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Predicting The Golden Knights Offseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The offseason is about to truly get going. Rosters freeze in a couple of hours, expansion lists are due slightly after that and will be released to the public tomorrow. That’s when the fun begins as each team will surrender a player to the Seattle Kraken and the deals will start coming through. Shortly after that the NHL Draft, then free agency. In the next two weeks, a whole lot of teams will look different, and the Golden Knights could be one of them.

Yes, we waited until the absolute last minute for this but now is the time. Jason and I worked together on our offseason predictions for the Golden Knights. Here’s exactly what we think will happen and what the roster will look like come Opening Night 2021-22.

NOTE: This is a guess at what we believe the Golden Knights will do. This is not an endorsement for any of these moves. (We’ll get to that when they are actually made.)

Free Agency

Alec Martinez – Unsigned

It’s simply going to cost too much for the Golden Knights to retain the two-time Cup winner. After his excellent showing in the playoffs, while playing on a broken foot, the soon-to-be 34-year old will be looking to cash in one last time. We expect him to hit the market on July 28th and sign quickly for at least $5 million AAV.

Mattias Janmark – Unsigned

George McPhee has never been a big fan of rentals, but since Kelly McCrimmon officially took the GM chair they have gone down this road a bit more. Nick Cousins was acquired and walked a few months later in free agency and we expect the same from Janmark. It’ll be interesting to see how much he can fetch on the open market as he hits unrestricted free agency for the second year running. He’s signed for $2.3 and $2.25 each of the last two years and may be headed towards that number again.

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COVID Protocols Continue To Lack Consistency

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s been a season of trial and error, which was expected. After news broke that the Golden Knights were notified during Tuesday’s game that Tomas Nosek tested positive for COVID-19, many wondered how the league would handle Vegas’ latest case. Also, how and why the results were delivered so late allowing for an infected player to dress and play. Would Vegas have to shut down and delay operations or carry on without their fourth-line center?

Tomorrow night’s game in Las Vegas between the Golden Knights and Ducks remains scheduled to be played at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. Rapid PCR Point of Care tests will be administered to all Players and staff on both teams in advance of that game (in addition to the daily lab-based PCR testing) and any decision regarding potential postponement will be made by the League’s, NHLPA’s and Clubs’ medical officials, following all COVID Protocols and local and federal regulations.-NHL

Up until now, a player being pulled from a game had only happened in the AHL, one played right here in Vegas. So, I’m sure the NHL’s judgment had to surprise even the Golden Knights organization.

Earlier this month, Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon was asked about that exact situation, and you can’t blame him for not really having an answer. His only frame of reference was a similar situation that occurred when a player from the San Jose Barracuda tested positive during a contest against the Henderson Silver Knights.

I don’t know what type of testing they were using. The NHL protocols are PCR testing everyday. I don’t know what exactly San Jose was doing, I can’t speak to any of that. So, I really don’t know the answer to that question. The situation you referred to, to my knowledge hasn’t happened at the National League level. I’m not 100% sure about that but I haven’t heard if it has.-Kelly McCrimmon on February 1st, 2021

One of the uncertainties the league should address is testing on gamedays. As we watched on Tuesday night, Nosek played two periods before the team was alerted. The 28-year-old center’s last shift was the final 10 seconds to close out the 2nd period. It was clear neither Nosek or the coaching staff were aware of the situation brewing behind the scenes.

As it turns out, gameday testing results aren’t delivered in a timely manner. According to McCrimmon, results are returned later to the team and the league that same day. Now we come to realize the outcome could come as late as 9 PM PT.

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Tomas Nosek Could’ve Opted Out, But He Chose To Play Despite Valid Reasons Not To

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The concept of leaving your family to live in a bubble for two months while competing for the Stanley Cup is going to be challenging on everyone. For everyone who experienced the first few months of nationwide lockdown, staying in your house, or hotel, for days and days on end is not ideal.

It’s even less ideal when you are forced to leave your seven-month-old baby and first-time mother behind. That’s the spot Tomas Nosek is in and it’s one that very easily could have led to him opting out of the playoffs.

Nosek’s son was born on January 2nd. He missed a game against the Flyers to be with his wife when young Patrik was born. Then, when the season was placed on halt, Nosek had to decide what to do, stay in Vegas, or head back home to the Czech Republic.

