Over the next two months, the Golden Knights will tweak their roster in hopes of creating a legitimate contender. Every maneuver the club decides to make will need to keep the salary cap in consideration. Yesterday Ken shared his predictions, now here’s mine.
TRADE – Alec Martinez and a 5th round pick traded to the Detroit for a 4th round pick
There’s just no way around it, the Golden Knights need to shed salary. Trading Martinez to Detroit makes sense for both teams and the player. The Wings have space and could use an elder statesman to direct their young d-core, and mentor Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider. Let’s not forget to mention Martinez was born and bred in Rochester Hills, MI. It’ll hurt the Golden Knights but in a cap world space is much more important than an expensive veteran with miles. This also allows some flexibility for a possible multi-year deal with Nic Hague.
TRADE – Laurent Brossoit and a 4th round pick to Dallas for 5th round pick
Brossoit is another easy candidate for some cap relief. Logan Thompson made his case to become Robin Lehner’s backup and proved he can handle the pressure of being a number one. This allows the Golden Knights front office to undo their unnecessary spending of $2.5M last summer. It might seem like an odd destination considering new Stars coach Pete DeBoer had some sharp comments after one of Brossoit’s performances in Vegas. However, there’s space and a fit for a veteran backup to support up-and-comer Jake Oettinger.
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.
It was a difficult season for the Golden Knights and specifically captain Mark Stone. The 30-year-old forward skated in the least amount of games since his second year in the league. Injuries plagued not only his season but the entire Golden Knights roster as well. According to Stone, the locker room felt foreign due to the shuffling of player. Not only were the players dealing with injuries, they were frustrated nightly by their underperforming power play. As Stone put it, the Golden Knights tasted their first slice of humble pie.
We had some pretty fluky injuries that were really hard to recover from during the season. We’re a veteran group so it’ll be nice to get the bodies healed and ready to go for the start of the season. Kind of prove that we’re good as we think we are. Got a little taste of humble pie this season and wasn’t fun to be a part of.-Mark Stone on Sirius NHL radio
The ten year veteran watched the team flounder without his services and the likes of other vital Golden Knights players. Not only was it troublesome on the ice the club was having difficulties in the locker room as well. Stone never mentioned the roster was fractured but it was noticeably different from years past.
Everybody in that dressing room has to take a good hard look in the mirror and get back to the way things were done in the past and get back to our roots a little bit. It was a difficult year as far as adding 10-15 new players. It seemed like we had to reintroduce ourselves every night. We got to get back to being that hard working team out working our opponents. That’s when we allow our skill to take over.-Mark Stone on Sirius NHL radio
As VGK fans heard all season, extended injuries severely impacted their results. Stone openly discussed his back surgery and also mentioned the Golden Knights may be without their number one stopper for an unspecified amount of time.
Considering I got back surgery a month ago I don’t think there’s much to debate. I’m battling a pretty bad back and ended up getting a discectomy and should be ready to go first day of training camp. In the bubble Robin was one of the best goalies on the planet. As it goes for most guys this year in our team he battled tons of health issues. He got shoulder surgery and probably going to be out for quite awhile. He’s just looking to get healthy and prove everyone wrong again.-Mark Stone on Sirius NHL radio
At this point the injury plagued season is in the past and Stone is preparing mentally and physically for a bounce back season. With the addition of new coach Bruce Cassidy the captain expects more ferocity from his teammates.
I think he’s going to bring a lot of intensity to the room. I think he’s going to get the best of our players. I love the way Boston plays. They are so hard to play against. I’m excited. I love our talent and now I’m excited to see we’re we can go with him and see if he can push all the right buttons to get us over that hump. And have even more success.-Mark Stone on Sirius NHL radio
Another reason for optimism is Stone will finally be able to build chemistry with star center Jack Eichel. The Golden Knights front office traded for the high end center to match up with their highly paid, two-way winger. Barring no injuries the two will anchor VGK’s most lethal line. It’ll be up to Cassidy to figure out who will skate with Eichel and Stone.
Yeah I can’t wait. I only got to play eight games with him. I almost felt so bad for him. When he came back pretty much all of us left the lineup and weren’t able to help him. There are so many wrong takes on Jack Eichel the player and the person. More than anyone he works on his game as much as anyone I’ve ever played with him. I’m excited to get him feeling comfortable and ready to go for opening day come October.-Mark Stone on Sirius NHL radio
Unprovoked, Stone addressed the swirling comments that have surrounded Eichel since his days in Buffalo. For the most part Golden Knights fans don’t care what happened in Buffalo. It’s not their problem, he plays in Vegas now but clearly Vegas’ captain felt the need to praise his teammate’s work ethic.
In two of the most important regular season games in franchise history, the Golden Knights attempted 159 shots with 83 of them reaching the net. They’ve scored just twice including a puck that was kicked in by an opposing team player and a 6-on-5 goal to cut the deficit from two to one with not much time left.
A year ago, in Games 5 and 6 of the Conference Finals, the Golden Knights attempted 121 shots, saw 66 reach the goal and scored just three times.
The year before that, again in the Conference Finals, the Golden Knights attempted 134 shots, 69 reaching the goal, and again scored just three times.
