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VGK Heading For Similar Offseason To Deadline Path

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There’s still plenty of time for things to change, but at the moment the Golden Knights appear set to head into the 2020-21 season with a similar mindset as they did in 2019-20.

At the deadline of Year 2 the Golden Knights acquired Mark Stone and agreed to an enormous contract extension that was set to kick in the following season. Thus, in the offseason, they were forced to shed some salary in order to return to cap compliance. They did it by trading Erik Haula, Colin Miller, and Nikita Gusev and the only tangible piece they got in return was Nic Roy. Then, at the deadline, they packaged all of the draft picks they received a in the offseason to make splash trades bringing in Robin Lehner, Alec Martinez, and Nick Cousins. The idea was to use the players that needed to be sent out in the offseason to create capital that could be spent in a more effective way at the deadline.

This year, the Golden Knights may end up going down a similar path. As was the case with Cody Eakin last year, the clear player to move to create cap space this offseason was (and still is) Marc-Andre Fleury. Vegas signed Lehner to a long-term deal relegating Fleury to the bench and making his $7 million cap hit a burden. But, instead of making that move, Kelly McCrimmon and George McPhee opted to trade Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt instead. The return was a pair of mid-round draft picks, which can once again be used as capital to make more moves at the deadline.

The trouble is, this year the piece that must move out to clear cap space at the deadline will be much trickier to move than the one last year. Cody Eakin’s $3.85 million was clearly expendable in the offseason and if Vegas wanted to do anything significant they needed to move it at the deadline. They found a suitor in Winnipeg and turned it into a 4th round pick. That paved the way to use the picks from Haula, Miller, and Gusev to add a forward, defenseman, and a goalie.

This year, that piece is Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury’s name has been in the rumors since he lost his starting job to Robin Lehner early in the playoffs and according to most insiders the Golden Knights would actually have to give someone a pick and Fleury just to get his salary off the books. At the deadline, the Golden Knights are hoping that’s not the case.

Maybe someone loses a goalie to injury. Maybe someone doesn’t like the goalies they have. Maybe a team not expecting to contend finds themselves in the thick of it. If Fleury is playing well as the backup in Vegas, the price for a future Hall of Fame goalie will look like something on the Walmart Rollback shelf.

But, there are a lot of “ifs” for the Golden Knights to pull that off. The first and most important one is if Fleury is healthy and performing at a high level. The next is that a team with available cap space is willing to eat the salary not only for this year but also next. And the last is whatever team that may be, they can’t be on Fleury’s 10-team no-trade list.

Goalies are often traded at the deadline, but starters do not move frequently. Unless it’s a true salary dump, which would cost Vegas assets, the Golden Knights would need to find a trade partner looking for a starter. That’s a lot to ask, especially with only 20 teams as options.

Let’s say it all works out though, they find a place to send him, whether they get a return or not. Then, Vegas would want to turn around and use the newfound $7 million in cap space to fill the void they created by moving Stastny and Schmidt in the offseason.

That’s where it gets tricky. If you consider that the cost to move all of Fleury was likely a 1st round pick plus, and Stastny and Schmidt earned a 3rd and a 4th, the Golden Knights will have those three picks plus or minus whatever they get or gave up in the Fleury deadline deal. They’d have basically free reign on any player as very few would put them over the cap, but what’s the likelihood of spending those picks and generating a replacement as good as Schmidt and/or Stastny?

Last year, when you added up Martinez, Lehner, Cousins, Roy and Stephenson (who they got a while before the deadline) and compared it to Haula, Miller, and Gusev, it looked pretty good. But it seems far-fetched to believe the return for Fleury and a few picks is going to match Schmidt and Stastny.

Looking at the upcoming UFAs, which are usually atop the trade boards at the deadline, Taylor Hall’s name jumps out but if they wanted him, he was a free agent a few days ago. David Krejci, Derek Stepan, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins names top the center group, while Dougie Hamilton, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Alex Goligowski are among the defensemen. Plus, this is even these teams are even in a position to deal those players.

The Golden Knights weren’t willing to pay the price it was going to take this offseason to move Fleury. If the reason for that is because they want to save that move until the deadline like they did a year ago, they’re almost certainly going to end up on the short side of the stick.


