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Anthony Mantha Confirms He’s Out, William Carrier Likely On The Move As Well

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We’re officially 10 days away from the start of the free agency frenzy. With six unsigned players, the Golden Knights are expected to be hogging hockey headlines up to July 1st. Clearly, the biggest decision for the Golden Knights front office is how committed they are to keeping franchise leading goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault. Putting the Marchessault dilemma aside, VGK’s FO has already made a decision public on one of their unrestricted free agents.

Vegas made it clear that they were not going to put me back under contract. I’m excited, but at the same time I’m stressed as everything comes into play,. We’ll see whether it’s July 1st or a little later. Hoping we will have good news. –Anthony Mantha to RDS

Mantha opened up to Catherine Savoie of RDS at a charity golf event earlier this week. He was informed by the Golden Knights that the deadline acquisition would not be offered a contract to stay in Las Vegas. Normally, the Golden Knights are very tight lipped when it comes to roster management. Over the past eight summers, it’s been rare to hear a player publicly announce the Golden Knights were passing on his services.

This week another bottom six forward’s future plans were leaked which would unlikely include the Golden Knights. Sources close to SinBin.vegas indicated the “so-called” fourth liner William Carrier and the Dallas Stars have mutual interest in each other. On Thursday, Sportsnet’s Elliiotte Friedman confirmed our source’s expectations for Carrier.

One guy I heard who could be on Dallas’ radar, and I think could be a great fit for them is William Carrier. That’s one name that some people told me that was on Dallas’ radar if he gets to the market. – Elliotte Friedman on Sportsnet.ca

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William Carrier To Hit A Hot Market For Depth Forwards

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Currently we’re in the no headline mandate period for 30 of 32 NHL teams. Reasonably, the league wants the sole focus on the Stanley Cup finals. While the Florida Panthers carry a 2-0 series lead to Edmonton, league GMs are feverishly sketching out next season’s roster.

The market is very good for D, and the market is very good for the heavier depth forwards. Teams are starting to get a better idea of who’s on the market and who isn’t. –Elliotte Friedman on TSN’s Jeff Marek Show

One reason why the Golden Knights captured the 2023 Stanley Cup trophy was their strong veteran depth. Bruce Cassidy used a balance of heavy, fast, and skilled bodies in his bottom six and was rewarded throughout the playoffs. Unfortunately, other organizations took notice and desire championship winning utility players, which will make it difficult for the Golden Knights front office to keep some of their reliable depth players.

I heard those names. Dakota Joshua, William Carrier, Jordan Martinook. The market for those guys are going to be really good. I definitely think it’s picking up. –Friedman on TSN’s Jeff Marek Show

Painfully for VGK fans, another Original Misfit is without a contract for next season. Since year one, William Carrier has excited supporters with fine forechecking, thundering hits, and wraparound scoring chances. He’s added a level of trust on the bottom line, pushing the puck, sustaining offensive zone time, and getting off the ice. It’s not glamorous but Carrier has impeccably fit that role for the Golden Knights.

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Salary Projections For Golden Knights Heading Towards Free Agency

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Money is tight in VGK land this summer. After taking a big run at repeating as Cup champions, the Golden Knights have already allocated about 90% of their salary cap to players for next season.

The midseason acquisitions of Noah Hanifin and Tomas Hertl will likely serve as Vegas’ big splashes heading into next season. Figuring out which of the expiring contracts to spend the rest of the money on will tell the rest of the story.

Vegas have six significant pending unrestricted free agents and one key RFA with arbitration rights. They have about $7.4 million of cap space (read our salary cap primer) to work with to keep as many, or as few, of them as they choose. So the question becomes, how much will it cost to keep each guy?

Lucky for us, much of the guessing game has already been done by the brilliant consulting firm, AFP Analytics. Using past contracts as a guide, they’ve come up with a projected contract for every player in the NHL currently without a contract.

Here’s what they project for each VGK free agent. Each is followed by a little blurb by me about the player’s situation as it relates to the Golden Knights.

**Take a look at the full spreadsheet of projected contracts here. And be sure to follow @AFPAnayltics on X/Twitter.**

Jonathan Marchessault
AFP Analytics Projected Contract: 3 years at $6.285m AAV
Comps: Joe Pavelski (3 years, $7m), Alex Killorn (4 years, $6.25m), Jordan Eberle (2 years, $4.75m)

The kingpin of the offseason was always likely to take up a majority of the Golden Knights’ available space. The hope for VGK is that he and the team will be able to come up with a friendly deal that will fulfill his wish to remain in Las Vegas for the rest of his career. Before the career-high 42-goal season, Killorn was an excellent comparison. Now, Marchessault stands as a unicorn as a recent Conn Smythe winner set to hit the open market. There’s a reasonable argument for Marchessault to reach as high as $9 million, while it’s also fair to look at the Eberle contract and project him for less than $5 million. Term, age, and his incredible standing with the organization make this one nearly impossible to project, but it’s pretty clear to see, if he’s going to stay in Vegas, just about everyone else set to hit the market will have to go.

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Penalty Kill Minutes Are “Out There For Somebody,” Eichel Took Many In First Preseason Game

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In his first preseason game of the year, Jack Eichel was the first player over the boards on multiple occasions when the Golden Knights were tasked with killing a penalty.

We didn’t use him a lot on the kill (last year). With Reilly Smith’s minutes, they’re out there for somebody. -Cassidy

Eichel played 2:19 of shorthanded time and took three faceoffs with a teammate in the box. Only once all season (including pre and postseason) last year did Eichel play more on the penalty kill than he did last night.