Six crucial games, a total of eight goals, and six losses that all resulted either directly or indirectly in the end of Vegas’ season.
We have to look in the mirror. This has been a historical problem here, going dry at the wrong times. There’s no excuses this time of year. You have to find a way to win and step up in the most important moments. -Pete DeBoer
The inability to score has been a problem that has plagued each of the past three Golden Knights’ seasons. It’s a problem that confuses many from both the eye test and the advanced analytic perspective as Vegas appears to be dominating games, handling their opponents, and yet time and time again, when the games mean the most, they end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
This season, Vegas has attempted the 7th most shots in the league and they’re 8th in shot attempts. However, they’ve scored on just 5.1% of those attempts and 9.2% of shots on goal. Those numbers are good for 20th and 24th in the NHL..
There’s a fine line between wanting to put everything on net and at the same time you’re making the goalie feel good if you are just throwing it on net from everywhere. It’s about having the confidence and making the extra play to make the goalie get out of position, make him go lateral and give yourself a better chance to score. -Max Pacioretty
There are no guarantees in professional sports. In all leagues, there are highly-regarded teams each year that miss the postseason. Some by a large margin and other times by a few percentage points. Sadly, the badly wounded Golden Knights are one of those teams at risk of missing their mark.
I never anticipated that the injuries would last so long and just compound, one after the other. Sunday, we had eight guys out. In Seattle, we had nine guys out. Take that many guys out of your lineup and you lose your depth. –Kelly McCrimmon to Sportsnet
Injuries as we know are impacting results but last night’s effort wasn’t only about injuries. It was a lousy performance by 19 relatively healthy players, and it could cost them their season. Coach Pete DeBoer never mentioned missing players or a banged-up lineup in his postgame press conference. He only wanted to move on.
We were awful. We were awful in front of the net, we were awful in breakouts, we were awful everywhere. We were no good. So we’re going to flush it, move on, and get ready for Saturday. -Pete DeBoer
Golden Knights fans have seen it countless times, some nights certain teams just don’t have it. Normally, it happens in November, or off a back-to-back or when families visit for a mild-weathered Christmas. Unfortunately, injuries make it difficult to predict when a dud of a game will occur.
If we can get in, I think we know what to expect at playoff time. We will be a tough out. –McCrimmon to Sportsnet
Last night was not the best example of Golden Knights hockey and they didn’t look like a desperate club trying to make the playoffs. It’s concerning DeBoer couldn’t get his team to play up to their abilities in such an important game. His superiors reminded Sportsnet it’s difficult to coach on any given night without their top performers.
As of today, the Golden Knights stand one point ahead of the Dallas Stars for the last wildcard spot. Since LA lost last night, Vegas is within striking distance of a top-three Pacific Division postseason slot as well. There are many moving parts but the local club muddied the waters and made up ground during their latest five-game winning streak.
Who are they when they get in there? The Vegas standard has risen so much. They’ve had so much success and they’ve had so many expectations. –David Backes on Jeff Marek Show
While coach Pete DeBoer and his players are taking care of their end, pundits across the league are still having trouble believing in Vegas’ postseason success. Former St. Louis Blues captain David Backes joined Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek to express his concerns about the Golden Knights’ identity after a season marred with injuries.
It’s a team that’s got a lot of great pieces but whether it’s due to injury, and when you’re losing your captain for long stretches, or if you’ve lost character guys in the room. I feel like they missing some direction and identity. I think you’d rather be a team that was undermanned and under skilled with identity than a team that’s got skill and all of the pieced without identity. –Backes on Jeff Marek Show
It’s possible by Game 1 of the postseason the Golden Knights are close(r) to being a healthier team. Captain Mark Stone and sniper Max Pacioretty would add significant boosts to Vegas’ offense and esteem. Both have the ability to take over a game with Stone’s two-way play and Pacioretty’s nasty wrist shot. However, how healthy will they be? And will their lack of action hurt team chemistry? Keep in mind, Stone has never shared the ice with Jack Eichel. Sure, both are incredibly rare talents but all professional athletes need familiarity to maximize success.
Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek presumes Vegas may not rebound this season. Not only due to several devastating injuries but also because of the organization’s intense culture.
It’s tough when faces of the franchise leave. We’ve talked a lot about how Vegas has a ruthless pursuit of the Cup. It’s at all costs. If we can improve the team it doesn’t matter what this guy or that guy has done for the squad. You’re gone. Whether it’s Ryan Reaves, Marc-Andre Fleury is perhaps the best example. Maybe Gerard Gallant, who had the nerve to take the team to the Stanley Cup Final. Nate Schmidt is another great example. All jettisoned. You understand it, this is the business the hockey. –Jeff Marek on Sportsnet 590
Tonight the Golden Knights will face an electric Florida Panthers team that won’t have trouble scoring. In their last ten games, the Panthers have 40 combined goals scored. Vegas on the other hand, has a total of 25. It well could be another one of those nights. We’re all hoping it’s not.