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  1. Josh

    VGK essentially traded Schmidt for Piet and a 3rd round pick. That’s a pretty good deal. They already found their “replacement” for Schmidt.

    • The Noodle King

      Traded Schmidt and Stastny to clear enough room for re-signing Nosek and Stephenson and got a 3rd, a 4th, Dahlstrom and Petro in return. I’m guessing a bag of pucks was involved somewhere in one of these deals too.

      • And they signed another goalie which made Fleury’s $7 million of cap space a waste.

        • The Noodle King

          So they should have included 2 bags of pucks in their offers to dump him and his contract? Hard to believe that couldn’t get a deal closed. What a S____T show.

  2. Rick Dames

    Schmidt for Piet and it only costs $2.8 more – a great deal! If the Knights find a partner to take on Fleury we’re right back to the problem of no viable backup in a condensed 4 games per week season. We have failed to develop goaltending talent, but with the Seattle draft coming should be able to come up with someone; and in the meantime, we have a great tandem. Now, when we do have cap space, how bout a center that plays in the dirty area around the net!

    • Can some one please tell me a time that not having a “viable backup” has hurt the Vegas Golden Knights?

      The only time they’ve ever had any real issue was when they had two starters (see Walsh tweet).

  3. sb

    If I understand correctly, the Knights are presently about $185k over the cap. That means one player’s gotta go before Game 1. Now, had they signed Cousins at the $1.5 mil and not Reaves at $1.75 mil, they’d be under the cap and have a player 7 years younger. Kept the wrong role guy.

  4. Michael

    Vegas are like a contestant in some bizarro “supermarket sweep” gameshow, grabbing expensive items off the shelves with no sense of how it will all fit together.

    No chemistry, no cohesion, no cup.

  5. Ken – not sure why you are still on the bandwagon to dump MAF – he’s more than a 7 mill backup and really quite a leader on the team despite not having an official title. Hopefully he can bring some chemistry back as he is well respected by the players and Mr. Foley apparently despite what other mgt thinks. Is 12 mil a dangers situation maybe – Lehner is having surgery and the season hasn’t even started, that said I am not sure it is any worse than two 18Mill guys out there milling around who could very easily get injured. I have repeatedly stated 30 mill for 4 guys is suicide with the current cap which isn’t likely to change much in the foreseeable future but it is what it is. The walrus doesn’t appear to be the picture of health, if I am wrong I m sorry, so we need a better than average backup if we are to survive this coming season – of course that assumes there is going to be one. In any event all the chips haven’t fallen yet so who knows.

  6. Daryl

    It’s not that they decided to keep MAF, it’s that nobody wanted that contract. I still do jot like the Pietra deal. It was t just a Schmidt but Stastny as well. The are still around $185 to high so something else will have to give. Maybe if they hadn’t wasted that money on Reaves they would be good to go. I see them trading away one of their very young talented blue liners

    • Daryl – I know they couldn’t dump him so to make things look better they decided it was not such a good idea and felt having two elite goalies made sense under the circumstances. Frankly I admire MAF for taking the high road thru all of this and being smart about this whole thing as 14 million isn’t exactly loose change. Mgt created a very disruptive situation by saying one thing then doing the absolute opposite regarding goalie rotation, They could land up looking like geniuses if it is a compressed season and they have the best goalie tandem to handle it thru no doing of theirs. I frankly don’t care one way or the other but just thought a positive slant on the situation wouldn’t hurt.

  7. Tim

    Ken to answer some of your questions and how we think different right or wrong. You commented we’ve never needed a backup goalie at crunch time. Your logic is just get in the playoffs don’t worry about what position. I on the other hand want to be the best record in the West going into the playoffs. In any sport a team strives to be the # 1 seat except in your eyes. Second thought you want Steven Stamkos and his 8.5 million contract for the next 3 years. That’s all well and good except for his injury history which at that price scares me. Next you’d be willing to give up any prospects to seal the deal. Don’t you think giving up Nick S. who is now Montreals #1 center enough to think twice about going down that road again. We need to keep and develop our young talent unless the writings on the wall there a bust. I know your answer for that we have prospect to trade to win the almighty Cup. You want to improve the team look at each player on our current roster and evaluate is there upside have they peaked or are they on there way down. You have training camp to bring in all your better prospect Hague, Coghlan, Krebs, Glass, Dugan, and Evelens among others to see how they match up. To me Marshie and Holden are done they would be on the top of my list and that would free up a little less then 7 million dollars. Now you have freedom to pickup a younger, bigger, faster forward or D-Man. Patrick Laine comes to mind or if you think Stamkos could stay healthy it.

