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VGK Cap Constraints Could Force Nic Hague To Hold Out

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are already in salary cap hell. Currently sitting $200,000 short of the league’s upper limit, Vegas has just 19 players under contract making up a roster valued at $82.3 million.

That’s without UFA’s Reilly Smith and Mattias Janmark, without RFA’s Nic Roy, Keegan Kolesar, Brett Howden, and Nic Hague, and with just four players that can be buried in the AHL without any salary leftover.

No matter how you slice it, the Golden Knights are in quite a pinch for cash, and there are a lot of difficult decisions coming up.

One such decision the VGK front office is probably hoping comes and goes without much of a headache. That’s the next contract for 23-year-old former 2nd round pick Nic Hague.

The gigantic defenseman has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s an NHL caliber blue-liner and despite an injury-riddled season that saw him miss 30 games, Hague still managed to post four goals, 10 assists, 80 blocks, and account for a decent 2.9 point shares.

Hague’s season left a lot to be desired due to the recurring injury that the team admitted they rushed him back from, but he’s clearly shown enough to become the type of asset coveted by every team in the league. That being a young defenseman with the ability to score, defensively responsible, and with room for tons of growth still having yet to hit the 150-game mark in the NHL.

Simply put, Nic Hague is due for a fairly significant raise from the $863,333 he made from his entry-level contract.

Here’s the problem for Hague. Due to his age and level of NHL experience, he’s not yet eligible for salary arbitration. Because he signed his contract at the age of 19 he must complete four seasons as a professional before he is granted arbitration rights. Hague’s last season was just his third. So, by the letter of the law in the CBA, he is only in line to be offered a one-year two-way contract worth $874,125, and he doesn’t have much of a choice but to sign it.

I went through some comparable players who have recently signed contracts (you can see them listed below with a short description of how similar they are to Hague) and it would be reasonable for Hague to command somewhere between $2.5 and $4 million next season. Plus, based on the comps, he’d probably be looking at about a three or four-year deal. Yet, the Golden Knights are going to offer him a one-year contract worth less than $900,000.

In other words, Hague is going to be forced to wait one more season to collect about the $15 million he’s already demonstrated he deserves.

That is unless he decides to force the hand of the Golden Knights.

Unsurprisingly, Hague is not the first player in the NHL to have ever found themselves in this situation. In fact, he’s not even the first VGK left-handed defenseman to be in it.

The only course of action a player in this spot can take is to refuse the qualifying offer and hold out of training camp (and potentially even regular season games) to force the team to negotiate a longer-term deal.

It’s a risky move on multiple fronts. First, it’s never ideal for a 23-year-old to be missing valuable time on the ice with his teammates in training camp. That is amplified even further on a team that will be naming a new head coach sometime this summer. But the bigger piece is there’s a deadline, a hard deadline, that can force a player to sit out an entire season if a deal is not reached. And, if we reach that deadline and the player and team remain at a stalemate, the player does not earn the all-important fourth year of NHL service and thus will be in the exact same situation next year as well.

You might remember that other left-handed defenseman I referenced earlier. His name is Shea Theodore and in the summer of 2018 (in between season 1 and 2 for VGK), Theodore refused to sign his qualifying offer, which was almost exactly what will be offered to Hague this summer. He missed nearly the entire training camp. Didn’t suit up in any of the Golden Knights’ first five preseason games, and even had a giant poster of him removed from City National Arena due to the contract stalemate.

Theodore’s history in the NHL at that point was actually closer to Hague’s than you might expect. Theodore played just 53 games in his first two seasons in the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks. However, he was a key piece in a couple of Ducks playoff campaigns playing in 20 postseason games. Then, after being acquired by the Golden Knights through an Expansion Draft trade, he started the season off in the AHL before playing 61 regular season games and 20 playoff games for Vegas in their run to the Cup final.

He amassed 29 points in 61 games in the regular season and then added 10 more in the playoffs. Here are Hague and Theodore’s numbers side-by-side for comparison sake.

