**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to SinBin.vegas for the 2021 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**
With the second half of the Golden Knights’ season starting this afternoon in Los Angeles, the team is sitting pretty in first place in the West Division with a 21-6-1 record, 43 points, and a league-best points percentage of .768. But we need to look at the big picture and the upcoming playoffs in May.
The NHL trade deadline is April 12. But it’s never too early to talk about potential deals, particularly in a year where the word “quarantine” comes into play.
As history has shown, the Golden Knights are usually major players at the deadline. In the first season, it was obtaining Tomas Tatar and Ryan Reaves. In Year Two, it was trading for Mark Stone. Last year, it was Robin Lehner. In each instance, it was about trying to make the team better and have a roster that can win the Stanley Cup.
Notice I said “win” and not “compete for.” The Knights roster, as currently constructed, is good enough to compete for the Cup. But is it good enough to win it?
I don’t believe it is.
The lack of consistent bottom-six scoring is the biggest issue. Defensive depth is a potential secondary hazard though I think the Knights could get by without a major move on the blue line given the play of Dylan Coghlan, Nic Hague, and Zach Whitecloud. And presumably, they’ll have Alex Pietrangelo back in time for the postseason. If they need to trot Nick Holden out there, they can get by with doing it.
Playoff hockey is different. There are no weaklings to beat up on and if your fourth line isn’t contributing, it puts you at a distinct disadvantage. In the playoffs, your opponents are geared to shut down your top line, and as we saw last year in the Edmonton bubble, nothing can hasten your exit from the postseason faster than a hot goaltender who prevents you from putting the puck in the net. The bottom line is you need contributions from all four lines on a consistent basis during the postseason if you’re serious about having a Stanley Cup championship parade in July.
GM Kelly McCrimmon told the RJ earlier in the week he didn’t anticipate history repeating itself and the team making a big splash at the deadline. Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet’s respected insider, echoed similar comments, I assume after talking to either GMKM or Prez George, in his weekly 31 Thoughts column.
The big issue is the salary cap. Unless Pietrangelo’s LTIR for his left arm injury runs through the remainder of the regular season, which Pete DeBoer indicates isn’t likely, the Knights are limited in what they can do. The potential to grow the LTIR list ended Friday with the return of Chandler Stephenson and Alex Tuch, which is good news for the present.
So to make a deal, the Knights would likely have to move someone on the current roster to accommodate whoever they trade for. I doubt they want to break up the current band to add a backup singer, especially after going through what they went through in the offseason to construct this lineup.