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Predicting The Golden Knights Offseason (Ken’s Picks)

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Cup has been awarded which means the offseason has officially begun. The Golden Knights have already started shaping their roster, most notably with the news of a Reilly Smith extension, but they still have a lot of work to do.

This week we are going to go through a series of articles giving our thoughts on how we’d like the offseason to shake out and how we think it will ultimately go down for the Golden Knights.

Today we start with my (Ken) predicted roster. This is what I expect the Golden Knights to do this summer.

Nic Roy – Re-signed for 2 years at $2.75m AAV

As I detailed in a previous article, Roy is in line for a fairly significant raise. I expect him to file for arbitration but sign a contract prior to the hearing. The Golden Knights will utilize their excellent signing of Chandler Stephenson to set the market on Roy and eventually settle on the same number. It’s a nice bump for Roy, it keeps him in line to hit unrestricted free agency at the age of 27, and it doesn’t break the bank on VGK.

Keegan Kolesar – Re-signed for 1 year at $1.3m

Like Roy, Kolesar’s arbitration rights will earn him a bit more than he’s made in the past. However, I expect a short deal as the Golden Knights look to maintain some flexibility moving forward. Kolesar doesn’t have much to prove as it’s pretty clear the player he’s going to be, so he’ll look to cash in and $1.3 million is a decent payday for him.

Nic Hague – Re-signed for 1 year at $874,125

I truly believe Hague should refuse to sign the qualifying offer and hold out from training camp and ultimately regular season games in an effort to maximize his contract. But, I don’t think he’ll end up going down that road as the risk of the Golden Knights never blinking is far too real. (Read more about the situation here) So, I think he’ll take the qualifying offer and play one more year on a cheap deal before he looks to cash in next summer, which I believe he will to the tune of north of $3 million per year.

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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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“Feels Like We’ve Been Down 2-0 For A Month”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are no stranger to the playoffs. They’ve been there every year in the history of the franchise. But they’ve never been in a true playoff chase before and have really never been in a position in which there’s a true chance they don’t qualify.

While the cliche states “the playoffs have already started for us” the fact is it’s not quite the same. Due to the nature of the schedule and compounded by the mathematic oddity that comes with the loser point, simply winning games isn’t always enough when you are hunting down a playoff spot.

Vegas has found themselves in the win column in eight of the past 12 games and have picked up a total of 17 points since March 24th. The previous 21 games they picked up the same total of 17 points. The climb from these 17 has not matched the fall from the previous 17 though.

On February 8th, the Golden Knights led the Pacific Division in points and points percentage. 34 days and 17 points won later, they had fallen to 4th in the Pacific, 12 points out of 1st, and on the wrong side of the playoff cut line. It was a drastic fall and it happened in the matter of just over a month.

On March 24th, the Golden Knights were still a point out of a playoff spot and beginning a stretch of the schedule that looked very winnable. They did just that and have continued by beating playoff caliber teams like Calgary, Nashville, and Washington. Last night’s OT victory pushed them to 8-3-1 yet they haven’t moved an inch in the playoff standings. 28 days later, Vegas still sits on the outside looking in, now two points behind Dallas who has a game in hand.

Simply put, winning alone isn’t good enough, and it’s an unfamiliar feeling for the Golden Knights.

It feels like we’ve been down 2-0 in a playoff series for about a month here. We’ve been doing a good job and winning games but you don’t get that much closer, you don’t get to 2-2 if you win two in a row. -Mattias Janmark

It’s the perfect analogy and you can tell it’s wearing on the Golden Knights players. They’re doing their part, but it still hasn’t been good enough.

Yet.

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Kevin Iole’s Deadline Blueprint

This season, diehard VGK fan and legendary combat sports columnist Kevin Iole will be delivering columns a few times a month on usually on Sundays. Today, Kevin lays out what he believes is the correct course of action for the Golden Knights at this deadline.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The trading deadline is Monday and in the first four years of the VGK’s existence, it was a joyous time. We were like children waking up on Christmas morning to see what Santa left under the tree.

There was no question that the Golden Knights were going to add at the deadline in any of those four seasons. The question was how big would they go?

This season figured to be no different. But then, the Knights have gone 11-14-4 since Jan. 1 and just completed an 0-5 road trip largely against the dregs of the league. The win against Florida last night was great, but it doesn’t change what has happened over the course of the last three months.

This time, the trading deadline arrives and the Knights are a team in disarray, no longer a Stanley Cup contender and perhaps a team that may play its way into the draft lottery.

The deadline will still come, and it’s clear the VGK need a lot of work — for next season. The bulk of that can be done in the summer, but this trade deadline can give it a start.

Here are moves I would make if I were Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon to help fortify the team for a run at the 2023 Stanley Cup:

1. Shut down Alec Martinez for the remainder of the season: There is something seriously wrong with the guy, and it goes well beyond getting cut in the face by a skate in November. Nobody in the game is tougher than Martinez, and the fact he’s not playing five months later is an ominous sign.