1st year
Hague – 38 games, 1 goal, 11 points (left off playoff roster)
Theodore – 19 games, 3 goals, 8 points (0 points in 6 playoff games)

2nd year
Hague – 52 games, 5 goals, 17 points (2 points in 10 playoff games)
Theodore – 34 games, 2 goals, 9 points (8 points in 14 playoff games)

3rd year
Hague – 52 games, 4 goals, 14 points (missed playoffs)
Theodore – 61 games, 6 goals, 29 points (10 points in 20 playoff games)

Overall
Hague – 142 games, 10 goals, 42 points (2 points in 10 playoff games)
Theodore – 114 games, 11 goals, 46 points (18 points in 40 playoff games)

Hague has every right, just as Theodore did four years ago, to hold out and attempt to force the Golden Knights to pay him his market value. But, the Golden Knights might be so deep in cap trouble that they’ll have to call Hague’s bluff every step of the way.

The deadline is December 1st, which will be about 25-30 games into the season. If Hague holds out, can VGK afford to play without him for that long? And even then, will they ever have the cap space before then to pay him the $3ish million he’s probably worth?

It’s a tricky situation for both sides and that’s before we even get into the possibility of an offer sheer from another team.

Hague and his agent know what he’s worth and playing a full season without getting it (after fighting through an injury-plagued year the season before) is risky in its own right. Would you be willing to wait an extra year to get the $15 million you’ve already shown you deserve?

The Golden Knights have the CBA on their side. Why crack and offer even a penny more than they have to when they are this tight against the cap? Does the season’s success rely on Hague playing the first 25 games… or even at all?

Buckle up, this one could get messy.


Nic Hague salary comps

Matt Roy – Signed for $3.15m AAV as an RFA at the age of 26

Roy had a slightly different career trajectory than Hauge, but the production is similar between the two players. The year before he signed his contract he played in 44 of the team’s 56 games scoring two goals and adding eight assists. Hague’s 42 points in 142 games are similar to Roy’s 34 in 139. Plus, Roy showed a bit more defensively.

Neal Pionk – Signed for $5.875m AAV as an RFA at the age of 26

Here’s a player that was a bit more decorated than Hague has been at this point in his career, but not by much. Hague posted a 4.0 point share number in 52 games in 2020-21, which is just one point below Pionk’s 5.2 in 54 games before he signed this massive deal. Pionk was on a $3 million deal that he signed after two seasons posting 2.1 and 3.4 point shares. This player, while slightly better than Hague, shows the price of the bridge deal (a short deal that will keep him as an RFA at expiry), followed by an even bigger one without a massive leap in production.

Philippe Myers – Signed for $2.55m AAV as an RFA at the age of 23

This is another bridge deal that will expire at the end of the 22-23 season and Myers will remain an RFA. He was coming off a season where he scored four goals and tallied 16 points in 50 games and then added three goals in 16 playoff games. Like Hague, he’s a massive body that skates well enough to play at the NHL level. This is a very close comparison to the situation Hague finds himself in this summer as he signed this contract without arbitration rights.

Filip Hronek – Signed for $4.4m AAV as an RFA at the age of 23

Hronek’s production is undoubtedly higher than Hague’s, but he posted -38 and -18  ratings the two years before his deal and had significantly worse defensive point share numbers than Hague has in each of his first three seasons. Helping in the stat department, Hronek was asked to play nearly 24 minutes a night where Hague was seeing just about 19. They are both 2nd round picks without arbitration rights to help sign their second contracts.

Marcus Pettersson – Signed for $4.025m AAV as an RFA at the age of 24

Pettersson is a similar player both in stature and production to Hague. Following his first full season in the NHL (in which he was traded to Pittsburgh), Pettersson signed a qualifying offer of just $874k. This is after a year in which he played 84 games (yeah, he got traded and played more than 82) and tallied 25 points. He posted a similar season the next year with the Penguins and then signed the five-year deal with bought off two years of unrestricted free agency.

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33 Comments

  1. Tim

    Interesting article Ken this cap hell were in caused by bad planning and the year before last cost us the Presidents trophy playing 15 or 16 guys in a game because of the cap. I do believe Kelly knows he’s on the clock and will right the ship. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I just have a gut feeling.

