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Late Summer Forward Free Agent Options

A couple of days ago I illustrated how thin the Golden Knights are at forward outside of their top 12. Aside from Valentin Zykov, who scored two goals, Vegas currently does not employ a single forward who scored an NHL goal last year that will not be in their starting lineup on October 2nd.

That’s why it would probably be wise for George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon to scour the UFA list and find at least one cheap option to add some veteran depth to the Golden Knights bench.

Here are five options that could make sense, without breaking the bank.

Tobias Rieder

Yep, Brandon has a Tobias Rieder photo. #BestInTheBiz (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Rieder started off his career fairly well in Arizona scoring 13, 14, and 16 goals in his first three seasons. He was then traded to the Kings at the deadline in 2018 where things didn’t work out very well. He signed a one year contract in Edmonton this past offseason where he played 67 games and went goalless. There’s no doubt his career seems to be headed in the wrong direction at the age of 26, but he’s a defensively responsible player, never takes penalties (he’s gotten Lady Byng votes in three separate seasons) and he’s been able to score in his past. Reider has consistently started more shifts in the D-zone than O-zone and yet still boasts a nearly 3:1 takeaway to giveaway margin in his career. Plus, he’s fast and he kills penalties. Last year he signed for $2 million with Edmonton and was released when he was not extended a qualifying offer that would have also paid him around $2 million. Reasonably, he should be gettable for right around $1 million, and the Golden Knights should absolutely be in the market for his services.

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Three Years Later, Still Hard To Find Expansion Draft Mishaps

In 2000, both the Wild and Blue Jackets passed over Martin St. Louis. He went on to score 391 goals and put up over 1,000 points before being elected into the Hall of Fame. In 1993, Dominik Hasek was there for the Ducks and Panthers. He went on to win six Vezina trophies, two Hart trophies, two Stanley Cups, and become one of the best goalies ever before he was elected into the Hall.

In every Expansion Draft through the history of sports, there’s at least one. One big name that slipped through the cracks and would have changed everything for the new team that didn’t take him.

It’s been just over three years since the Golden Knights announced their expansion roster dealing with the best rules any expansion team had ever seen. They amassed tons of extra picks, selected multiple diamonds in the rough like William Karlsson and Nate Schmidt, and they even got themselves a superstar in Marc-Andre Fleury.

There were misses though. Ranked in order, here are the most influential misses from the 2017 Expansion Draft. (I ranked them in order from most to least influential.)

Colorado Avalanche
VGK Pick: Calvin Pickard (traded for Tobias Lindberg and 2018 6th Round pick which became Peter Diliberatore)
Exposed: Carl Soderberg

Since not being selected in the Expansion Draft, Soberberg has amassed 86 points in 159 games. Only four Golden Knights have reached at least 86 points in the two-year history of the team (Marchessault, Karlsson, Tuch). Soderberg also received Selke votes in 2018-19. The $4,750,000 cap hit would have been a bit tricky on the Golden Knights, but a player like Soderberg certainly seems exponentially more valuable than what Vegas got out of Pickard.

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Gallant Happy With Third Line; “Want Them To Keep Doing What They Are Doing”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With the trade deadline fast approaching, the buzz around the Golden Knights is almost squarely focused on the third line. It’s a line with only one stable piece, the center, Cody Eakin, and filled with imperfect wingers such as Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov, Tomas Nosek, Ryan Carpenter, and Oscar Lindberg.

Most, including all three who write on this website, believe for the Golden Knights to reach the top of the mountain, something needs to change with that line. Whether it’s an addition from within, a piece added at the deadline, or reinforcements from the current top six, here at SinBin.vegas, we see the third line as the primary weakness for the Golden Knights.

The head coach, who happens to be the reigning Jack Adams award winner, does not agree.

I want them to keep doing what they are doing. People make a big deal of it that supposedly they don’t score enough. I don’t. We’ve got guys who can put the puck in the back of the net. Those guys have to come out and play their roles. I love a lot about our hockey team, I’m not too concerned at all. -Gerard Gallant

Gallant, speaking on the VGK Insider Show with Frank Harnish and Ryan The Hockey Guy on Fox Sports 98.9 FM, says he thinks his team is just fine offensively, even with the third line as currently constructed.

Well you know what, I think people overreact a little bit saying ‘oh this line needs to be better’ or ‘you’ve got to make that line better.’