Without Nic Roy as a right shot center we used Jack for draws, so he started a lot of the kills. It’s something I talked to Jack about doing a little more of so we’ll see how it goes. He’s a smart guy, can pressure pucks, and you saw it with our kill tonight, I thought it was pretty effective. -Cassidy

While everyone’s fairly certain Eichel will dominate on the penalty kill the same way he does just about every other aspect of the game, there’s a cost that comes with it, and Cassidy isn’t blind to it.

With the PK, that’s something we can build into his game, it’s at what expense? How many minutes does he get? Or are you better off spreading it around to other guys to keep them in the game more. -Cassidy

Last night, Cassidy chose to limit Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson’s time on the penalty kill in favor of taking a look at players like Mason Morelli, Jonas Rondbjerg, Jakub Demek, and Jakub Brabenec. He’s considering doing the same in the regular season with a pair of fourth liners.

Both Kolesar and Carrier, I brought that up last year that I’d like them to kill more, it didn’t work out that way, no fault to them, I used other people. They’ve been killing now against our guys in practice for a year so there’s an opportunity for those two. There’s a little bit of by committee this year for that particular spot. -Cassidy

Managing minutes is going to be a massive story all season for the Golden Knights. Cassidy has already made it clear he’s not willing to give players games off for rest, so he’ll have to do pick and choose his spots inside of games instead.

There are many reasons it’s so hard to repeat as champions in the NHL, workload is among the strongest of them. Having Eichel as an option to help kill penalties is certainly beneficial for the Golden Knights, but he can’t be overused. Cassidy is keenly aware of it, he’ll just have to get reasonable contributions from others to make sure he can actually stick to it.

Replacing Reilly Smith On The Penalty Kill

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The #PowerKill is no more. With the departure of Reilly Smith, the Golden Knights have a fairly sizeable hole to fill on their penalty kill. Not only must Vegas find a suitable partner to skate with William Karlsson, but they are replacing nearly 15% of their overall forward power play time with the loss of Smith.

Last year, only seven forwards in the entire NHL skated more on the penalty kill in the postseason than Smith. Smith was on the ice for 36:51 shorthanded minutes in the playoffs and another 102:57 in the regular season. Only Chandler Stephenson and Karlsson played more than Smith.

Bruce Cassidy did not use many players on the penalty kill over the course of the season. Just seven players reached at least 25:00 of shorthanded time in the regular season and only six skated at least 20:00 in the playoffs.

Shorthanded Time On Ice (Regular Season)
Karlsson – 127:34
Stephenson – 114:03
Smith – 102:57
Roy – 80:01
Stone – 52:13
Howden – 40:36
Eichel – 26:10

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Starting The Misfits

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The opening shift of a Stanley Cup Final game is not typically a time to get sentimental with decision-making. The Golden Knights still needed to win one more game to reach the mountaintop, and they knew they were facing a team that had been in a 3-1 hole before and dug themselves out.

For Bruce Cassidy though, he knew the time was right.

To start Game 5, Cassidy went off script of both his forward lines and standard operating procedure and chose to tug on some heartstrings instead.

The starting lineup he selected was Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and Brayden McNabb. Five of the six original players from the inaugural season that began Vegas’ love affair with the Golden Knights.

I apologized to Will Carrier, I told him, I’m sorry, I can only start one left winger. -Bruce Cassidy

Cassidy reunited the greatest line in Vegas history and used McNabb and Theodore to start a game for the first time during the entire postseason. It was a risk, but he knew it was one worth taking.

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Battle Of Depth Tilting Towards Dallas

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

For the first 10+ games of this playoff run one of the most consistent parts of the Golden Knights’ game has been their 4th line. No matter what has been going on with the group ahead of them, the grinders on the 4th line have gotten the job done night in and night out.

The Western Conference Final started out that way as Teddy Blueger came up with the go-ahead goal in the 3rd period. In Game 2 the 4th line was the only group that had any consistent success at 5-on-5, out-attempting the Stars 10-3, out-chancing them 3-0, and managing multiple high-danger chances without allowing one.

From there though, and especially in the past two games, it’s headed in the wrong direction for the depth players in gold.

Our 4th line didn’t do what it typically does in terms of puck possession in the O-Zone and then they were forced to play and got outworked in the D-Zone. So that’s something I expect to change. Whether Howden’s on that line, Blueger, or Nic Roy, they have to do a better job against their 4th line. Give credit to that line for Dallas, they outplayed our guys. -Cassidy

The group of Radek Faksa, Fredrik Olafsson, and Luke Glendening dominated the Golden Knights’ 4th line in Game 5 including the massive goal that tied the game. That group posted a 92% expected goals share against the VGK 4th line and did not allow William Carrier, Keegan Kolesar, and Brett Howden anything near the front of the net.

In many ways, it set the tone for the rest of the team.

That was one part of the game where that slot battle comes into play and that urgency tilts the game in their favor. When our 4th line is going well like that, our game goes better. They did some good things but they have to get back to who they are and their identity. -Cassidy

Vegas had troubles in many areas of the ice last night, including giving the puck away 24 times, but the largest area of concern is directly in front of the net. After being basically even through two games, the Golden Knights now trail 63-48 in high-danger chances in the series. Even as good as Adin Hill has been, the Stars have scored five goals from high-danger chances in the past two games, they had just three in the first three.

That’s our group, next man up. We got contributions from everyone. I mean that’s a gutsy win being down a couple of guys and coming in here. I like our group and I wouldn’t bet against them. -Pete DeBoer

To turn this around and secure that final win, the Golden Knights must get back to getting contributions up and down the lineup. Vegas’ depth has made line matching difficult for opposing coaches, especially in road games. With Game 6 taking place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Vegas is going to need everyone to get back to playing the way they were.

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