  8. Miri

    Ken – Agree with your surmises and conclusion. Just want to point out that the opportunities to trade Fleury might be even fewer than your article suggests. You point out that the team that satisfies the other two criteria you mention also needs to be one that is not on Fleury’s 10-team no-trade list. The team the Knights might want to trade Fleury to is likely on an even shorter list. Any team proposing to agree to take on MAF’s full salary prior to the deadline is likely to be a serious contender for the Cup. I doubt that the Knights would want to a trade him to a contender in the same division. If so, this further narrows the list of teams that might be a viable trade partner.

    Personally, I’m sorry that an off-season trade with Carolina didn’t work out, possibly for Reimer with Knights retaining $3 mil or so of MAF salary. MAF would have gone to a team that might be a good fit for him, and the Knights would have received a very good backup, while clearing at least some additional cap space.

  9. jason mason

    The Mc brothers running the show are paid pretty well to know what’s happening around the league. It’s not that they couldn’t find any teams willing to take on Fleury’s contract as much as it was a glut of talent at goalie on the market to choose from. Why would any team take on a contract situation they know will become a burden to the VGKs because of their haste in signing Lehner.

    For all those saying MAF is done as a player, I suggest you look at the situation Pittsburgh has gone through with goalies since they let him go. Fleury had a career year his 1st year in Vegas, and a season and a half later he’s washed up? Hardly. And last I checked he didn’t have off season shoulder surgery. VGK could have had a backup like Lundqvist for a song as a backup and I seriously doubt Lehner would have gotten the same contract from many other teams with so many goalies to choose from.

    Winning changes everything, so let’s see how it goes. If they don’t win the cup next season who should be the one to go?

  10. Miri

    Apologies for my last comment about a Carolina deal. I saw this deal, as well as a similar Mrazek deal, mentioned in several places, and it sounded good. But I just looked up their cap hits and, why I may still not understand why some of the other deals discussed in the media did not work out, I now understand why this one did not!

  11. james Regdos

    If fluery loves it here so much why wouldn’t he accept a salary reduction 3.75 would work. No state taxes, he’s made enough money, he makes a lot of extra cash signing jerseys. So remain a knight and take a reduced salary. I would ..

    • Daryl

      You can’t renegotiate a contract in the middle of it. Once his contract is up then he can take a lower end deal

  12. THE hockey GOD

    81 and 75 are also options that everyone is forgetting about, patches is not a SC playoffs performer either. Martinez has lost more than a step or two. So there are plenty of option to continue re-tooling this team into a SC finalist. Based upon the play against DALLAS, and DALLAS performance against Tampa Bay, the VGK are still several key players away from SC.

    The proposed upcoming schedule with shortened season and injury/ surgery to THE WALRUS probably mandates that it is a smart move to keep Marc-Andre on the roster and move others.

    • Daryl

      I wonder if management knew of this injury when they initially tried to get rid of MAF. They made it well known they were trying to get rid of him but thanks to the lot of goalies available, they were forced to keep him. Not it looks like a smart move but most of us know it was nothing more than licking into the situation.

      As for the others you mentioned I cometely agree. I think they have a hard time moving Reaves thanks to the guilty contract VGK gave him. I think they have a better chance of moving Marches or Martinez or Holden. Problem with moving Martinez is they don’t have a replacement. Not sure if someone would take Holden at his rate. Marches might be the best bet

  13. Hjalmarsson has a no trade clause which he’s using so he won’t be traded. Now please take Stepan at $6.5M. Goligoski actually played better than OEL, so he may stay. They had some interest in Demers from the Flyers but it didn’t fly. Coyotes have quite s few players they should move but haven’t had a deal that interests them yet.

  14. Ginny Dubois

    So is what you are saying they still may move Flower in the midst of the season? I am confused. I thought that McCrimmon said he Stays for 2021.

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