I’m not worried about scoring. I know we’ve got the scoring in there. I’m worried about team chemistry and making sure we’ve got the right players playing at the right time. -Gallant

In fact, he went on to make an even bolder statement, declaring this year’s team as good as last year’s.

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What Should/Will The Golden Knights Do With Brandon Pirri And Their Roster Crunch In The Coming Weeks?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The emergence of scoring wizard Brandon Pirri, coupled with injuries to Colin Miller and Max Pacioretty, and the waiver claim of Valentin Zykov has left the Golden Knights in a roster pickle, with 25 players and only 23 available spots.

There are a few questions on just about every Golden Knights fan’s mind and we’ll attempt to answer every single one in this article. Read on.

The Facts

As of this moment, the Golden Knights roster stands at 23 with Colin Miller and Max Pacioretty on IR.

Pacioretty skated with the team in practice yesterday, is expected to do so again, and will likely play either tomorrow or Sunday. Miller skated before practice yesterday, will likely do so again today, and shouldn’t be much more than a week or so away from making his return to the Golden Knights lineup.

Valentin Zykov was claimed on waivers from the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. Per NHL rules, if the Golden Knights want to keep Zykov, he must remain on the NHL roster for the remainder of the season.

Brandon Pirri has scored six goals in seven games with the Golden Knights and has played on the 2nd line with Alex Tuch and Paul Stastny in all seven games. Per NHL rules, Pirri is allowed to be sent back to the AHL without clearing waivers if he does not play in 10 games OR is on the active roster for fewer than 30 days. Thus, if he plays three more games or is on the roster for another 15 days, he would have to once again clear waivers to be sent back to the AHL.

Through 43 games, Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Carpenter, Tomas Nosek, Pierre-Edouard-Bellemare, Max Pacioretty and Ryan Reaves are the only forwards on the roster to have been scratched by Gerard Gallant without being on IR. Reaves, Pacioretty, and Bellemare were each scratched once and they all are believed to be injury or family/medical related. Carpenter has been scratched three times, Nosek has been scratched four times, and Lindberg has been scratched 23 times. However, in the past six games that Gallant has had to choose two of those three, he has scratched each one of them two times. The most recent player to be scratched was Nosek.

Reading Into It

I was specifically warned against doing this, but what’s the point of the Internet if not to do things people tell you not to and make them angry (Sorry, I’m not sorry Turk).

Let’s start with Zykov as he’s the biggest unknown of all of this. The Golden Knights could instantly clear one spot on their roster by immediately putting Zykov back on waivers. That would allow either Pacioretty or Miller to come off IR and the roster remain at 23.

However, Gallant made a comment in a recent press conference that he started watching film on Zykov “the first time he went on waivers” which indicates that Vegas may have wanted him originally. They did not have priority so he went to Edmonton, then when he hit waivers again, Vegas claimed him and got him. Thus, it makes sense that this is not a short-term rental that won’t be given a chance, but instead that McPhee/Gallant see something they like and they want to give him a shot.

He’s expected to finally make it into the country today after having some immigration issues. He’ll probably practice a few times with the team before getting in a game, but if he remains on the roster when Pacioretty comes back, it should be expected that he gets at least some game action with the Golden Knights.

So, let’s say we expect him to stay, at least for a little while. When Pacioretty comes off IR someone is going to have to be taken off the roster to comply to the 23 man limit.

The easiest option would be for another injured player to be placed on IR. At the moment, the Golden Knights do not have any other players we believe to be injured. In January of last season, when VGK was in a similar bind, Jon Merrill was placed on IR with what was described as an “undisclosed injury,” to make room for Luca Sbisa who came off IR. Clearly, it is against the rules to declare a player that is not injured, injured, however, don’t be completely stunned if there’s a surprise injury that we were unaware of that leads to an IR stint which opens a roster spot for Pacioretty.

If that were not to happen, then McPhee would have to choose one player to be sent back to Chicago. The most likely options are the three forwards previously mentioned (Carpenter, Lindberg, or Nosek), one of the commonly scratched defensemen (Merrill or Hunt) or Brandon Pirri. Before we move on, let’s address Pirri.

Can you really send Pirri back to the AHL?

The short answer is yes, they absolutely can, and the reason is not that he’s not good enough to be on this team. The main reason is that if he doesn’t hit that 10th game, he’s the only guy on the roster (aside from Tuch and we know that’s not happening) that can go to the AHL without risk of being lost on waivers.

