Adding depth is the goal of every NHL team in the offseason, adding a superstar would be a bonus for any team, but especially conference champion.
I think you can add depth anywhere in our group, that’s going to be real good. What we want to add character people to our group… we had good leadership, we had great character and we had a good work ethic. -Gallant
The nice part about the Golden Knights roster is they have depth within the system. Instead of repurchasing separate parts like James Neal and or David Perron, Vegas could invest roughly the same amount on a top line center like John Tavares. This would allow Erik Haula to move over to wing alongside Tomas Tatar or Alex Tuch. Tavares would give the Golden Knights two legitimate top NHL lines and Haula could easily repeat 25+ goals mostly focusing on getting the puck in the net.
Understandably, it might be a longshot but look at the Golden Knights forward depth chart with the addition of #91.
Karlsson/Marchessault/Smith= 92 Goals
Tavares/Haula/Tatar= 86 Goals
Eakin/Tuch/Nosek= 33 Goals
Bellemare/Reaves/Carpenter= 19 Goals
The previous line of Haula/Neal/Perron scored 70 goals, and that may have been in a year of overachievement. In the regular season, Haula, Neal, and Perron scored 16 fewer goals than the projected combination of Tavares, Haula, and Tatar.
With Tavares, Gallant would probably try to use the top six evenly. Having two top centers, minute and point distribution could benefit Haula’s statistics. Playing with a center who averages .93 points and .53 assists per game over his career can’t hurt.
VGK’s 2017-18 Top Forward Production
Karlsson: 43 Goals/78 Points
Marchessault: 27 Goals/75 Points
Perron: 16 Goals/66 Points
Smith: 22 Goals/60 Points
Haula: 29 Goals/55 Points
Neal: 25 Goals/44 Points
Tuch: 15 Goals/37 Points
Tatar: 20 Goals/34 Points
Eakin: 11 Goals/27 Points
*Tavares 2017-18 Production: 37 Goals/84 Points
The obvious decision if Tavares is signed is to move Haula down a line and keep him at center. I’d advise against this. The main reason being Cody Eakin. He adds many positives down the middle for a depth line, but I don’t think he’d be as impactful on the wing. Also, opting to shift Haula to the second line wing opens up the opportunity to bump up Tomas Nosek.
If Vegas were to lose Neal and Perron, they lose a total of 41 goals. Tavares scored 37 last season and has scored 30 or more four times in his career. Adding Tavares and using system depth would greatly improve the team going forward. Keeping Neal and Perron would limit the window of contention.
Tatar’s output is another big component to the equation. If the 27-year-old Czech averages career statistics, the second line should thrive. Keep in mind, Tatar has 119 goals in seven seasons, but he’s only played five full seasons. In his first two seasons, he only played a total of 27 games. Tatar’s adjusted averages would be 23 goals and 21 assists per season. The problem is that he wasn’t that guy in Vegas. Putting him on a line with Tavares and Haula should change that and bring back the guy George McPhee traded three draft picks to acquire.
The last thing to consider is the cost of Tavares. Despite their massive amount of cap space currently, the Golden Knights future demands a lot of salary cap. William Karlsson needs to be paid now, Shea Theodore, Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt, Alex Tuch, Erik Haula, among others will all need money in the coming years.
However, even with Tavares and signing Karlsson to a long-term deal, the Golden Knights still wouldn’t be underwater cap-wise with their forwards.
*Karlsson $5.5M/6 Years
Marchessault $5M/6 Years
Smith $5M/4 Years
Tatar $5.3M/3 Years
Haula $2.75M/2 Years
Tuch $925K/1 Years
*Tavares $10.7M/7 Years
*Based on current salary speculation from Matt Cane)
Adding depth is one thing, adding star power is another. Washington’s top two lines were a problem in the Stanley Cup Final, and it all started with the centers. Moving Haula to the wing allows a much better center option with Tavares. It’s possible the duo would score more together, and we know they’ll defend better against the league’s best forwards.
Also, keep in mind signing Tavares also leaves room for a defenseman. Or maybe they’ll hold on to most of that cash and wait until next offseason. Vegas may have enough to sign fan favorite Drew Doughty to an extended deal. Can you imagine that introduction?