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Whitecloud’s Contract Likely Spells End Of The Road For Two Original Golden Knights

In their first official roster activity since the NHL season was put on halt, the Golden Knights locked up defenseman Zach Whitecloud to a two-year contract at $725K AAV.

Whitecloud becomes the third Golden Knights defenseman to be locked into next season since early February. First, Vegas acquired Alec Martinez and will pay him $4 million against the cap in 2020-21, then they extended Nick Holden on trade deadline day for a cheap $1.7 million for two seasons, and now Whitecloud.

That leaves the Golden Knights blueline fairly stocked. Shea Theodore and Nate Schmidt are under contract for each of the next five seasons, Brayden McNabb, Holden, and Whitecloud each have two years left now, and Martinez’s deal expires at the end of next season.

That’s six NHL defensemen under contract for the 20-21 season with Nic Hague, Jake Bischoff, and Dylan Coghlan all waiting in the wings in the AHL. Plus, Jimmy Schuldt will become an RFA whenever free agency opens this summer meaning he’ll likely stick around for another year as well.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

So, where does that leave the two defensemen currently on the roster both set to become UFAs? Well, the previous nine games before the pause told the beginning of the story (neither Merrill nor Engelland played defense in any of them), Whitecloud and Holden’s extensions tell the middle, and now the end will have to wait until July 1 (or whatever the equivalent is this year).

Under Gallant, Merrill played 38 of the Golden Knights’ 49 games. Engelland was in Gallant’s lineup for 44 of 49. Under DeBoer, Merrill has played 11 of the 22 (with one as a forward) and Engelland just five. Clearly, both Merrill and Engelland had fallen out of the Pete DeBoer led Golden Knights lineup prior to the pause.

Now, with six defensemen under NHL contract and four more pushing for time there’s simply not space for both Engelland and Merrill, if there’s even space for one.

Plus, looking over the roster and the salary cap balance sheet, if there’s one place for Vegas to upgrade with a massive piece, it would be on defense (paging Alex Pietrangelo).

Things get even trickier for Merrill and Engelland when you consider that none of the six NHL contracts are waiver-exempt next season. Also, Nic Roy will require waivers next season as well. Vegas spent the majority of the season juggling their roster this year because they could. Glass, Hague, Whitecloud, and Roy could all go back and forth without any risk. That’s no longer the case for Whitecloud and Roy, which means the expected roster already has 18 (and 19 if you count the backup goalie), waiver-eligible players. There’s simply no room for another one.

The move of signing Whitecloud should be celebrated as it was done for an incredibly cheap price and it gives the Golden Knights even more cap flexibility heading into an offseason with an uncertain cap. But, for those who are fans of original Golden Misfits, the deal likely signals the end of at least one and probably two of them.

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26 Comments

  1. Jerry

    Love you D. Eng!!!

  2. Walt

    predicted TIMELINE for NHL hockey—

    play will resume approx. May 1 with a brief training camp.

    how do I know this??

    the NHL said today, March 23, the following—

    On March 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended against gatherings with 50 people-or-more for a period of eight weeks. How does that impact the NHL’s timeline on determining when the season can resume?

    “We will continue to monitor developments during the 60-day window prescribed by the CDC. Assuming events are tracking positively, we would hope to be able to begin providing high-level guidance on the potential of opening a Club training camp period roughly 45 days into the period covered by the CDC’s recommendation.”

    got that? about 45 days after March 15, which is about early May.

    I foresee the season to resume by mid May, the playoffs to begin in late May, and the Stanley cup to be awarded in mid July

    Thus, the bottom line schedule effect is that they would finish only 1 month later than usual, and the full 2020-21 season will also commence as close to a normal schedule as well.

    Obviously, this is dependent on events, and there may not be smooth sailing on everything, and it could be set back a month more than I predict, but it is a hopeful sign that we will see Knights hockey again THIS SEASON !

    • Walt

      Note that the summer Olympics will likely be postponed to next year, and that means that NBC will need a big sports event in July to replace it, and therefore they now would be very happy to see the NHL playoffs in July.

  3. frankly it was time. As much as i loved Gerard Gallant, i didnt agree with him continuing to use Englland who had proven to be a liability on the backend. We are entering a new age of VGK.

  4. Skeeter Thompson

    This certainly makes Hague expendable. And VGK probably should’ve traded him at the deadline to get max value. But he could be part of a deal to get a goalie who would be lost in the expansion draft (like Elvis or Korpisalo, Blackwood, or even Ingram or Saros if Pekka retires).

  5. Lenny Maisano

    I wish the Golden Knights could find a position somewhere in the organization for Deryk Engelland. He has been a mentor to several players and can still contribute off the ice.

    • Brian

      I’m thinking that Engelland finds a spot as defensive coach with the Henderson AHL team. He gets to stay in the organization and in Vegas. A win-win for both sides. Merrill on the other hand won’t get an offer and will walk.