  2. Ken,

    Great read! But, you mentioned they only have 17 players signed they actually have 19. I believe you forgot to count Brossoit and Patrick which were both on the IR. Brossoit and Patrick salaries are included in the total of $82,300,000 million cap hit.

    If you release/trade Brossoit and Patrick that gives a new cap space of $3,725,000 million with a roster of 17.

  3. Chuckles

    Time to win back the fortress. Sword and shield in hand. Get back to sensible hockey. Find a good hockey mind that has retooled teams in any league and won more times than not at their level. Need a wise owl that will give a hoot with wise moves and sensible instruction. Bring the fight back to each Knight. Instead of top level best in contract year only. Be fit not to miss out this next campaign.

  4. B-Rad-Lee

    Or … the Canucks could serve an Offer Sheet, and because VGK can’t match, we would lose him in exchange for picks:
    https://canucksarmy.com/2022/05/21/14-rfa-offer-sheet-targets-vancouver-canucks-summer-2022/
    Nick Roy is in the same boat. Same article.

  5. Pistol Pete

    Nice work Ken. Lot of DD went into that.

  6. THE hockey GOD

    i blame the grape stomper, owner.

    Does he have a bonafide CPA anywhere in the VGK organization ?

    breaking news

    spokeswoman for Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.) said the Biden administration’s decision to “withhold food from disadvantaged children in order to advance a deranged political agenda” was “appalling.”

    “We will not allow Biden to force Floridians to choose between children’s food and parents’ rights,” DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw told the Washington Free Beacon. “That is the kind of ‘decision’ that a totalitarian regime would force upon its citizenry.”

    Where’s NV goobner Sissypant’s on this issue ? No where? Why isn’t he suspending the gas tax to give everyone a break on high energy costs ?? Because his party doesn’t really give a shit about people. Never did, always about party over country.

  7. THE hockey GOD

    i blame the grape stomper, me.

    Do i have a bonafide CPA anywhere in the VGK organization ?

    breaking news

    spokeswoman for Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.) said the Biden administration’s decision to “withhold food from disadvantaged children in order to advance a deranged political agenda” was “appalling.”

    “We will not allow Biden to force Floridians to choose between children’s food and parents’ rights,” DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw told the Washington Free Beacon. “That is the kind of ‘decision’ that a totalitarian regime would force upon its citizenry.”

    Where’s my sissy pants on this issue ? No where? Why isn’t i suspending the gas tax to give everyone a break on high energy costs ?? Because my party doesn’t really give a shit about people. Never did, always about party over country.

    • thg,

      Hockey only please.

      • knights fan in minny

        mr pain in the ass likes to be nauseating its his best quality

    • TS

      Thg: ok. I’m gonna say it: STFU, CRAZY OLD MAN!! TAKE YOUR MEDS!! MORE MEDS. DR, MORE MEDS!! PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!!!

      • THE hockey GOD

        you know people idolize you mean they go to great lengths to
        emulate you

        REAL THG

      • knights fan in minny

        he likes to be nauseating he thinks it’s funny

  8. Jeffrey Sutton

    Why did they fire Deboer instead of the people who hired him???

    • THE hockey GOD

      PDB is the scape goat for the grape stomper, Foley.

      Cassidy is now available, looks like Craig and Cassidy are leading the bunch.

      You know why they are really taking their time to sign a coach and waiting for last possible moment ? They still have to pay PDB as he has one year left and likely has time to find a better team to coach.

      In Vegas, DeBoer guided the Golden Knights to a regular-season record of 98-50-12 for 208 points in 160 regular-season games. In 2020, the Golden Knights sat first in the Pacific Division when the season was paused in March due to Covid-19. Later that summer, in the playoff bubble in Edmonton, they reached the Western Conference Final before falling to the Dallas Stars.

      In the shortened 2020-21 season, Vegas posted a record of 40-14-2 for 82 points in 56 games — playing exclusively in the reconfigured Honda West Division. The Golden Knights tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the best record in the NHL, and reached the third round once again before falling to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup semifinal mainly due the Billy Buckner moment by MAF which will be forever etched into the minds of VGK fans as the boner play of the franchise. Taking his legacy from face of franchise to farce of franchise when you add up all the boneheaded moved by MAF.

