The Golden Knights are already in salary cap hell. Currently sitting $200,000 short of the league’s upper limit, Vegas has just 19 players under contract making up a roster valued at $82.3 million.
That’s without UFA’s Reilly Smith and Mattias Janmark, without RFA’s Nic Roy, Keegan Kolesar, Brett Howden, and Nic Hague, and with just four players that can be buried in the AHL without any salary leftover.
No matter how you slice it, the Golden Knights are in quite a pinch for cash, and there are a lot of difficult decisions coming up.
One such decision the VGK front office is probably hoping comes and goes without much of a headache. That’s the next contract for 23-year-old former 2nd round pick Nic Hague.
The gigantic defenseman has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s an NHL caliber blue-liner and despite an injury-riddled season that saw him miss 30 games, Hague still managed to post four goals, 10 assists, 80 blocks, and account for a decent 2.9 point shares.
Hague’s season left a lot to be desired due to the recurring injury that the team admitted they rushed him back from, but he’s clearly shown enough to become the type of asset coveted by every team in the league. That being a young defenseman with the ability to score, defensively responsible, and with room for tons of growth still having yet to hit the 150-game mark in the NHL.
Simply put, Nic Hague is due for a fairly significant raise from the $863,333 he made from his entry-level contract.
Here’s the problem for Hague. Due to his age and level of NHL experience, he’s not yet eligible for salary arbitration. Because he signed his contract at the age of 19 he must complete four seasons as a professional before he is granted arbitration rights. Hague’s last season was just his third. So, by the letter of the law in the CBA, he is only in line to be offered a one-year two-way contract worth $874,125, and he doesn’t have much of a choice but to sign it.
I went through some comparable players who have recently signed contracts (you can see them listed below with a short description of how similar they are to Hague) and it would be reasonable for Hague to command somewhere between $2.5 and $4 million next season. Plus, based on the comps, he’d probably be looking at about a three or four-year deal. Yet, the Golden Knights are going to offer him a one-year contract worth less than $900,000.
In other words, Hague is going to be forced to wait one more season to collect about the $15 million he’s already demonstrated he deserves.
That is unless he decides to force the hand of the Golden Knights.