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Unsavory But Not Illegal: Regarding Golden Knights’ Cap Circumvention

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Mark Stone returned to practice eight days before the playoffs, exactly the same number as last year when he went on to play in Game 1 of the playoffs and help lead the Golden Knights to a Stanley Cup.

Considering what Vegas did last season and were able to do at the deadline due to his absence, it’s understandable that the hockey world is quite skeptical about Stone’s situation.

Much of what is being said about it is simply ignorant, especially those suggesting the injury was fictional. However, that’s not to say there isn’t a valid gripe from those questioning the legitimacy of what the Golden Knights are doing.

At the trade deadline GM Kelly McCrimmon suggested it was “impossible to know” the timeline on Stone’s return. On the same day, he also declared Stone out for the remainder of the regular season, or at least the next six weeks. This allowed the Golden Knights to add three players, Anthony Mantha, Noah Hanifin, and Tomas Hertl, worth about $11 million in cap space. They were only able to make these acquisitions because they knew Stone would not return to play before April 18th which gave them the freedom to use his $9.5 million in cap space that was placed on LTIR.

Now, with Stone nearly back to action, it is clear there was at least a remote chance Stone’s 10 week injury could have healed a few days quicker and thus allowed him to make it back in time for the regular season. However, now that they’ve made the additions, they cannot activate Stone from LTIR. This is the genesis of where cap circumvention allegations come into play as a possibility. While the Golden Knights never wanted Stone to get injured in the first place, once it happened, they needed the injury to be severe enough to keep him out through the remainder of the regular season to benefit from it. So that’s exactly what they need to happen now.

While no one can prove Stone would have been able to play prior to the regular season ending, it is absolutely fair to ask the question considering the proximity to the end of the season. If he could play in regular season Game 82 and doesn’t, that would be against the NHL’s rules and the Golden Knights would be skirting the salary cap. As of right now, there’s nothing to suggest that is the case, but the argument will gain credence if Stone does indeed play in Game 1 of the postseason, as he did a year ago.

In the end, the rule is written with ambiguity and allows for this situation to occur. Heck, the Golden Knights did the same thing last year with the same player and did something similar the year before, also including the same player. The NHL has opened this loophole and despite it being fair to criticize teams exploiting it, there’s no way for the league to enforce the rule as they intended it.

So, yes, the Golden Knights appear to have once again purposely taken advantage of it and are likely bending the rule in their favor for the third consecutive year. And yes, Mark Stone has helped them by accepting the fact that they’ve made moves ruling him out for the remainder of the regular season even when it was “impossible to know” if he could have made it back. And yes, it does come across as quite unsavory, dancing on top of the line between cheating and trying.

But, it is what it is, and there’s not much anyone can do about it, unless the league decides to fix the rule.

A Look Back On Ken’s 50 23-24 Predictions + 10 New Predictions

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Before the season began I published a list of 50 predictions for this season. With 13 games to go, let’s see how I’m doing. Then, because you’ll clearly be able to see my ability to predict the future, I’ll make 10 new predictions for the rest of the year.

  • TRENDING CORRECT – Jack Eichel will score more than one point per game
    • Eichel has 53 points in 50 games.
  • INCORRECT – Mark Stone will play at least 60 games
    • Stone will finish the regular season with 56.
  • CORRECT – Marchessault will score more than 30 goals
    • Marchessault has 38 goals.
  • INCORRECT – VGK will sweep at least three Pacific Division teams
    • San Jose are the only team VGK have/can sweep.
  • TRENDING INCORRECT – VGK will not win the division but will advance further in the playoffs than the team that does
    • VGK will likely not win the division.
  • INCORRECT – Mark Stone will score more than 20 goals but never record a hat trick
    • Stone scored 16 and had one hat trick.
  • CORRECT – VGK will win 7 of their first 10 games
    • VGK won 9 of their first 10.
  • TRENDING INCORRECT – Ivan Barbashev will score fewer than 40 points
    • Barbashev has 38 points in 69 games.
  • CORRECT – The projected starting six defensemen will player fewer than 20 games together the entire regular season
    • They played 8 together and will likely not play another one with Hanifin now on the roster.

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Mark Stone “Had An Apparatus Attached To His Spine” In January 2023 Back Surgery

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

While the world patiently awaits more information on the status of Mark Stone’s lacerated spleen which has him scheduled to miss the rest of the regular season and potentially a portion of the playoffs, some more details have surfaced about the previous injury suffered by Stone.

During one of his many post-deadline interviews, general manager Kelly McCrimmon dropped a new nugget of information on the captain’s ailments.

Mark’s back surgery wasn’t routine if there is such a thing as routine back surgery. He had an apparatus attached to his spine and everything else, and it was a little bit unsure what his future might be. –Kelly McCrimmon to The Athletic

The surgery McCrimmon is referring to is the second of Stone’s two back procedures in eight months from May 2022 to January 2023. The first was described by the Golden Knights as a lumbar discectomy performed by Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles. The second, in which Stone “had an apparatus attached to his spine” occurred in January 2023 in Denver by Dr. Chad Prusmack.

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How The Deadline Will Clue Us In On Mark Stone’s Health And UFA Plans

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As we wait anxiously to see what the Golden Knights will do at the deadline exactly a week from today, there will be so much more to the story than simply who Vegas brings in and what they are forced to give up.

The reason why the Trade Deadline is so exciting is because there’s a clock. Any time NHL GMs are put under the gun, they are forced to show their cards concerning where they see the team heading not only this year but in the future as well.