This season is lost; even if they somehow miraculously sneak into the playoffs, they’re not winning the Stanley Cup this year. So shut down Martinez for the remainder of the year and hope he comes back in September fully health.

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DeBoer Committed To Using Depth Forwards More On Penalty Kill

As the Golden Knights head into the 2021-22 season there’s not a lot they want to change. They’ve been to the conference finals in back-to-back seasons, they tied for the President’s Trophy last year, and they’ve been consistently one of the winningest teams in the NHL since their inception.

But, since they haven’t reached the mountaintop yet they know they can’t stand pat and expect things to be different this time around.

Speaking with the media on the first day of Training Camp, head coach Pete DeBoer clued us in to one such place he’s looking for change in his forward group.

What we saw last year was I felt we overplayed some of our top guys, especially penalty killing situations. When we talked in the summer about building this team out with Kelly and George, I’m a big believer that we’ve got to have at least a couple penalty killers in the depth of the lineup so that you’re not overtaxing the top guys, you can save them a little for offensive situations. -DeBoer

Last season, the Golden Knights’ primary penalty killers were William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Mark Stone, and Chandler Stephenson, all top-six players.

Regular Season PK TOI
Total (Per/game)

William Karlsson – 99:29 (1:47)
Reilly Smith – 91:02 (1:43)
Mark Stone – 74:12 (1:21)
Chandler Stephenson – 69:47 (1:22)
Tomas Nosek – 51:04 (1:21)
Alex Tuch – 41:24 (0:45)
Nic Roy – 41:14 (0:49)

Playoffs PK TOI
Total (Per/game)

William Karlsson – 24:21 (1:17)
Reilly Smith – 26:09 (1:23)
Mark Stone – 25:48 (1:21)
Chandler Stephenson – 23:14 (1:27)
Tomas Nosek -4:04 (0:41)
Alex Tuch – 11:36 (0:37)
Nic Roy – 10:16 (0:32)

With Tomas Nosek off to Detroit and Alex Tuch injured for the first few months, this concept of using depth players to penalty kill opens the door for a number of guys. The chief among them is newly acquired Brett Howden.

Howden has averaged 1:44 of penalty killing time per game over the past few seasons for the Rangers and has been reliable doing it. This could be a hint that Howden has an inside track into the Golden Knights’ lineup early in the season.

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Hunting Career Highs: Forwards

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Part 1 of this article was on Tuesday, now we’re moving on to Part 2 where we are looking at the Golden Knights forward group. Again, we’re looking for the statistic each player is most likely to surpass their career-high in.

Mark Stone
Stat: Even-Strength Assists
Career High – 31

Mark Stone is a superstar, there’s really no way around it. He’s been one for a few years too, so hitting career-highs in just about anything won’t be easy. But the one number that jumped off the page was even-strength assists. I’d expect Stone to be pushing 40 assists this year (his career-high in a season is 42), and with VGK’s power play struggles most of them should come at 5-on-5. Plus, he’s awesome at 3-on-3 which could nab him a few more.

Other options: Assists (42), Games Played (80), Shorthanded Goals (1)

Max Pacioretty
Stat: Shots
Career High – 307

Pacioretty is a high-volume shooter, especially since he’s been in Vegas. It’s not uncommon to look up and see him on the board with five, six, or seven shots in a game. In 2019-20 he amassed his career-high 307 shots in just 71 games. This year, assuming he gets to around 80 games, he could easily be pushing 350. His numbers did pull back a bit last year, which is concerning, but he’s not exactly a guy with a lot of reachable career-high options.

Other options: Faceoffs Won (51), Assists (34), Power Play Goals (10)

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Tuch’s Injury Creates Power Play Opportunities And Roster Options

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been a tough week for Golden Knights fans. First the organization traded away two fan favorites only to have word come down that Alex Tuch will be out for six months with an injured shoulder. That’s a lot of difficult news in only five business days in the middle of summer.

Sticking with who’s left, filling Tuch’s role for an extended period of time will be difficult for coach Pete DeBoer. The good news is the roster has several options to help create offense, but will it be enough to improve Vegas’ lackluster power play?

(Dadonov) was a player we identified as a priority. We had him ahead of all players that were available in Expansion. That effectively addressed the need of adding one good foward. -Kelly McCrimmon

This week general manager Kelly McCrimmon acquired forward Evgenii Dadonov from Ottawa as another weapon to aid the power play, where he’s found high levels of success. Since his return to the National Hockey League in 2017-18, the 31-year-old Russian has registered 25 power play goals. In that span, he’s tied in PPG with offensive studs like Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin. Even more impressive, Dadonov posted those numbers without scoring on a man-advantage last season with Ottawa.

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