Glass pans out like the organization expects his cards could hold and possibly gain value over time.
The Golden Knights now have a goalie tandem and with it comes goalie controversy. Pete DeBoer has 13 games and four weeks to figure out who will start between the pipes for the Golden Knights in Game 1 of the playoffs. Then, he’ll have to navigate the muddy waters of goalie controversy during the postseason, something very few teams have done, and even fewer successfully, in the last decade.
Over the course of the last 10 years, there have been 80 teams that have won at least one playoff round. Of those 80, 58 used the same starting goalie in every playoff game. That includes six Stanley Cup champions and seven runners-up.
Of the 22 teams to use multiple goalies, just 12 saw three starts or more by two goalies and of those 12, seven were injured forced.
So, out of 80 teams to win a playoff round in the past 10 years, just five purposely use a goalie rotation in the postseason. They are the 2016 Dallas Stars, 2015 Chicago Blackhawks, 2015 Calgary Flames, 2014 Anaheim Ducks, and 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins. The Stars, Flames, and Ducks were eliminated in the second round. Pittsburgh was swept in the Conference final, while the Blackhawks rode a tandem to a Stanley Cup championship.
I detailed all 12, plus the 2016 Penguins, to show exactly how and why the goalies were rotated. (All detailed explanations can be found below this story.) What I found was quite simple, NHL teams do not purposely rotate goalies in the playoffs.
The only successful “rotation” was the Blackhawks who used Scott Darling to win four games in the first round and then never started him again. Every other successful team was forced to swap goalies due to injury.
Marc-Andre Fleury was in the center of three of these situations. Once he was thrust into the role on the morning of Game 1 of the first round. Another he was given a single start in the Eastern Conference Finals after entering the playoffs injured. And the final time he was given the first four starts and never regained his starting position. None of the three did he play in his team’s final game of the season.
It’s unclear how DeBoer plans on using Robin Lehner and Fleury come April and hopefully May and June, but if history suggests anything, the starter in Game 1 will remain the starter unless he’s injured… otherwise, the Golden Knights won’t go very far.
The Hurricanes entered the playoffs with Mrazek as their clear starter. He started all seven games of the round one win over Washington. Mrazek was injured in Game 2 of the second round where McElhinney took over. He won that game and the next three while Mrazek was out hurt. Mrazek regained health in the week in-between the second round and the Eastern Conference Finals. Mrazek started Games 1 and 2, McElhinney took over to start Games 3 and 4. The Hurricanes were swept in the Conference Final.
Pittsburgh Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury 15, Matt Murray 10)
Matt Murray was set to be the starter heading into the postseason, but he was injured in warmups prior to Game 1 of the first round. Fleury ended up starting the first 15 games of the playoff run. Murray regained health in time for Game 7 of the 2nd round (the team’s 12th game), but Fleury remained in the net. Then, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Fleury allowed four goals on nine shots and was replaced by Murray. Murray went on to start the remaining 10 games and led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup.
With the 2019-20 regular season winding down, the Golden Knights are blessed to have two elite goaltenders to get them through the home stretch. Both Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner are proven starters capable of handling a postseason load, but for now they have 14 regular season games to split. Or will they? Without knowing the plan coach Pete DeBoer has drawn up, we have his history to look back and give us an idea of how things may go down in net.
We have great depth at that position. -Pete DeBoer
In his 11 completed seasons as an NHL coach, DeBoer has led his teams to the postseason five times; each of the previous four and twice to the Stanley Cup Finals. In both Cup runs, his goaltenders Marty Brodeur and Martin Jones stood on their heads. In the 2011-12 postseason, Brodeur held his opponents to 2.12 goals per game. Same goes for the 2015-16 season. Coming off a Stanley Cup victory as Jonathan Quick’s backup in 2014, Martin Jones was a rock for DeBoer in the 2015 Cup run. Jones allowed 2.16 goals per game and led the playoffs with 3 shutouts.
Based on those two extended postseasons you would think his goalies were well rested and prepared for the playoffs. However, games played per goalie suggests differently. The Devils were jockeying for playoff position, leading to a heavy workload for Brodeur. However, it worked out and New Jersey won their last six regular season games. The Hall of Fame goaltender played in five of those final six contests.
2011-12: Games Down The Stretch
Brodeur 16 Games Played (9-5-2)
Johan Hedberg 4 Games Played (4-0-0)
Lost in Cup Finals
In their 2015 Cup run, San Jose was also battling to secure a playoff position down the stretch. Which led DeBoer to rely heavily on Jones. The Sharks starting goaltender played in 12 games going 6-6-0 in the final months. However, backup James Reimer picked up his club winning six of his final eight starts.