The first article of business was taken care of last week when the Golden Knights announced Bruce Cassidy as their next coach. Next on the list, improve the roster.
Earlier in the offseason, the Golden Knights were tied to KHL star Andrei Kuzmenko. The 26-year-old totaled 53 points in 49 games with SKA St. Petersburg this season and would have fit well with VGK’s shrinking cap room. Unfortunately, Vancouver was able to offer Kuzmenko more than just money.
That’s a big win for the Canucks. I really thought the two favorites were Vancouver and Edmonton. These were two GMs who had been after Kuzmenko for some time. There were a few teams, even some of the other ones in it who thought it would be Vancouver or Edmonton.-Elliotte Friedman on 32 Thoughts Podcast
Not only did the Golden Knights miss out on what would have been the perfect offseason risk, but they also lost Kuzmenko to a maturing team in their own division. The Canucks added another offensive weapon in his mid-twenties to an already bright roster.
On top of upside, Kuzmenko was brought in on an entry-level NHL contract. Not only will he be eager to play in a new league, the former KHL’er will be motivated to produce so he can strut into free agency. Sure, Vegas can take a run at Kuzmenko next summer but the value won’t be there.
Kuzmenko could only sign a one-year deal. So he needs a new contract for the next year. He knows he had to be in a good situation to set up that next contract. The one thing he had to be convinced of was he would be put in a situation where he would have a good run at another contract. At the very least Vancouver has to convince him of that. –Friedman on 32 Thoughts Podcast
Because the Golden Knights recently acquired Shea Weber who will be placed on LTIR the entire season, it’s not ideal for VGK to hand out any contracts with signing bonuses. Because, if a player hits that bonus, the Golden Knights would have to pay it in the following season which would have them operating at a deficit against the cap.
Kuzmenko’s contract in Vancouver includes $1 million in bonuses, and knowing the competition that was out there for his services, they are probably very reachable milestones. If Vegas offered the same deal, they would have loved the $950,000 cap hit for this year, but would likely be paying that extra $1 million on next season’s cap. The Golden Knights probably didn’t offer as attainable performance bonuses because quite frankly, they can’t afford them. Vancouver could, and in the end, they got the player.
VGK’s FO traded away 20 goals when they freed up cap space by shipping Evgenii Dadonov to Montreal. It was a move that had to be made but it left a hole in Vegas’ depth scoring. Not only do they need to find more offense from their key players but replacing Dadonov’s 20 goals will be a challenge with less cap room. That’s why a player like Kuzmenko on a contract valued at less than $1 million against the cap would have been an excellent get.
At the end of the day this player needed to be convinced he was going to put in a position to succeed. Vancouver definitely did that. It’s a big coup for the Canucks. –Friedman on 32 Thoughts Podcast
It’s clear Vancouver had the edge on Kuzmenko the whole way and it’s possible Vegas never had a chance, but the cap situation certainly didn’t help, even on a player who makes just over the league minimum this season.
Vegas’ front office must find ways to increase offense with very little cap space. It’ll take creativity, good scouting, and a bit of luck to find the right players. So, it’s on to the next hidden gem or project for the front office.