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The Ryan Reaves vs. George McPhee Hand Of Poker Was Won By #75

The Golden Knights clearly value plays like this one. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Since today marks exactly 75 days until the regular season, it seemed a good day to talk about the Golden Knights #75, Ryan Reaves.

Reaves was acquired by Vegas a few days before the trade deadline in which the Golden Knights acted as the third party in a deal that sent Derick Brassard from the Senators to the Penguins.

At the time, the Golden Knights were going through a rough patch injury-wise. James Neal, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, William Carrier were all in-and-out of the lineup and subsequent injuries to David Perron and Reilly Smith kept Reaves on the ice for every game in the regular season.

Then, the playoffs came and with a healthy roster, Reaves was out of the lineup, behind Ryan Carpenter and William Carrier. As the playoffs progressed, William Carrier got injured, Carpenter, Tomas Tatar and David Perron fell out of the lineup, and Reaves became a mainstay on the fourth line. In the Western Conference Finals Reaves scored the game-winning goal that clinched the Golden Knights trip to the Stanley Cup Final. He then backed that goal up with a tally in Game 1 of the Final.

When the season ended, he was set to become an unrestricted free agent and comments from GM George McPhee made it sound like Reaves was not going to re-sign with Vegas prior to July 1st and probably not at all.

We made our offer, they said they’d circle back but they are looking for a longer term deal. If he gets the longer term deal then he won’t be coming back. But in that transaction, we got a player and a 4th round pick understanding that the player might leave. -George McPhee on 6/24/18

As it turns out, he got the longer term deal and still came back. So what happened?

A few days before July 1st, when Reaves was officially eligible to sign with any team in the NHL, he made it clear to any other team pursuing him that he was going to stay in Vegas. On June 30th, that happened as he signed a two-year deal worth $2.775 million per year.

Reaves was two years and basically, there was a lot of interest in him. There was a lot of competition for him. We simply took the money from a three-year deal and pushed it into two. -McPhee on 7/1/18

The question is, why? Why on June 30th would the Golden Knights be willing to break down and admittedly overpay for a player they seemed perfectly content losing a week prior? 

He’s probably worth every penny of the $5.5 million just for doing this to Tom Wilson. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The way it sounds, Reaves was offered a one or two-year contract by the Golden Knights following the season. He and his agent believed they could get a three or even four-year deal, so they wanted to wait to see what other teams offered. At least one other team offered three years. Reaves brought this offer back to McPhee and McPhee decided to up his offer to match the dollar figure but not match the term-length. McPhee stood pat on two years, Reaves wanted more, got it, but then didn’t take it because the Golden Knights made an offer no sane person would refuse; the same pay over a shorter term.

From Ryan Reaves’ perspective, this offseason could not have gone any better. The 31-year-old wanted term so he could cash in as much as possible on what may be the final lucrative contract of his career. The Golden Knights offer before free agency began was clearly lower than what Reaves eventually signed for. So, was this a game of poker in which Reaves called the Golden Knights bluff or did something change between June 24th and June 30th?

If the Golden Knights were never planning on letting Reaves leave, Ryan and his agent played their hand perfectly. They turned down a lower offer, proved they were worth more, and then forced the Golden Knights to up their offer in order to keep him.

If it was in McPhee’s plans to let Reaves walk, what changed, and why did it change? The obvious answer to this question is the potential Erik Karlsson trade that never came to fruition. If the Golden Knights truly moved on from dealing with Ottawa, McPhee suddenly had a ton of cap space to work with and losing Reaves over a million dollars may have seemed foolish. Or maybe they had their eyes on another player that would have either filled Reaves’ role or used up the cap space Reaves ended up taking.

Either way, the Golden Knights lost the poker hand. We don’t know the offer Reaves received prior to talking to other teams, but it wasn’t $2.775 million per year. Playing off the “took the money from a three-year deal and pushed it into two” concept, that means another team offered Reaves $1.85 million per year ($2.775*2 = $1.85*3). For McPhee, it was all about term, but playing the game may have cost the Golden Knights some cap space along the way.

Term matters. A couple of summers ago we had a lot of older guys getting five and six year deals. I think everybody realized that was a mistake. We’re trying to be a little more circumspect and it looks like the league is trying to do that. -McPhee

He didn’t score much, but he did score in the Cup Final, something not many guys can say. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the end, the Golden Knights remain WAY under the cap, they have Ryan Reaves on the roster, and the cap space will likely not be an issue this year. So, all is well that ends well. However, it still makes you wonder, why wasn’t this type of an offer made to David Perron or James Neal? Perron signed for $16 million over 4 years and Neal went to Calgary for $28.75 over 5 years. Shrink those into shorter deals and Perron could have been making $5.33 over three years or Neal $7.18 over four.

As the numbers get larger, the ramifications grow, but if one thing is clear in the entire Ryan Reaves negotiation situation, the Golden Knights really like Ryan Reaves.

Ryan is rare in that he’s one of those big, physical guys that can play. You can put him anywhere on the ice. Anytime we need him against any other line, you don’t get exposed. It’s very nice to have that combination of a player—they’re hard to find. It’s an old expression, but he keeps the flies out of the honey. It’s nice to have him around. When we first started with our club, I didn’t feel that we needed that because we didn’t have stars to protect. As the season got going and progressed, we had some players that turned out to be real good players and some teams were playing us a little harder and a little chippier and thought they were going to get something. We didn’t want them getting too overzealous with our players. -McPhee

Or maybe this is all a rouse they see him as a tradeable asset at this deadline or next.

It would be nice if they just told us stuff rather than making us guess all the time. Then we could really evaluate what’s going on.

Instead, we’re left with an article with a bunch of if’s and ?’s and no real answers. We’re also left with Ryan Reaves, who we’re not sure if he’s overvalued, overpaid, or underappreciated. We’re also left with yet another “if” in this article.


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  1. RJ

    While McPhee and VGK may lose this hand of poker, it is pretty low stakes. Even if Reaves winds up getting buried in Chicago, the team is only out 2.75M in cap space over the next two seasons. More than chump change, but as far as salary cap mistakes go, a pretty manageable one.

    My gut says that Gallant just really likes this player, and McPhee is willing to spend a little extra to make his Jack Adams winning Coach happy. Reaves plays about 40-50 games of fourth line per season? Definitely an overpay, but the type of small mistake a GM is allowed to make 2-3 times per season.

  2. BL

    Looking like the cap doesn’t really matter, and we already know Reaves is perfect for the locker room. Plus, knowing the system, and how hard he works, he can only get better.

    People don’t like the idea, but I like a Reaves, Belly, Carrier 4th line. That is a heavy forechecking line if the team is with the lead.

    • Bent Hermit

      That kind of line would of been good 10 years ago but not today. The 4th line in today’s NHL has to put up points along with doing all the things that are normally done on the 4th line. The 3 guys that were the main 4th line for the Caps during the SC had an average of .30 pts per game in the regular season.

  3. Mark Weimer

    Interesting article all except for the ending??? Not sure who you think you are that Mcphee and the Knights should divulge all there inner workings and plans to you?? Are you new to this thing called sports reporting? Come on it’s there job to manage this team and your job to speculate, create interest and report. It’s nothing new in the world of sports to keep the teams inner workings to themselves so it may keep it’s competitive edge. It’s your job to work the edges and find out what you can and report in a form that is interesting. As the saying goes,” if it was easy everyone would do it ” and what’s the value in that?

  4. Bent Hermit

    If Reaves played 30 years ago he would of been paid a lot to play 1st line as Lemieux’s “McSorley”. There’s a great debate for SinBin. Who wins in a Reaves vs McSorley show down?

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