      In other news, maybe the Dollar Store will make an offa to the grape stomper than he can’t refuse ?>>

      The Denver Broncos of the National Football League have reached a sale agreement with an investor group backed by Walmart WMT scion Rob Walton that values the three-time Super Bowl Champions at around $4.65 billion.

      The sale, which is subject to approval from both the NFL’s finance committee and league ownership, shatters the previous record of $2.275 billion, set when hedge fund billionaire David Tepper purchased the Carolina Panthers in 2014.

      The League’s most-valuable franchise, however, remains the Dallas Cowboys — which Jerry Jones purchased the Cowboys for $150 million in 1989 — with an estimated value of around $6.5 billion.

      “We look forward to earning the confidence and support of the NFL as we take the next step in this process,” Walton said in a statement. “When the necessary approval procedures are met, our family is excited to share more with Broncos fans, the organization and the community.”

      • knights fan in minny

        are you ill

      • Julie

        No one is saying MAF cost the Knights anything in the playoffs that year. I’m sorry you are still on that merry-go-round. I realize it upset you, but there is more to the knights not winning that year. However, you can take consolation knowing it was MAF who annihilated Minnesota and Colorado that year to get them as far as the matchup with Montreal.

        Go back to sleep, George, it will be ok.

        • Tim

          Julie against Montreal we didn’t play that well plus zero PP didn’t help but Fleury’s gaff with less then 2 minutes to go which cost us the game was a killer. Year two against San Jose giving up 4 goals on the 5 minute Eakin penalty was another disastrous choke. I always liked Fleury and still do but those two games were on him no getting around it.

        • Julie,

          Well said you are totally correct.

          There are a few MAF trolls that lack any hockey common sense on this site. Yes, he had a gaffe in Game 3 which we lost on a 2 on 0 break way in overtime. Everyone has forgotten about the 2 on zero I guess that’s MAF fault also. Lets also blame MAF for VGK only averaging 2.33 goals a game in the series. Also why not blame MAF for not scoring a goal on the power play, surely MAF should have been able to score one goal.

          Yes, MAF helped carry the team past Col and Minny but the MAF trolls are just not smart enough to see it.

          • THE hockey GOD

            MAF gaffes stand out as follows, any one with a hockey BRAIN can clearly see:
            – not a team player, complaining about playing time when RL was getting all the play off starts
            – he put out a back stabbing cartoon, his agent represents HIM, further buffeting the fact that he’s not a team player
            – he pulled a gaffe in the Wild series
            – he gaffed BIG TIME in the HABS series costing the team key momentum eventually leading to a HOLE so BIG the team could not over come it
            – when co GM GM told him that they would move him in off season he said he would retire
            – his retirement statement clearly diminished his value so much that the VGK could not get anything worthwhile in return. Thus he did the TEAM, his TEAM MATES, the FANS, or the organization NO FAVOR

            At first MAF was ok, in his first two years. then the shit hit the fan and continued to hit the fan thereafter. Anyone standing up for MAF after all this basically has shit for brains. He shot himself repeatedly in the foot, his team, the franchise, and the fan base.

          • THE hockey GOD

            oh yeah thanks Tim I forgot another one, he was ok in his first two years UNTIL .>>in playoffs.

            – Year two against San Jose giving up 4 goals on the 5 minute E

          • Thg, #1 troll no nothing!

  9. knights fan in minny

    shit for brains i heard that was your nick name in high school your trash

    • Minny

      You must be referring to the troll thg. He thinks he is smart but every other comment is nothing but garbage.

      • knights fan in minny

        yes sir VGK FAN he called all the people on here shit for brains who defended flower mr nauseating should do us all a favor and leave

        • Julie

          I admit, I got a kick out of your paint chips comment.

          As for Fleury, I agree he has made mistakes, but the vitriol listed above on the tweet, complaining about Lehner, all that stuff about the Habs flub which didn’t lose the game as they went to overtime and lost then, etc. Doesn’t make sense. I actually research stuff people say on here and form my own conclusions. If someone has to tell me I have shit for brains because I don’t agree with them, I conclude they have lost the argument.

          Btw, thanks to you and VGK Fan.

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