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5 GM Do-Overs We Wish The Golden Knights Could Make

It’s pretty much universally accepted that the Golden Knights front office dominated the Expansion Draft. Not only did they build a team that was good enough to come within three wins of lifting the Stanley Cup, but they acquired a heap of assets to go with it. Since June 21, 2017 though, it’s been a bit bumpier of a road.

I saw a tweet yesterday that got the wheels turning in my mind to go back over some of the worst moves in VGK history. As I did it, I realized just how many good moves have been made since then too. So, this has turned into a two-parter! Today we start with the five do-overs and Saturday we’ll unveil the 5 do-agains.

Here we go…

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

5) Allowing David Perron to leave in free agency

Following the inaugural season and the subsequent run to the Stanley Cup Final it was clear David Perron had fallen out of favor in some way with the Golden Knights organization. He missed the last week of the season, the first two playoff games against the Kings, then found himself as a healthy scratch for two of the five Winnipeg games and one Stanley Cup Final game.

This seemed to overshadow the fact that Perron was one of the most reliable players on the VGK roster the entire season and offered a unique skillset the team has never replaced. His ability to control the puck in the offensive zone, either at even-strength or on the power play opened up space for his teammates and gave the Golden Knights a different look than their usual transition-oriented attacking style.

It was sold as a rebuilding of the 2nd line due to poor defensive statistics, but it seemed to be more about Perron’s age and health than anything else. He went on to sign a four-year deal with a $4 million AAV in St. Louis that has proven to be a steal of a contract. He has 164 points in 184 games with the Blues, more than Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault in the same span.

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Buy, Sell, Or Hold, Pacioretty Trusts VGK To Make The Right Call

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The NHL trade deadline is a week away and it could be another active one for the Golden Knights. Since their first trade deadline in 2018, Vegas hasn’t been shy adding players to their already competitive roster. The first season Ryan Reaves and Tomas Tatar were acquired to give the coaching staff extra skill and muscle. On last year’s deadline day, the Golden Knights traded and signed Mark Stone who quickly became the face of the franchise. Needless to say, the players and fans are anticipating the front office to be calling and texting other general managers.

 I’ve been on every end of that situation, buying and selling, or standing put. In terms of rumors you don’t hear too many playing in Vegas as opposed to playing in a Canadian city. On trade deadline having the TV on in here, you heard about the possibility of getting a guy like Mark Stone. I’m sure once we get closer to the day maybe we’ll hear a little more. In terms of what we hear with outside noise, we don’t as a player in Vegas and that’s a nice thing. -Pacioretty

Max Pacioretty has seen his share of deadlines come and go in his 12-year career. The 31-year-old has been on both sides of the scale, teams that were buyers and teams that were sellers. Even for a veteran the trade deadline period can be a bit stressful, knowing a teammate or potentially himself could be dealt to another club.

It’s a pretty crappy feeling when you get the day off and you’re all hanging out, which has happened to me, and everyone has got their phones on. Seeing guys drop like flies getting traded to other teams because your team is selling. That’s the worst feeling in the world and you never want to be in that position.- Pacioretty

That isn’t the case for Vegas, nor has it been in team history. Pacioretty and his teammates expect the Golden Knights to be heavily involved, even if a trade doesn’t materialize.

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“They Literally Tried To Give Him Away At The Draft And No One Would Take Him.”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

UPDATE (11:08 AM, 2/21/19) – Jesse Granger of The Athletic asked McPhee about the details of this story.

ORIGINAL STORY

Almost a year ago the Golden Knights pulled off one of the biggest trade deadline deals of the season acquiring Tomas Tatar from Detroit for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick. Tatar came to Vegas, made almost no impact, was a healthy scratch through much of the Golden Knights run to the Cup Final (he played eight of the 20 playoff games and only two in the Final), and then he was gone. Shipped away as part of the trade that brought Max Pacioretty from Montreal.

The deal was Tatar, Nick Suzuki, and a 2nd round pick for Pacioretty, and at the time, it appeared Tatar was a key piece in what the Canadiens were getting for trading away their captain.

Tatar has gone on to do great things in Montreal, scoring 19 goal and posting 44 points (both would be leading the Golden Knights). Pacioretty has been good for Vegas as well, with 18 goals and 32 points despite missing significant time due to injury.

Here’s the problem, we’re now learning that this wasn’t exactly a player for player deal.

