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Western Conference Champions Plus Plenty Of Cap Space, A GM’s Dream

In physics, there’s a principle that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. When object A exerts force, object B responds with the exact same amount of force in return. If a person sits, the body exerts a downward force against the chair while the chair comes back with an equal upward force against the body. This is called Newton’s Third Law. In hockey, it’s called the salary cap.

Can’t say I’m entirely sure what Newton’s laws would say about this one. (Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The idea behind the salary cap is to restrain the best teams from going out into free agency, snapping up all the best (and highest paid) players, and becoming even better, all the while seeing the bad teams get worse. It’s designed to promote parity and it does so by creating an opposite force against teams that consistently win.

Luckily for the Golden Knights, the force exerted by the salary cap while opposite, does not have to be equal.

Instead, George McPhee and the Golden Knights sit in most envious of positions.

We have a good team and we don’t have any cap pressures, we’re not tight on the cap. That’s a position you like to avoid, but we’ll see how things shake out. -George McPhee

He’s actually understating it there. The Golden Knights have an elite team, good enough to amass 109 points in the regular season, win the Pacific Division in a landslide, and eventually be crowned the Western Conference Champions. At the same time, Vegas currently sits as the team with the 3rd most salary cap space. They have a whopping $26.475 million of projected available cap space plus the ability to utilize long-term injured reserve (LTIR) to gain another $5+ million.

Oh, and, the Golden Knights have three first draft picks from the top 15 in last year’s draft and 12 picks in the first three rounds of the next three drafts.

Add it all up, and the Golden Knights have absolutely everything necessary to turn a losing team into a winning one, except they weren’t a losing team, instead they were the second best team in all of the NHL.

It’s up to us to put a team on the ice that’s better. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you don’t, but that’s the job, to make them better and to deliver a Stanley Cup, that’s why we’re here. -McPhee

This is where the story gets really good for those who are hoping the Year 1 trip to the Stanley Cup Final wasn’t an anomaly. I asked McPhee if he’s ever been in a position as good as the one he appears to be in right now as the GM of the Golden Knights. The answer I was expecting was “no.” The answer I got was much better.

Yeah, but then I was let go a couple weeks later. One year in Washington we sort of tried to make sure we were going to have a lot of cap space that summer. We were actually targeting a guy like (Matt) Niskanen and they wound up doing all that but I wasn’t there to participate. -McPhee

Fast forward two years and the team that resulted from that situation just lifted the Stanley Cup. Albeit standing directly in McPhee’s way, but nonetheless, he believes he’s been here before and everyone just watched the outcome.

I can’t tell you what’s going to develop. Maybe a lot, maybe nothing, we’ll see. -McPhee

Newton’s First Law states “an object in motion stays in motion.” The Golden Knight trajectory towards becoming a constant among the NHL’s elite appears to be in motion.

Let’s hope Ike is right on this one, and it stays.


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  1. Bent Hermit

    I do not envy GMGM this off season. It is going to be a lot harder to replicate last seasons performance. I believe there is going to be some definite backslide with the team partly from the players that over achieved and the rest of the league ready to shut down the western conference champs. There are some players like Tuch and Nosek that could be better next year. I would look for Tuch to have a breakout year. From his SC playoff performance he projects 24 G for next season and I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t closer to 30 G If he is on the 2nd line especially if they land Tavares . The D is young and will have another full season to get better before the playoffs. Washington showed that VGK’s center depth is bad compared to the last 3 years of SC champs. So the addition of Tavares would help make the team better. The bigger problem becomes what to do if they don’t get him to make the team better. A 2nd pairing D man like De Haan or Cole is a must. VGK has a lot of wingers signed that are bottom 6 type players. Does GMGM sign someone like JVR or Neal for the 2nd line and someone like Grabner for the 3rd. The other option is to see if someone like Hyka or Pirri can make an impact on the team and not to sign any forwards. Either way it’s going to be tough to replicate this years success and make the playoffs let alone the SC finals.

    • Jeff

      Tavares is going to stay in NY once Barry Trotz becomes their coach.

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