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Gallant Says He Learned Something New On How He’s Handled Oscar Lindberg

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Gerard Gallant has been a coach in the NHL for 445 games, winning 222 of them. He’s been the head man of three different teams, won the Jack Adams Award, and brought his team to within three wins of lifting the Stanley Cup. Yet, heading into game 446, he’s still figuring things out.

I look back at how (Oscar Lindberg) missed a bunch of games in a row and I said to him in the last week or so that you know what, I probably shouldn’t have done it that way. I don’t like doing it that way, sitting a player that long, but that’s the way it happened and moving forward I probably wouldn’t do that again. I’ll probably give a guy a chance a lot quicker to get back in the lineup. You look at those situations and you learn something new every day. -Gerard Gallant

Prior to his re-insertion into the lineup on 12/4 against Washington, Oscar Lindberg had been a healthy scratch for six straight games. Before that, he played in two but was scratched for the previous nine. All in all, Lindberg has sat out of 20 of the Golden Knights 36 games and before the current seven-game stretch of being in the lineup, he hadn’t played more than four in straight all season.

We recently wrote about how Lindberg’s strong play has forced Gallant to make a few lineup moves, but the revelation that he doesn’t like the idea of sitting a player out that long is interesting to say the least, especially when you consider the fact that Lindberg has played well under the circumstances.

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Oscar Lindberg Forcing Gallant To Shuffle Lineup

Lindberg has been out of the lineup so much, we don’t even have a picture of him from this season. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Daniel Carr’s demotion to the AHL, Reid Duke’s inability to get into the lineup, the Pacioretty healthy scratch or injured situation, Ryan Reaves’ mysterious absence from the game at MSG, and the major line shuffle that went with it. Plus, the recent decision by Gallant to stop giving out lineup and injury information. All of this can be tracked down to one guy, Oscar Lindberg.

On December 4th Oscar Lindberg was forced into the Golden Knights lineup when Max Pacioretty had to take a game off because he was “not feeling well.” Lindberg was slotted into the top six to play with Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin. In that game, Lindberg recorded his first two points of the season, he was on the ice for 13 scoring chances while allowing just one (according to NaturalStatTrick.com), and by all accounts played a great game.

He played real good. I was real happy for him. He got a chance to play tonight and like I said Pacioretty didn’t play tonight but Oscar stepped in there and did a great job and had a good game and that’s what we want from him so I’m happy for him. -Gerard Gallant in 12/4 postgame press conference

The following morning, Daniel Carr was optioned to the AHL and Reid Duke was recalled. The reason for this move was because with Pacioretty ready to come back into the lineup, either Lindberg, Carr, or someone else had to come out. Gallant chose Carr, which caused McPhee to send him back to the minors to stop the clock on his waiver status.

This is the first of many decisions that have been made because of Lindberg’s stellar play.

On December 6th, Lindberg played well once again, especially when looking at the advanced stats. He did not record a point but scored a goal that was eventually wiped off the board due to a whacky goalie interference review.

Yet again, Lindberg deserved to stay in the lineup. This continued for the next four games, in which Lindberg posted three points. All the while, Reid Duke remained on the Golden Knights roster waiting for his chance to make his NHL debut. That chance never came, as Duke was eventually optioned back to the AHL to make room for Paul Stastny to come off IR.

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Golden Knights Reserves Become Fans Like Everyone Else

We know they’d rather be on the ice, but the VGK healthy scratches maintain the right attitude. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Imagine this. You’ve worked your entire life to become a professional hockey player, make it to the National Hockey League, and to eventually play for the Stanley Cup. Then, your team makes it there, coach brings down the lineup card, and your name is not on it. Rather than play in the game, you are destined to sit in the press box wearing a suit and watch. Sounds like the worst, right? Actually…

It’s awesome. When you’re sitting upstairs and we score a goal guys are jumping and down, hugging each other. That’s what it’s all about. Everyone is a part of the same goal. -Brad Hunt

Hunt hasn’t played since April 7th in Calgary, the Golden Knights last regular season game.

Guys like myself, Jonny (Merrill), and others who haven’t played in awhile, we all want everyone to do so good because we know it’s a chance at something we may never get a chance to do again. It’s been so special. -Hunt

Talking to Hunt, fellow defenseman Jon Merrill, and others, you’d think these guys average 20 minutes a night in the postseason.

I’m honestly more nervous when I’m not playing. When you’re out there playing you’re not thinking about anything, you’re just playing. When you’re upstairs you’re just a fan, you want the boys to win so bad. -Jon Merrill

Golden Misfits? More like Nervous Nellies.

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