The Vegas Golden Knights trade rumors appear to be true and the writing on the wall for Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights goaltending situation. It makes more sense for them to move him and his $7M cap hit for the next two years now, especially if the word about Robin Lehner signing a five-year deal is true.
Keep in mind Fleury does have a limited No Movement Clause. His list of ten teams he would not accept a trade to was due this week, and we’ve seen players like Phil Kessel orchestrate those blocks in a way that forces the team’s hand. Not that Fleury would do this, but after the whole DeBoer sword cartoon episode, it’s clear there is some type of divide.
The actual cash out in the deal is $6.5M this season and $6M in the 2021-22 season. While it’s not a major difference, it does mean that a team with more cap room than actual cash might welcome an extra million dollars on the cap register.
Some of these teams would have to make room for Fleury. All five listed need a goalie who can win now and make them better over the next two seasons before his contract expires.
Note: I’m assuming the NHL does not grant compliance buyouts this summer, but it is possible they do because of the pandemic and the cap remaining flat. If that happens, expect buyouts on goalies like Corey Schneider (NJD) and Martin Jones (SJS). Any team that does buy out a goalie gets to move rapidly towards the front of the line for Fleury. Also, teams like Buffalo, Ottawa and Detroit were omitted because they were not likely places Fleury would allow himself to end up, but stranger things have happened.
Top 5 Potential Vegas Trade Partners for Fleury
Honorable Mention: Chicago Blackhawks
I think Chicago needs to move on from Corey Crawford, who is a UFA this summer. Will they? Probably not. The Hawks showed they still have some life left in the potential runs for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith et. al. But for whatever reason when Chicago had a choice between a superior Robin Lehner and Crawford, they picked the latter. We know now the fallout from that as Lehner landed in Vegas and I’m writing an article about where Marc-Andre Fleury will end up. Can you imagine if Lehner had stayed in Chicago? They might have made a seriously deep run. If the Hawks come to their senses and dump Crawford my opinion would change. But don’t bet on it.
5. Ottawa Senators
Could Fleury finish his career close to home? The Ottawa Senators are one of several teams looking for a starting goalie and they have enough assets and prospects to fill a bowl of poutine, twice over, including a few first-round picks.
Ottawa has young Marcus Hogberg, but he did not excel in his first NHL stint this season. Hogberg, 25, is a big Swedish goalie but it took the 2013 third-round pick forever to get to the NHL. He was 5-8-8 with only a .904 save percentage.
Ottawa was a scrappy, competitive team, even if they had the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference. What could they accomplish with Fleury in net and Fleury in the room, perhaps contend for the playoffs and that playoff revenue?
Ottawa could well be on Fleury’s no-trade list since they will not soon contend for a Stanley Cup, but Fleury might also be the perfect fit.
4) Edmonton Oilers
I’ve never been a believer in Mike Smith’s ability to take a team to a Stanley Cup. He’s too injury prone and too streaky. But I also don’t think Mikko Koskinen is that guy either. Smith is UFA this summer and at 38 I don’t see why Edmonton would bring him back. Koskinen is more of a concern because $4.5M is a lot to pay a guy in a backup role, but a Fleury trade would definitely give the Oilers a shot in the arm immediately. Edmonton doesn’t have any immediately scary decisions to make about the roster, and currently carries $10.5M in cap room.
This is a team so loaded upfront we often wonder why they don’t do more damage, but it’s pretty plain to see they’ve never had the defense and goaltending to complement the forwards. Until that day comes, Edmonton will be the team that looks dangerous but can’t make it over the hump. Getting Fleury in net would be a major upgrade.
3. Calgary Flames
Oh, what could have been for Calgary. They were close to being a contender in the Western Conference bubble, but then it was gone in a week. While Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau took a lion share of the blame, Calgary could use a bonafide No. 1 goalie, too.
Cam Talbot will move on to other pastures, and David Rittich has not locked down the job. Perhaps Rittich would be the perfect 1A for Fleury, who could invigorate the young Calgary lineup.