    • brent skwark

      I 100 % agree keep him in the fold He was and is great for the team.

      • Lenny, Brian, Brent and Daryl – time waits for no one get over it he’s gone just like an old girlfriend – l am sure you all remember those days. Re Tim’s position on the goalie situation the same time situation applies. We all love Flower but maybe his time is up. Reading Ken’s position it appears he is more of a business man than l gave him credit for. Not that my opinion means anything to him but he definitely appears to be more bottom line than l thought. He is great at stirring the pot. Keep smiling – let’s play hockey sooner than later.

        • Daryl

          We all agree that time waits for no one… which is exactly why I said he more than likely won’t be back next season. I do think he is able to play another year or two, just not for Vegas and if he is set on not playing anywhere else, then yes his time is over. But you are one of very, very few who thinks he is done with this organization. He is very knowledgeable and would be a valuable asset as a coach, which is exactly where almost everyone sees him going when his playing days are over. My whole point with Engo is if Vegas needed a blueliner to fill a spot without spending much money, I would take him over Merrill… and as of right now over any of the others in the minors. Now, come time for next season, some of those in the minors may step up and be worthy of taking over Engo. The stats I listed show that he was still able to play this year. I’m not just giving my opinion but stating facts as well. You are only stating your opinion.

          As for MAF, if Vegas is looking long-term I think it would be smart to go after Lehner. He is only 28 where as MAF is 35. But I wouldn’t say Lehner has looked any better than MAF has this year. MAF had a short spell where he looked really bad and I think the death of his father made things really bad. You take away his short stint where he didn’t look good, and his stats are just as good as any. But I do think it would be good for Vegas to lock down Lehner long term… otherwise, I think his signing to begin with was a bad signing

          • If DE can play another year or two as you stated – l question that totally- but not for Vegas WHY not if he is that good? Seems to be a contradiction. Have you watched him he labors to get up the ice and if he does he lands up out of position and unable to get back. I for one supported Flower when his dad passed and everyone wanted him replace. But in the same breath maybe it’s not fun for him anymore which happens with time. Ken’s point is simple and that is why he was available to Vegas initially when the Pens went with a younger guy and Flower rode the bench. It was time to move on. I love the guy he did great things for Vegas but like Engelland when it’s over it’s over and one has to put emotions aside – the cruel world of business. It’s all to do with ROI.

          • Daryl

            Hdbiker7851 – I don’t know why it wouldn’t let my reply to your post so you may not even know I typed this.

            Please don’t take this the wrong way but I question whether you actually watch Engo. I say that basically b/c of your comment about him being out of position. That is TOTALLY inorrect. The one thing DE has going for him is that he is almost never or if position. He understands that he is slow which is why he doesn’t jump up in the offensive zone. That goes back to my other statement about having the fewest breakaways when he is on the ice.

            As for not playing for Vegas, we’ll that is simple. Vegas is loaded with young talent. They would not pay DE when they have so many young guys that can come up and play a few games here and there which would benefit the team more in the long run. I have no doubt several clubs would be willing to pay a very smart leader at minimum wage to play on a 3rd pairing.

            I’ve replied to several of your comments with facts and stats but all you come back with is your opinion. It sounds as though you just don’t like Engo for whatever reason. I’ve just asked for you to provide details as why you think his playing days should be over. Obviously you have a right to your opinion, I just want to understand why you feel as though you do. I’m not trying to sound like DE is an all-star here, we are talking about a 3rd pair blueliner by the way.

            As for MAF, I’m in agreement with you. I do think he started looking fairly good recently but we weren’t given enough time to see if he was really back on track

  6. No reason to worry about Engllanad you are letting your heart rule your head. He should have been gone the end of last year. Defensive coach for AHL they know how to ice the puck without him. He is old enough to fade from the scene gratefully without embarrassing himself further. He had his moment in the spotlight it’s over. Time has passed him by unfortunately that what the clock does for all of us. Hockey is a business anymore so there is no room for heart over head as cruel as that sounds. Sorry

    • Daryl

      I am probably in the minority here but I completely disagree with you. While DE may not be much of an offensive threat, defensively he was pretty good. This is coming from someone who played on the blueline thru college. His stats will also say he isn’t a bad D-man (minus Cosri which I have never understood to begin with). DE is almost always in the correct position, isn’t afraid to block shots, causes most of the shots taken to be done away from the front of the net, and he isn’t afraid to hit someone. There are fewer breakaways when he’s on the ice, mainly b/c he doesn’t jump up in the offensive zone. Goalie save % is higher when he’s on defense and the PK% his best when he’s on the ice. Yeah he ices the puck sometimes more than I like but at least he gets it out of the zone. Players like Merrill, Whitecloud, and even Holden have tried to clear the puck only to have it saved at the blueline or turned over in the center of the defensive zone. He also has fewer turnovers than most of the other defenseman.

