Yesterday we went into potential alternatives for the big-time add on the blue line for the Golden Knights. Today, we’re diving into what the Vegas defensive unit would look like if they do indeed land Alex Pietrangelo or Torey Krug.
There’s been a lot of rumblings about Alex Pietrangelo and Vegas, and someone told me today they were wondering if Vegas might take a run, if it’s not Pietrangelo, at Torey Krug. –Elliotte Friedman on 31 Thoughts Podcast
Before we get into the pair combos, let’s start with what the Golden Knights would have to do to make it happen. Pietrangelo is likely going to command somewhere around $8-9 million where Krug will likely fall a bit lower at around $7-8.5 million. Either way, with the Golden Knights looking at about $1 million or so in available cap space currently, they’ll have to get to work.
The whole offseason must begin by settling the goalie situation. In a perfect world, Vegas would find someone to take Marc-Andre Fleury’s complete contract off their hands without forfeiting much more than a lower round pick. Then, they’d sign Robin Lehner for between $5-6 million and earn themselves a bit of relief (Fleury’s cap hit is $7 million). However, it’s more likely there will be at least a bit of Fleury’s salary retained on the Golden Knights books, or they’ll have to buy him out, and they will hope to be back at $7 million in goalies after signing Lehner long team.
The next decision would be at the center position. If the Golden Knights believe they can replace Paul Stastny with Cody Glass (or Stastny with Stephenson and Stephenson with Glass) then that would be the least invasive start to finding the cap space. That’s $6.5 million which would essentially offset the majority of the space needed to sign either defenseman.
If they don’t trust that route (which I wouldn’t), then you look to the wings. Max Pacioretty’s $7 million and Jonathan Marchessault’s $5 million are the two that jump out.
Finally, if VGK add a defenseman, they would likely be looking to move at least one of the existing ones out. The leading candidate being the $5.95 million owed to Nate Schmidt. Otherwise, Alec Martinez’s $4 million could be an option, but after trading two 2nd round picks for him, they better be able to recoup at least one, if not both of them to make that route worthwhile.
So, you can pick the path you like the most with the understanding that if they save money on the goalie exchange, it would only have to be one player, while if they don’t, it’s likely one forward and one defenseman that must go.
Now let’s get on to the fun part; what the Golden Knights look like on the blue line if they add a big-ticket defenseman this offseason. Let’s start by assuming the Golden Knights make it happen without getting rid of any current defenseman on the roster.
Add Pietrangelo / Subtract No One
Add Krug / Subtract No One
Pietrangelo is a right-handed offensive weapon that can be relied upon to soak up top-pair defensive minutes. Paired with Schmidt, they may be a bit better defensively than Schmidt was with McNabb and definitely would be world’s better offensively. Plus, this would allow for the continued protection of Theodore, which helped lead him to a 6th place Norris finish and a dominant postseason in 2019-20.
As for Krug, he’s a smaller, mobile offensive defenseman who has primarily played with a big defense-first style player. The most normal fit would be with McNabb but they both play the left side. So, the way Martinez fit with Theodore makes it likely he could do the same with Krug. Despite playing the left side, he’d be unlikely to find his way onto a permanent pair with Theodore, but when the Golden Knights need offense, that would be way more effective than the Schmidt-Theodore pair that DeBoer utilized in the playoffs.
Now let’s move on to what it looks like if they have to move on from a defensive piece.
Add Pietrangelo / Subtract Schmidt
Add Pietrangelo / Subtract Martinez
Add Krug / Subtract Schmidt
Add Krug / Subtract Martinez
Pietrangelo really sures up the right-hand side of the Golden Knights defense even if Schmidt or Martinez would be sent out. Moving one of those two would put some added pressure on another young defenseman, but paired with Whitecloud in a third pair role it should be do-able, especially considering how well Hague and Whitecloud played together as Chicago Wolves.
With Krug, things get a little dicey as the left side becomes overwhelmed. McNabb has only played on the left side in Vegas and while all of Schmidt, Theodore, and Martinez can play the right, none of them are right-handed. This would likely mean a massive role increase for Whitecloud. The third pair right-defense spot would be a competition that Vegas would be cheering for right-handed Coghlan to win. His offense would bring a weapon to the third pair as well as another power play option. The issue is he’s never been given a chance and it’s hard to believe he’ll be able to jump both Holden and Bischoff after a weird offseason. Finally, this completely buries Nic Hague, which isn’t exactly ideal and would almost force the Golden Knights into looking to move him.
No matter which route the Golden Knights go, Pietrangelo’s right-handedness seems to make him the much more attractive option. If they keep Schmidt and Martinez they’ll instantly have one of, if not the best defense corps in the conference. With Krug, it would likely be more of an upgrade on Schmidt, which would be nice, but doesn’t have quite the franchise-changing look that Pietrangelo brings.