Rittich is signed for one more year at a manageable $2.75 million. Calgary has about $17 million to ink a few defensemen, but Fleury’s salary fits here.
2) Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina is one of those teams I look at and think they should always be battling it out for the division title and threatening to make noise in the playoffs. Yet neither James Reimer nor Petr Mrazek has clearly run away with the starting mantle. While Mrazek was the starter for the Canes in these playoffs, we did see Reimer a few times and he looked good for the most part. Both goalies are signed for just over $3M this upcoming season and both will be UFAs come next summer.
If one of those salaries were removed from the books (and in this case, I think if the VGK take back either one of these two guys as a backup to Lehner for one year it makes perfect sense) then a Fleury trade can easily fit under the cap on a team with $7.7M of current projected space. With only three UFAs who figure to be relatively inexpensive to retain if they so choose Carolina does have some flexibility. Five of the six defensive spots are set as well. Now the question is will Carolina make the move to shift things around in net? Stay tuned.
1) Minnesota Wild
The Wild hit the top spot on this list as a team that is so close to putting it all together, but ended up with Alex Staylock as its playoff starter after the confidence in Devan Dubnyk evaporated. While Dubnyk is due one more year at $4.33M, moving him or possibly buying him out isn’t the worst option for a team with almost $12M in current cap space.
There’s also the GM Bill Guerin-Fleury connection from their time together in Pittsburgh. Guerin knows full well what Fleury means inside the locker room and on the ice.
Minnesota just locked up Jonas Brodin long-term, which means the defense has been addressed for the foreseeable future. The real problem for Minnesota would be the 2021-22 season, when they would then have seven players under contract for $6M or more per year and facing UFA deals for forwards Marcus Johansson, Marcus Foligno, and Nick Bjugstad. Then add a potential whopper of a raise for RFA Kevin Fiala if he continues his upward rise. Defensively the Wild’s top four is set unless they try to move the $6M cap hit of Matt Dumba, which seems more likely with the signing of Brodin.
The Wild could make a Fleury trade for next season and see how things go before making a decision. Either way, Minnesota is retooling, not rebuilding. They showed that with some quality goaltending they may have been capable of much more.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments for what team you think a Fleury trade makes the most sense!
Could Vegas Make Room for Patrik Laine?
Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets have been having relationship problems for a little while now. He wants top-line minutes. There’s rumors he won’t show up at training camp if not traded, which have been denied by his agents. The Jets have looked at trading him but still say he’s a big part of things there. There’s a lot of meat on this bone.
Winnipeg already has great chemistry on its top line of Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. Laine plays the right side like Wheeler. Wheeler’s deal is for an AAV of $8.25M, Laine’s $6.75M – not that salary is everything, but it matters. Laine figures to see an improvement in his circumstances with former Golden Knights center Peter Stastny returning to Winnipeg, but will it be enough to placate him?
Reality vs. Perception
If the perception of being a top-line center is really what bothers Laine most, Winnipeg does not appear to be the place for him. Odds of him getting his shot ahead of Wheeler when that line gels so well are slim and none. If it’s more a question of production perhaps Stastny’s return helps. But if he’s still banging the bars of his cell and wanting out, could the Golden Knights make room on the roster for him?
First thing’s first – are you willing to move Mark Stone to the second line and make Reilly Smith your third line right wing? Smith moving down potentially could work if Nicholas Roy ends up at center on the fourth line instead of Tomas Nosek. There’s also the unlikely possibility Roy or Nosek become the odd men out at training camp. But let’s stretch our necks out here and say the lines look like this:
Marchessault – Karlsson – Laine
Pacioretty – Glass – Stone
Tuch – Stephenson – Smith
Carrier – Nosek – Reaves
Looks great right? That’s a really loaded top six, even top nine. If I’m a VGK opponent I have a nervous breakdown trying to gameplan against that. You can’t defend three solid scoring lines all game long. So right now, we’re getting excited because in terms of manpower we can make this work.