(Tatar) had 20 goals last year, but 16 of them were in Detroit playing a lot on the power play. He goes to Vegas. He does nothing. They try and give him away at the Draft, no one wants him. They literally tried to give him away at the Draft and no one would take him. So he becomes a mandatory in the Pacioretty deal. You have to take Tatar’s contract. -Gord Miller, TSN

Miller appeared on TSN 690 in Montreal with Melnick in the Afternoon yesterday.

To further prove the point, the Golden Knights retained $500,000 of Tatar’s salary for each of the next three years as part of the trade.

As if the deadline deal wasn’t bad enough, this makes it even worse. McPhee not only gave away three draft picks for a piece that didn’t help his team at all, but then he forced the contract upon someone else making the cost on Pacioretty even higher than it already was!

And all the while, the guy McPhee tried to give away and then forced upon Montreal is outperforming every forward on his current roster!

Yikes.

Ex-VGK Players Miss Vegas More Than You’d Expect

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Players will move on from the Vegas Golden Knights each offseason. It’s just a part of hockey. The crumby business side of things. But one roster, one group of misfits, that became the 2017-18 Western Conference championship team will never move on from Las Vegas or the hearts of Golden Knights fans.

This past week, former Vegas players Luca Sbisa and Tomas Tatar made their first appearances back to Vegas since their painful Game 5 loss in the Stanley Cup finals.

It’s funny, this building is wild, it’s crazy. It felt like a playoff game again. -Luca Sbisa, Islanders defenseman

After their brief return to their old place of business the two players were all smiles happy to bump into their old teammates, coaches, trainers, and heck even us.

A lot of memories. A lot of relationships that I keep in touch with. I love those guys over there, but it’s always fun to play against them. -Sbisa

With limited action this season, the former Knight normally isn’t requested by the media after a game. But when I requested him, he came out with a warm smile on his face. Glad to have the old gang of misfit reporters, like myself, to chat and reminisce about last season.

It’s different. I’ve never stepped foot in this dressing room. Obviously, I was used to the other side. Definitely nice when we touched down here, I felt like I was just going to drive to home. Instead I went to the hotel. -Sbisa

Like the entire 2017-18 roster, Sbisa is proud of his accomplishments with the Golden Knights. The d-man was a steady player when healthy, and an outstanding person off the ice.

It’s hard to be mad about whatever happened here, it was just a great run and we all enjoyed it. – Tomas Tatar, Canadiens forward

Like Sbisa, Montreal forward Tomas Tatar spoke highly of his experience in Vegas, although short, and called it one of the best moments of his career.

It’s always nice to be back. As soon as we landed it reminded me of a lot of good things. Like you said that run that we had, even though I came late, it’s a memorable thing and that other locker room is a great group of guys. I miss them that’s for sure. They were really nice to me and you just give a little extra effort when you are playing your old team and I enjoyed it. -Tatar

One former teammate that welcomed Tatar and Sbisa with open ice hits was the big and lovable Ryan Reaves. Both players had brief tie-ups with #75 in their separate games against Vegas. Perhaps just a few love taps.

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Splitting Up The Second Line

Last week on the SinBin.vegas podcast, the Golden Knights second line combination scenarios were a big focus. As it currently stands, it appears the Golden Knights have seven forwards that can fill top the six roles. Of course, messing with the top line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and Reilly Smith is foolish, so that leaves Erik Haula, Paul Stastny, Alex Tuch and Tomas Tatar to fill three spots.

10 more goals from Tuch changes the entire outlook of the changed VGK made in the offseason. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Unless, as we discussed, Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant chooses a more balanced attack by splitting the four into pairs of two rather than a full line and a leftover. That would leave an open spot on both the second and third lines. Possibly, the distribution of points would create more offense throughout the entire lineup while not sacrificing the offensive talents of one of these four by sticking them on a defensive-minded line.

Let’s put it to the test statistically. To do so, we’ll start by comparing possible combinations of 2nd lines using three of the four available players and compare it to that of the line of David Perron, James Neal, and Haula.

The Perron, Neal, and Haula line produced 70 goals, 95 assists, and 165 points while posting a combined 2.8 defensive point shares.

We used last year’s stats to come up with combined line totals for each of the four potential lines. Each line is named by which player is missing, so “w/o Haula” means a line of Tuch, Tatar, and Stastny.

LineGoalsAssistsPointsDPS
w/o Haula51731244
w/o Tatar60851344.4
w/o Tuch65771313.9
w/o Stastny64621153.3

Before you go scrolling back and forth trying to figure out the difference between each line and that of Perron, Neal, and Haula, we did the math for you.

