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The Golden Knights And The Success Of High Cost Teams

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The St. Louis Blues did it, same with the Washington Capitals, so why can’t the Golden Knights do it? I’m not only talking about winning a Stanley Cup, but doing it with one of the highest payrolls in hockey.

2019-20 Highest NHL Payrolls (per
Arizona: $85.1M ($3.59M LTIR)
Toronto: $95.2M ($13.7M LTIR)
Dallas: $82M ($525K LTIR)
St. Louis: $83.2M ($1.75M LTIR)
Vancouver: $83.9M ($2.42M LTIR)
*** 9. Vegas: $81.8M ($668K LTIR)

LTIR= Long-Term Injured Reserved

The Creator is a rare owner driven to win and willing to spend to the limit, and he’d probably spend over it if he were allowed. That’s why the Golden Knights owner is considered a fan’s owner.

We all know about the cap jam Vegas is in and there’s no doubt they’ll fix it by the next time they play. It’s might’ve cost them a lot, but it’s hard to question their elite-level talent and championship-caliber roster. The Golden Knights are not only a highly rated team but they’re also built to win championships.

Cup Winners (Payroll Rank)
2019-20: Tampa Bay (18th)
2018-19: St. Louis (7th)
2017-18: Washington (3rd)
2016-17: Pittsburgh (6th)
2015-16: Pittsburgh (6th)

With the exception of the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the past handful of winners were in the upper quarter of the league’s salary threshold. When the Capitals beat the Golden Knights in 2018, Washington boasted a $75.3M cap hit, while Vegas was #18 on the list with a $68.7M payroll. Clearly, a difference in cost and expensive talent helped result in a five-game Capitals win. Washington’s high-priced talent paid off and could’ve been a motivating factor towards the Golden Knights direction of signing league stars to big contracts.

This year, all ten of the highest cap teams made the postseason, but I think it’s safe to say we can throw out the 24-team bubble playoff format. Going back to 2015-16, teams in the top 10 have no missed the playoffs often.

Highest Payroll Teams To Miss Playoffs
2015-16: Vancouver (2nd), Toronto (9th)

2016-17: Philadelphia (2nd), Arizona (4th), Detroit (7th)

2017-18: Chicago (2nd), Dallas (7th), Detroit (8th), Vancouver (9th), St. Louis (10th)

2018-19: Detroit (1st), Edmonton (4th), Anaheim (8th)

Although it’s happened over the years, it’s a small percentage of teams (13/50 since 2015) that missed the postseason. Also, many of those teams were mismanaged or at the end of their playoff windows.

Assuming the Golden Knights remain within the top ten highest payrolls next season, fans should confidently expect them to clinch a playoff berth. And possibly go on another deep run. Vegas’ window was open before but after this offseason, it’s wide open right now.


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  1. Mikegron32

    Jason…. please step away from the article writing machine and give it back to Ken. This is dumb. The NHL has a hard salary cap. The difference between the top and bottom team payroll is fairly negligible. It’s more about how you allocate that payroll throughout your roster. This isn’t the MLB where the difference between Dodgers and Rays was astronomical

  2. Miri

    Jason – Found your article interesting. But when reading, couldn’t help but recall an article that you or Ken wrote, possibly shortly after the Stone signing, that raised a different point about payroll. If I correctly recall, that article indicated that when too much money is tied up in too few players, the teams mostly had less success in reaching the Cup finals, as compared with those teams that allocated payroll to allow for more depth/quality throughout the lineup. A primary concern about the Knights in the upcoming season is that while they may have more star power than in previous seasons, they may not had the depth they need to go all the way.

  3. Daryl

    It’s not about how much money is spent but where that money is spent. VGK has no money on the Center position and too much on the goalie position. They also don’t have the money spent on backend players like your 3rd and 4th lines and 3rd defenseman pairings. VGK spending is also inflated with players like Reaves and Holden (just to name 2) who are overpaid and hike up the salary spending.

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