This is not how Vegas operates. Vegas isn’t fond about making excuses. Maybe management would look at it and say ‘we got thirty million dollars worth of players that are wearing suits.’ I don’t know if the owner looks at it that way. -Jeff Marek on 32 Thoughts Podcast
Of course, fans would rather the Golden Knights compete for a Stanley Cup this postseason but it seems like a hopeless dream at this point. Vegas has been devastated with injuries and there’s no doubting that. The Golden Knights’ goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals may have unfortunately been upended by the injury bug. It’s an excuse, but some would argue it’s a darn good excuse.
Look at how much money you’ve got in injured reserve or long term injured reserve. Between all of those guys you’re over $30 million dollars out of the lineup. -Elliotte Friedman on 32 Thoughts Podcast
Most injuries are uncontrollable and an unfortunate element of professional sports. Sadly, some teams cannot make up for impactful players getting hurt and missing significant amounts of time. It’s unlikely the Golden Knights will never be fully healthy this season. Even if the club makes a remarkable run to the finals it won’t be enough time for each injury to completely heal. Don’t get me wrong, if Mark Stone and Alec Martinez are available in the playoffs they will dress. They may not be 100% healthy but they will play their tuchuses off.
Realistically, it probably wouldn’t be enough to eliminate Calgary, Colorado, or Tampa Bay in a seven-game series. So, what’s wrong with planning ahead?
It hasn’t been easy for the Golden Knights in 2022. Overall, Vegas has lost 14 games this calendar year and collected only 24 out of a possible 48 points. It gets even worse. Since January 1st, the Golden Knights have scored the second least number of goals in the entire league. Adding to insult, Vegas has a meager .375 winning percentage in one-goal games since January.
It’s been a challenge considering the injuries Vegas has faced but like Sunday against the Senators, the Golden Knights just need to find ways to win. So how bad has 2022 been for Vegas? Well, let’s examine the numbers.
Goals Scored In 2022
Toronto 113 ** 31. Vegas 61
Goals Scored Per Game In 2022
Calgary 3.85 ** 28. Vegas 2.54
It’s no secret the Golden Knights have been struggling to score. Against a below-average Philadelphia team, Vegas’ offense stunk up the joint only creating one goal on 48 shots. You can give credit to hot goaltenders or look in the mirror and accept how poorly the club shoots the puck. Fourteen games this season the Golden Knights have shot 40 or more times on net. After Tuesday’s loss, Vegas is 5-8-1 when they shoot 40+.
Highest Shooting Percentage In 2022
St. Louis 12.7%
Tampa Bay 12.4%
Florida 12.2% ** 32. Vegas 7.4%
The game against the Flyers was the 11th time the Golden Knights scored 2 goals or fewer goals since the turn of the calendar year. After four postseason exits, fans are well aware scoring two goals in the playoffs won’t cut it.
The NHL is a wins and losses business, and with that comes the harsh reality that most players are judged by one single measurement of production, goals.
Simply put, the more a player is paid, the more he’s expected to put the puck in the back of the net. When they do, everything is great. It’s when they don’t that things start to get a lot more complicated.
For the Golden Knights, this is amplified even further as they have crashed out of the playoffs in back-to-back seasons in large part because of their inability to score, and more specifically, the best players’ inability to score.
I think we have these conversations every day and someone is always riding a goal drought. That’s just how it is. It was Reilly Smith for a while. It was Max Pacioretty after he got back from injury. I just think that’s the NHL today. If you look around the league, there’s very few guys that score consistently all the time, or lines. -Pete DeBoer
The Golden Knights have just five players with at least 10 goals this season, and all of them have had at least some sort of drought.
The most consistent of the bunch, Jonathan Marchessault, is currently riding his longest goal drought of the season of five games. Max Pacioretty, the team’s second-highest scorer just busted an 11-game drought. The aforementioned Smith has gone 10 games between goals twice this year with the most recent spanning the entire month of January. Evgenii Dadonov hasn’t found the net in any of the team’s last 11. Even Chandler Stephenson, in his breakout offensive season, had a stretch of seven games scoreless.
Everybody wants to score, everybody wants to contribute, everybody wants a good stat line. You can talk all you want about the details and intangibles but those guys, especially the guys we’re talking about, measure it by those statlines. -DeBoer
Managing those droughts is a huge part of keeping a team together over the course of a season.
I think everybody handles it differently but I think guys start to wear it for sure. You can see their frustration come out the longer it goes. It’s trying to minimize those droughts to shorter periods and not let it snowball into something gigantic. -DeBoer
That’s been a challenge for both this season and in previous postseasons for the Golden Knights. Injuries have certainly compounded the issue as well this year.
The team’s attitude seems to be pretty good about it though. They’ve mentioned a “natural frustration” that sets in when individuals or the team is not scoring, but as a whole, it hasn’t affected their ability to win games. Unlike many teams that rely on top scorers to contribute the lion’s share of the team’s goal production, the Golden Knights have gotten it throughout the lineup, and especially from defensemen.
When you are winning games it’s a lot easier than when you are losing. -DeBoer
Individually, the droughts will continue for certain players at times during the rest of the season, but as long as the collective keeps chipping in as they have all year, they too shall pass.