LineGoalsAssistsPointsDPS
w/o Haula-19-22-411.2
w/o Tatar-10-10-311.6
w/o Tuch-5-18-341.1
w/o Stastny-6-33-500.5

Unsurprisingly, the numbers come up way short offensively. Defensively, however, any of the four options would be better. The biggest concern though is the play of the leftover player. Could Tuch, Haula, Tatar, or Stastny thrive on a line with players like Cody Eakin, Ryan Carpenter, Daniel Carr, or Tomas Hyka? That’s yet to be seen, but it’s also why the idea of splitting the four high-end forwards came up.

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Stastny Mentions Tuch And Haula When Asked About Potential Linemates

The number one storyline (maybe number two behind Theodore’s contract) heading into the 2018-19 season is the mystery behind the third center spot. With the signing of center Paul Stastny it’s assumed either Erik Haula or Cody Eakin will no longer man the middle of the ice for the Golden Knights.

Haula has said in the past that he “obviously likes playing in the center” and his career year statistically backs up his claim.

Appearing on the Golden Knights official podcast, SLGND, Stastny was asked by Gary Lawless, “Is there a player you think will fit nicely with you?” Stastny was anything but committal in his answer, but the names he mentioned, and more importantly the one he didn’t, might give us a little preview into the Golden Knights’ plans for the second line heading into training camp.

Yeah, I don’t know… From what I heard, Tuch kind of came into his own as the season went on. I thought he blossomed really well and did really good the second half of the season. And then if potentially they might put Haula on the wing, and I wouldn’t mind that because someone like that with so much speed… sometimes it’s easy to play with those guys. Especially who has a background at center because you don’t have to be the first guy back all the time. It’s easy to kind of switch positions and always be moving and play on the fly.

This picture shows he at least knows Tatar exists. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

It comes across much stronger as a transcribed quote than it does actually hearing him say it, so be sure to give it a listen, but Tomas Tatar’s name is nowhere to be found in that answer.

If indeed Jack Adams winner Gerard Gallant chooses to put Tuch, Haula, and Stastny together, that would leave Tatar to play with Eakin and another winger like Ryan Carpenter, Daniel Carr, Curtis McKenzie, Oscar Lindberg, Tomas Hyka or another “bottom-six” type player.

After coming to the Golden Knights at the deadline, Tatar never quite found a home in the Vegas lineup and his stats suffered mightily. Heck, he couldn’t even get in the lineup during most of the playoff run. Putting him back on a third line without bonafide playmakers like Stastny, Tuch, and Haula likely sets him up to struggle once again.

Gallant is in a tough spot at the moment, basically with seven forwards to fill six slots. There are a lot of different combinations in which he can go, the question will be, does he try to find the best combination of three without any worry of what happens to the leftover player, or will he attempt to return to a more balanced lineup and possibly break the four non-first line guys into two pairs? Or, will a player or two emerge in camp to help fill the offensive void currently left on the third line?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m ready to be done with the speculation and get some answers. Unfortunately full training camp is still three weeks away. So, let the speculation continue.

Offseason Shoulder Surgery The Latest “Why Tatar Was Bad” Theory

Don’t really care what the problem was last year, Tatar needs to be good this year. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There have been a lot of excuses made for Tomas Tatar’s struggles after coming to Vegas in a trade just minutes before the deadline in February. The winger who had scored 19 or more goals in each of his previous four seasons only netted four in 20 games with the Golden Knights before finding himself a healthy scratch during a majority of the postseason.

The preeminent theory for Tatar’s decline was a lack of continuity in linemates.

It wasn’t fair to Tomas really. When we got him at the trade deadline we were trying to add depth to our hockey club and our team was playing so well at the time it was tough for him to get into the lineup. Here he is a 20 goal scorer who can play with any team in the NHL but the way our lines were going and the way our team was playing at that time it made it really tough to put him in a situation in which he could succeed. –Gerard Gallant on Technically Correct w/ Tyler Bischoff

In his first 14 games in Vegas, Tatar played with the same pair of players just once.

I think (consistency of linemates) is huge. He played some right wing when Reilly Smith was out, he played some left wing when James Neal was hurt so he was back and forth with the top three lines. He’s a guy that can play all over the place but he really never had any linemates where he could get comfortable with and that makes a big difference. -Gallant

However, there’s another theory, which was recently brought up by George McPhee on the VGK Insider Show on Fox Sports Radio that may make even more sense.

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