It hadn’t happened in 11 years, and it probably won’t happen for 11 more. The Golden Knights’ decision to only dress 15 skaters on Monday night in a critical game against the Colorado Avalanche was a bit of a shock. General Manager Kelly McCrimmon explained the situation and pointed towards unexpected injuries to several players at the same time. This left the organization without enough cap space to call up a player in time for Monday’s game. However, the explanation didn’t sit well with some in the hockey world.
Immediately after McCrimmon’s last minute Zoom conference, TSN’s Frank Seravalli challenged Vegas’ reasoning.
Fact: Vegas has gambled with the salary cap in a way #NHL has never seen. Finale will be 10th game in 56-gm szn icing short lineup due to cap.
It's resulted in 4 of VGK's 13 regulation losses. pic.twitter.com/jwn4wf0ydW
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) May 11, 2021
The TSN scribe laid out a season-long history of the Golden Knights front office navigating through the emergency recall rules and playing short. What was concerning about the salary cap gymnastics (as described by McCrimmon) was a handful of outcomes ended poorly for Vegas. In 14 regulation losses now this season, five were lost when the Golden Knights were without a full lineup. If Vegas had won one of those five games the 31st franchise would be measuring out space for their first-ever Presidents’ Trophy banner.
TSN Ottawa spent time yesterday demanding transparency and for the league to step in. Insider Pierre McGuire reminded them nothing will change anytime soon.
It’s hard to really answer but it’s hard not to agree with your point. It doesn’t look right obviously and it’s something that I think people need to look at long term. I’m not saying it’ll be fixed immediately but it’s something they need to look at long term. –Pierre McGuire on TSN Ottawa
Clearly bothered after Monday’s loss Vegas coach Pete DeBoer had his first real dustup with the media as Golden Knights coach. In his postgame press conference DeBoer only wanted to focus on the positives of the game. And who can blame him? His thin lineup outplayed the Colorado Avalanche in a losing effort. DeBoer has consistently said his aim was to win the division. Chances are he wasn’t thrilled with the list of unavailable players he was handed on Monday morning. It’s possible he took his frustrations out on the media but was truly aiming it towards the situation created by the front office.
To build a legitimate contender the Golden Knights front office found ways to work within the rules, maybe better than any other club. Deeply understanding cap management allowed Vegas to go out and spent money they didn’t really have last summer. Lets face it, Alex Pietrangelo has left a lot to be desired in his first season but thankfully his price tag won’t get in the way in the postseason. Juggling his colossal cap hit over the season only impacted five results. If he performs like an $8.8M player in the postseason, overpaying a 32-year-old defenseman won’t look as bad.
When we get to Thursday, there is no salary cap. That will be a welcome change for our coaches and our group to have access to the entire lineup. I really like the 17 players that are playing tonight. Do I wish it was 20 players? Of course. Success isn’t generally a straight line, it doesn’t come without hardships and challenges. -McCrimmon
In my opinion, the Golden Knights front office may have strategically cut corners but they didn’t break any current rules. They pushed the cap this summer understanding they only needed to crunch the numbers 56 times. A few losses due to lineup shuffling was only part of the bigger picture. However, it was unfortunate the severest of salary cap snafus popped up for the most important game of the season game.