The most important thing was the health of our baby. We decided to stay. I didn’t think the Pause would be that long but it is what it is. -Nosek

That decision was made in March, well before there was any clarity about how, when, or what the return to play scenario would look like.

Unfortunately no one can come here from Czech Republic so he’s only been with us so hopefully (my wife) will go home soon and my parents and her parents can finally spend some time with their grandchild. -Nosek

To make matters even trickier, Nosek’s hockey situation is about as sticky as it gets for a bottom-six player. He’s currently set to become an unrestricted free agent when the season ends while he’s also on the bubble as to whether or not he’s even going to be in Golden Knights playoff lineup.

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Tomas Nosek Calls Future With Vegas A 50/50

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Maybe the largest question mark this offseason, other than the future of Robin Lehner, is what the Golden Knights are planning on doing with soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Tomas Nosek.

Nosek is 27-years-old and has been a staple of the Vegas lineup since the first game in franchise history. He’s played in 202 of the team’s 235 games, appeared in 24 of the 27 playoff games, and has been one of the most consistent penalty killers along the way.

His numbers in the regular season are underwhelming (23G, 24A, 202 games) as primarily a fourth-liner but his three goals in the Cup Final sets him apart from most of the upcoming free agent class.

Nosek has signed four contracts in his short NHL career. Two with Detroit prior to being selected in the Expansion Draft, and then two as a restricted free agent in Vegas. He’s never made more than he did this season when he was paid $1 million.

Nosek recently appeared in an interview, conducted in Czech and translated via closed captioning, on the Xaver Live YouTube channel. He was asked about his future plans but made it sound like the decision is mostly out of his hands.

First we need to know where I will play. There’s no agreement about next season yet so we need to wait until the situation is clear and that will determine where my family will stay and live. Of course I don’t want to leave the Vegas team. I started here, so it would be great to stay. However, it’s all about business so it’s a management decision. The current chance is 50/50. –Nosek on Xaver Live YouTube

This previous offseason, Nosek technically hit unrestricted free agency for a moment. The Golden Knights did not extend a qualifying offer which made him a UFA before he signed the one-year $1 million deal that set him up to become a free agent again this summer.

Despite making it clear he wants to stay, Nosek says the Golden Knights are not ready to sign an extension while the season is paused.

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Nosek Adjusting Well To His New Life Outside Of Hockey

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Juggling responsibilities can be tough for any parent in Las Vegas. It’s a balancing act between their families and their professional lives. Especially, for a first-time parent. So what is it like for a professional hockey player?

Tomas Nosek and his wife welcomed in a son earlier in the season, and it’s been nothing but joy for the young family.

Yeah it’s a new life for sure. Sometimes it’s hard but I love it so far. It’s a great experience and a great moment in my life. -Tomas Nosek

However, just like every other new Mom or Dad, it took Nosek some time to adjust. Although he gives full credit to his wife, the center still pitches in when he can.

So far he’s been sleeping well for a baby, I think. I try to stay up after the games. I can’t sleep either way so I try to stay up after games. Before the games I get my sleep and my wife takes over. It’s not big of a change with my sleeping, but it’s a huge change for everything else on our lives. -Nosek

Imagine playing a bruising, 60-minute hockey game and coming home to a crying baby with a soiled diaper. It might sound tiring but it’s not a big deal for the depth centerman. Nosek surprised himself how well he handles the difficult tasks. If he can handle the nastiness of an NHL game, changing diapers must be a breeze.

Honestly I thought it would be a lot worse but when I changed the first diaper it really wasn’t that bad. Maybe I thought it was going to be more smelly, so far I don’t have a problem with that. He loves to take his baths and it’s always fun to see him play in the water. My wife breast pumps so I can feed him too. So it’s nice.-Nosek

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Carrier’s Versatility and Awareness Makes Life Easier For DeBoer

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For the better part of three seasons, William Carrier has played a role on the 4th line, and he’s played it well. His versatility, however, has allowed both coaching staffs to use him up and down the lineup. When injuries occur, his quick, forceful style has no trouble handling more minutes and shifts.

After his latest stint on the 3rd line, Carrier is heading back to the place he knows best, 4th line left wing. It’s not a problem for him though, he accepts his role on the team and enjoys his strong bond with linemates Ryan Reaves and Tomas Nosek. Also, let’s face it, the 3rd line isn’t as fun.