      I said at the beginning of the season he should sit every 3 or 4 games. I still think he could play one more season and play around every 10 games or so. If he chooses not to play I think he would be an excellent coach. The game isn’t played the same as when he was in his prime but the principles of the game are the same. He understands the game and he knows the role of a defenceman. His knowledge of the game could be valuable to a young defenceman.

      • From a business point of view and whether we like that or not you are not going to keep people around who potentially can’t contribute all the time. Play every 3 or 4 games maybe 10 for a season your heart is where your head should be. If as you stated you played the game there was a time when it was played for the love of the sport – no more it’s all about money and business and mgt can’t afford to let emotions get in the way of common sense. He is a bar owner now to keep him busy Findlay loves the guy for commercials so he won’t go hungry. Since you played as indicated you know there is no room heart over head. Sorry about that but that is business.

        • Daeyl

          I completely agree with you about this being a business. I may not have gotten my point across for this year… I figured he would play 3-5 games and then get a game off., not play every 3 or 5 games. I still think he plays better defence Than Holden or Merrill… or anyone else they have to bring up. Overall, Holden is slightly better but not by much. For a stretch there around 13 out of 16 goals were scored when Holden was on the ice. Like I said in my previous post, if you look at some of the stats, he was/is still very capable of playing this season.

          As for next season I don’t see him coming back. I wouldn’t mind them bringing him back under the same conditions as this season which might be my heart talking… But, I still think he could contribute on the ice. PDB does not like him so I don’t see it being an option. Maybe it’s the comments he made about the new coach when PDB was first hired. Either way I could see him playing a similar role as this year. If he was willing to play elsewhere I have no doubt a team would take him.

          He would still be a very good coach who understands the game very well. It all just depends if he wants to out in the time or move on from the game

  7. Tim

    Time stops for no one the team keeps evolving and certain hard decisions always need to be made. Engelland and Merrill time is up does anyone really think they could help take us to the promised land? I think Nick Hague has fallen out of favor with DeDoer and I think the same goes for Jimmy S, and Jake B, My guess is Dylan C. has passed them and will make the team next year. Roy can play the’ll sign him long term, and Nosak can do a lot of good things they’ll also sign him. Reeves is a question mark there not going to give him 2.8 but would they offer him 1.5 not sure or do they feel they don’t need him that will be interesting.

    • Daryl

      I hate to say it but I don’t think Holden is any better and gives us much of a chance either. Holden looked pretty good or at least decent when paired with Theo but when he moved down to the 3rd pairing he has not looked good since. Whether it’s Holden, Engelland, or Merrill, unless they are paired with another Theo, I just don’t see it happening.

  8. Tim

    Ken this question is directed at you. I know you want Lehner or Fluery but not both feeling it’s a waste with one expensive goalie not playing. First lets say they ask Fluery are you ok at your age sharing with Lehner if yes you go all in. Now here’s my logic Ken in baseball the pitcher is the most important player and they only pitch every 4th game. Your two top pitchers on a team average 15 to 20 million so do you consider that a waste of money? Tell me the difference in paying Fluery 7 and Lehner 5.5 to solidify the team is any different then paying pitchers to solidify there team. So in your logic keep Fluery at 35 and hope he stays healthy and pick up some cast of as a backup and you expect to win the Stanley Cup. I don’t think so. My friend either your all in or your not.

    • The difference is the playoffs. If you want to win the President’s Trophy, go ahead and pay your goalies 15% of the salary cap, but my interest is not in winning in the regular season, it’s in winning the Stanley Cup. It is horrible cap management to have a massive amount of money guaranteed to be on the bench in the playoffs. You cannot play more than one goalie. If Fleury isn’t the guy, he should go. It’s that simple.

      • Tim

        Ken I guess we can agree to disagree. Let’s face it Fleury the face of the franchise isn’t going anywhere so with your thinking were dead in the water.

      • Daryl

        I completely agree… I wouldn’t want to tie up so much money on goalies when some of that money could be used elsewhere. I don’t care where Vegas ends the season (as long as they are in the playoffs). Come playoff time, only 1 goalie plays which means money would be wasted on a top tier backup goalie. So, whether they decide to go with MAF or Lehner, I don’t really care, but I think they should stick to just the one

        • al berta

          “Come playoff time, only 1 goalie plays”
          ========================

          oh really? Tell that to Fleury and Murray in 2016 and 2017. Tell that to Grubauer and Holtby in 2018. Tell that to and Darling and Crawford in 2015

          no, they go with the HOT goalie in the playoffs, and if their backup option is someone like Subban, you can kiss any playoff chance goodbye

          and if your backup option is a crappy

          • Daryl

            I’m not saying you don’t need a solid backup…. but Murray was paid $3.7m while MAF got $5.7m. So if Vegas can sign both for similar amounts then I say go for it. Lehner is going to want similar to MAF which means they have almost $12m in just goalies. Same for Grubauer and Holtby. As for Darling and Crawford, not sure where you are going with that one as I believe Darling stepped in for Crawford for 4 or 5 gamess but their salaries aren’t even close

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