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The Potential Impact To The Golden Knights Lines If They Sign John Tavares

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

Erik Haula: Winger? (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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?


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  1. Tom M.

    I’m pretty sure Drew would want to be the highest paid player on the team. He pulled that crap in LA when he demanded Kopitar pay. And hes arrogant as shit. Hes a great player but character-wise he wouldn’t fit here.

  2. Michael V. Smith

    Nice article Jason!

  3. Alan

    I’d say a great pickup would be the van Riemsdyk brothers. JVR is a power forward we badly need. No doubt Tavares is skilled but in this league as evident in the playoffs, we need someone with a size advantage who’s not afraid to stand in front of the goalie. JVR will give you that. TVR plays conservative defense and has a high hockey IQ. He doesn’t have the size of a typical blue liner but he checks well and can carry the puck offensively. What’s more is he’s had cup experience and won’t make dumb mistakes when it counts.

    • RJ

      Fun fact VGK took TVR in the expansion draft and promptly traded him to Carolina.

      • Alan

        They did the same thing with Marcus Kruger. Something about Gallant’s style that doesn’t seem to agree with Quenneville’s coaching methods. Maybe its just the ghost of Dale Tallon that rubbed him the wrong way.

  4. David B.

    I would laugh INCREDIBLY hard if somehow, someway Vegas signed Doughty.

  5. RJ

    Before I say anything else, let me preface: if McPhee can sign Tavares for a fair price, of course he should do it and then figure out the rest.

    Now I’ll say this, Tavares does not solve our biggest problem, top blue line talent. As you said, Washington’s top 2 lines ran circles around us, but that was primarily because our defensemen looked bad. They couldn’t clear the puck out of their zone, they had turn overs in the neutral zone, they were regularly out of position or let Washington put them out of position. John Tavares doesn’t solve that.

    I like our defensive depth a lot, but Nate Schmidt needs a partner that can keep up with the top line of every team in the league. That also moves everyone else down one spot, putting every other Damn in a more appropriate position.

    Acquiring John Tavares means we have to pass on signing John Carlson though. I can’t imagine a situation anywhere outside a video game where both can come here. With Tavares there will be enough left over to sign a mid range defenseman, but that is only adding more of what we already have plenty of. It doesn’t solve our top pair problem.

    That means McPhee must either not improve our top pair or make a trade to improve it, neither are ideal situations. If you’re thinking just trade for Erik Karlsson, you shouldn’t be. The Tavares contract will effectively make that impossible since Bobby Ryan’s albatross contract will certainly be coming along. Anytime you imagine Erik Karlsson in a Golden Knights sweater over the next 12 months imagine Bobby Ryan in one right next to him.

    In a scenario where McPhee get to choose between signing Tavares, Carlson, or trading for Karlsson/Ryan (good god I hope coming here is that desirable) I still think John Carlson is the best choice. His contract will be overpriced, but still will leave enough room to re-sign Perron or Neal or bring in another strong UFA.

    Again I’m not saying I don’t want John Tavares, that’s crazy talk, I’m saying my armchair GM analysis sees better outcomes with John Carlson and a few million in extra cap space.

    I kind of wish I could hear you and Ken discuss this in a 3 hour long form sports talk performance art you guys have become famous for.

    • Randy

      Here is why I favor signing Tavares. He fits the VGK model. He is not only talented, but he is hungry, a gamer, and hates to lose. I think John Carlson is satisfied, he has a cup, he is looking for a big payday. How much drive does he have? I say you go for Tavares and a mid-level defenseman such as Faulk from Carolina. Our D corps were young. A full year of experience, and have played on the big stage. Sometimes you have to grow into the role.

  6. Steven

    Inject Tavares in a VGK uniform in my veins right now. I personally think he stays in New York but one can dream.

  7. BL

    I’m all for Tavares coming, but a line of Tav, Haula, and Tatar would be a little small. Maybe call them the “6 feet below” line. Don’t need bruisers, but would be concerned some teams (*cough* Ducks *cough*) would take a run at one of them.

    What about switching Nosek and Haula?
    Tav / Nosek / Tatar
    Eakin / Tuch / Haula
    Belly / Carrier / Carpenter

    Tough, though, as I hope Hyka gets a shot, too. Love Reaves, but there is alot of depth that already cannot see the ice.

    The D FA Class is bad. Not much outside of a top few. Would hope to sit on this position until Ottawa becomes realistic. Also, need to see what Merrill, Miller, Theodore, and Whitecloud can do without being blocked at the position.

  8. Alan

    I feel we’re getting away from what the team really needs and what they need isn’t someone’s fantasy roster. So leave out the big names and their big salaries and let’s just focus on the ROLE of the player we need next season. I’ve seen enough of this team to know that what they really need is:

    1. A tough, gritty and crazy enough Forward to stand in front of the goalie
    2. A reliable Center who can win face offs
    3. A defender that’s willing to sacrifice his body to block shots

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