I had a great time playing up there but for right now I think Karly is coming back. So I’ll head back with Reavo and Nosey out there… I think our 4th line has more goals than the 3rd line. -Carrier

Carrier didn’t bitch and moan or pout. It’s an important job being a utility player that occasionally fills in for injured teammates. There’s zero ego with Carrier. He gives max effort every night, never veers from his aggressive style, and will do whatever the coaches ask.

It’s all about roles. I can go out there and play top roles but I’ll probably turn the puck over more times than I’d make the plays. Sure, I would pick up more points than I have now, but as a 4th line we can’t do that. We have to be a plus-one line every night.-Carrier

The Golden Knights recognize #28 as a hard-working, heavy forechecking type player. A better scouting report would be, Carrier’s a bull that will create an exciting scoring chance and a glass shaking check in the same shift. His nightly consistency gives DeBoer the option to use him to help pick up the tempo, or bring some life to his club.

This group of guys know what role we have. Each guy knows what they have to bring night after night. It’s working out for us. Everyone is mature and everyone’s got their role. If you don’t get your role, than those guys aren’t with us no more. I think they’re trying to keep the guys around that fit best with the team. Every guy here has their own role, and we try and fill them as best we can. -Carrier

When Carrier talks about maturity and understanding roles, you realize how dedicated he is to winning. He executes his assignments, knows everyone else’s, and is prepared for anything. He’s highly aware of the team’s objectives.

I was a point a game guy in juniors. Maybe now, I don’t try those plays the top guys make. When there’s a chance to create an offensive play I’m going to try it out. I think it’s all about poise, confidence and making plays.-Carrier

This season, Carrier is on pace for career bests. He’s already passed his mark for most games played, and will more than double his highest point total. He’ll tell you to put the statistics aside though because winning means more than any personal accomplishment.

It’s always team-first with this guy.

An Idea On How To Deploy The Bottom Six When Cody Eakin Returns

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It’s not the way anyone envisioned it coming to be, but the 3rd line of William Carrier, Cody Glass, and Alex Tuch was formed three games ago. In those three games, the Golden Knights have earned points in each and won two on the road.

They’ve also received three goals and five assists from that line. They’ve created eight scoring chances in 26 minutes of play and have a 54% Corsi.

But where they’ve been best is in the eye test. Since the Golden Knights have been a franchise, they’ve never had a 3rd line look as good as Carrier, Glass, and Tuch have looked over the past three games. Tuch is driving offense, Glass is controlling the defensive end, and Carrier is winning puck battles helping set up the cycle to spend time in the offensive zone.

Tuch has returned to the right-wing, Glass to his natural center position, and Carrier is playing with the most offensive talent since he’s been a Golden Knight. It’s not the perfect line, but it’s certainly an upgrade on what they’ve gotten throughout this season with Cody Eakin as the center.

Tuch scored just one goal in 10 games with Eakin. He has three with Glass and Carrier. Glass has just three assists in 23 games playing with Eakin. He has two in three games with Tuch and Carrier.

However, the fourth line hasn’t looked quite the same without Carrier. Ryan Reaves has struggled without Carrier recording just five hits in three games while Carrier was on the 3rd line. Tomas Nosek still appears to play better as a center than a winger. And Stephenson scored the goal, but doesn’t quite seem a match for Nosek and Reaves.

Eakin remains out week-to-week with an upper body injury, so the decision on where to put him when he returns is not imminent, but after just three games on the road, it might be time to start considering where else he might fit.

The key question moving forward will become usage. Eakin has averaged about 15 minutes of ice time each season with the Golden Knights. That’s normal for a 3rd line center with penalty-killing duties. But, if he finds himself relegated to the 4th line, his TOI will likely drop under 10 minutes per game as has been the case for Reaves in 66% of games this season. That also means relying more heavily on Glass, something Gerard Gallant has not shown a willingness to do. (He’s played more than 14 minutes in less than half his NHL appearances.)

Vegas has never used an interchanging line system throughout an entire game, but they may want to consider it when Eakin is ready to return. With Glass, Eakin, Carrier, Reaves (or Nosek), Tuch, and Stephenson, there are multiple combinations that can be deployed depending on the situation.

Rather than lay out the standard two lines and roll them over, they could be mixed and matched depending on draw location, score, matchup, and stamina. Here are just a few of the logical trios that could be made out of that group.

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