The defending champions have a lot of balls in the air that the front office is being forced to juggle. From inconsistent results to multiple injuries to crucial players to expiring contracts on a few of the team’s leading scorers, the Golden Knights have a lot to think about before the clock strikes midnight (technically it’s noon) on March 8th.

The first, and probably most important, piece of information we will be able to gather from the Golden Knights’ actions before the trade deadline is the status of Mark Stone. The latest reporting on Stone indicates he suffered a lacerated spleen that could take anywhere from six weeks to six months to heal. TSN’s Darren Dreger on yesterday’s edition of Insider Trading indicated Vegas expects Stone to be out through the regular season, but called him questionable for the playoffs.

Obviously, the Golden Knights have more information on Stone’s health than even the most plugged-in insiders, but given their history, they are highly unlikely to share it. But, what happens at the deadline will give us a sneak peek into their expectations.

If Vegas buys one or more players on expiring contracts (and doesn’t sign them to immediate extensions), it will give a strong indication that they expect Stone back before their postseason run is over. On the flip side, if the targets are those with term, it points towards an uncertainty of Stone’s return.

Why?

It’s impossible to replace Stone’s production and value to the team. Buying players on expiring contracts means they are only available for one playoff run. If that playoff run is expected to be Mark Stone-less, their value to the organization is minimized. However, if Stone is expected to play, that one playoff run will be expected to deliver Vegas its second Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, if the Golden Knights buy players with term, it guarantees additional playoff runs, and in turn, more chances to win the Cup with Vegas’ captain healthy.

The next tip we’ll get from the Golden Knights is their plans for the future of their five key pending UFAs, Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson, Michael Amadio, William Carrier, and Alec Martinez.

Of course, deadlines spur action, so there’s a realistic possibility a contract is signed by one or more of these players. But, even if it isn’t, there will be clues.

It will be shown by how much future salary the Golden Knights take on for next season and beyond. As it currently stands, Vegas has about $21 million in expected cap space to fill the rest of their roster next season. There is a scenario that exists in which it’s enough to re-sign everyone, but the more salary they add at this deadline, the clearer it will become that one or more of those five are not in the plans.

The Golden Knights are going to be active between now and next Friday, that much we know. What else we’ll learn along the way? We’ll have to wait another 170 hours or so to find out.

Golden Knights Have Proven Success Without Stone In Lineup

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

On January 12th of last season, Golden Knights captain Mark Stone played in his last regular season game of 2022-23. Vegas’ roster battled through the schedule without their leader and secured the top playoff seed in the Western Conference.

We all know what transpired once the postseason began.

(Courtesy of TNT)

Without Stone in the second half of last season, the captain’s teammates went 23-9-7 to finish out the string of regular season games. It was a bit of a surprise but also a sign of what to expect in the postseason. The Stone-less lineup averaged 3.23 goals per game and allowed only 2.67 per contest. Coach Bruce Cassidy got his entire roster to buy in and finish off the season strong without their heart and soul.

January 14, 2023 to April 13, 2023 – Games Without Stone

  • Record: 23-9-7 (53 Points)
  • Points Percentage: .679
  • Goals Scored: 126
  • Goals Allowed: 104
  • Games with 4 or More Goals Scored: 20
  • Games with 5 or More Goals Scored: 9
  • Winning Streak of 4 Games or More: 3
  • Record vs. Playoff Teams: 12-6-4 (26 Points)
  • Shots Per Game: 30.5
  • Games Scoring First Goal: 22
  • Blocks Per Game: 17.74

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Second Half Schedule Allows Vegas To Enter The Playoffs Well Rested

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since January 27th, the Golden Knights have had 16 days off and suited up for only six periods of game action. It may not seem like much, but it allows for the reigning champions to heal, prepare, and most importantly rest up for their final 30 regular season games and their perennial deep postseason run.

The Golden Knights have played 156 games since October 11th, 2022, so any extra days off should be taken advantage of.

We haven’t (rested players) other than maybe late in the year. Would I do it in the middle of January? Probably not. First of all, players don’t want to come out of the lineup even when they’re hurt, so there’s dealing with that part of it. -Bruce Cassidy, September 2023

It goes without saying, playing an extended amount of hockey is what every fan and player dreams of when a new season begins. However, a deep run can interrupt a reigning champion’s repeat attempt.

When the Avalanche were eliminated in seven games to the Seattle Kraken last year, it was their 191st game played since October of 2021. Their short summer full of celebrating in ’22 was anything but that ten months later. With the spacing out of VGK’s final 30 contests, it’s possible rest can keep them off the golf course until mid-June.

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Golden Knights Going To The Best Area To Score Goals, Fueling 3 Game Win Streak

Want to win in the NHL? There’s one specific place on the ice where you must be better than your opponent.

These last three games for the Golden Knights, they’ve dominated there.

Early in the year, there were some games where we played well but we ran into a hot goalie. But the Winter Classic and some of the other recent ones I think we could have been better at generating offense with a little more will and second effort. Usually that requires an inside presence and that’s how we got back in the game, we got inside. -Bruce Cassidy

The Golden Knights erased a two-goal 3rd period deficit on Saturday night because they killed the Penguins directly in front of the goal. In fact, Vegas has been excellent in the low slot for the last three games, and it’s why despite the depleted roster, they’ve been winning.

Here’s a look at where each goal was scored from in the last three games against Nashville, New York, and Pittsburgh.

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