Now the other massive question – how in the cap world do you fit him on the roster?
To start the season, you could potentially move Robin Lehner to LTIR because of his shoulder surgery. Even though VGK GM Kelly McCrimmon said he expects Lehner ready for camp whenever that might be, it doesn’t mean he might not end up on that list.
So if that happens, you save $5M against the cap. Now the Golden Knights need to find another chunk of change, and this is where I’m going to ask you to follow me.
In return to the Jets, I send one of Alex Tuch, Reilly Smith or Jonathan Marchessault. Hey, if we’re going to make this work, sacrifices must be made.
It might be easiest to look at Tuch and his down year last year and say “that guy” out of those three. But I might say Marchessault is the piece I dangle and here’s why.
Since his 30-goal peak with Florida in 2016-17, Marchessault’s goal totals have quietly descended each year. His first year in Vegas he potted 27 (and a career-high 75 points), then 25 in 18-19 and 22 last year albeit in just 66 games. Plus at 29, there figures to be some age-related decline in a player as well. He is now entering year three of a six-year deal with a $5M AAV and will be 33 when the deal ends in 2024.
If you package him with a prospect, or perhaps a draft pick the Jets might make a move. There’s also potential to swap other minor pieces that help Vegas salary-wise towards the bottom end of things. So it could happen if you’re willing to shake up the roster.
Does It Make Sense?
Laine is a streaky scorer, one capable of incredible runs but also of disappearing for chunks of time. Is his mercurial performance based on his unhappiness in Winnipeg? Would a move to Vegas – the proverbial “change of scenery” – help? Could the anticipation of being on a team geared up for several more deep runs into the playoffs fix a lot of the problems?
All good questions. All hard to answer. Laine is young (22) and certainly has some maturing to do. He’s cleared the 50-point barrier in all four of his NHL seasons including an impressive 63 points in 68 games last year. His minus-24 from the 18-19 season was gone last year, replaced by his typical high single-digit plus rating. And he’s a deadly power play producer as well.
Then there’s the matter of his contract. This is the final year of a two-year bridge deal but at the end of it he will still be RFA in 2021. So there’s some team control there. He’ll also be due something around his current $6.75M AAV unless things drastically change cap-wise or in his performance. Finally, you’re trading a player with term for the uncertainty of an expiring RFA deal.
I wait on Laine, but keep him on my radar. There’s every possibility that if he’s unhappy and has a rough start to next season his price might decline a bit. And if the Golden Knights could potentially bring him in with only part of his remaining cap hit instead of the whole thing, that allows a bit more flexibility as the inevitable player movement and injuries of the season take hold. I could see him in Vegas Gold, but perhaps not until real games are being played again.
What do you think? Would you make the move now? Wait? Or not do it at all? Let us know in the comments.
Nate Schmidt to Vancouver for 3rd Rounder
The Vegas Golden Knights have some breathing room salary cap-wise after dealing defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks for a 2022 3rd round pick.
-Yr 2/6 $5.95M Cap Hit
-7G 31P in 59GP
-51.2% 5v5 GF, 52.7% DFF, 53.2% Corsi
-Rep'd by Matt Keator WINhttps://t.co/RHlBnKgdej
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) October 13, 2020
Draft picks have been the new currency of choice for teams trying to get under the salary cap limbo stick, and Vegas pushing this choice off to 2022 is the smart move. Stockpiling draft picks further down the road will help the club as attrition occurs over the next few seasons due to a deflated cap and roster churn.
In the meantime, it also allows room for new signing Alex Pietrangelo. The move leaves Vegas $973k over the cap with 21 players on the roster.
Are the Golden Knigths done? Was Nate Schmidt the last move? Let us know in the comments.
A Scout’s Take on Pietrangelo to Vegas; Schmidt to …?
Alex Pietrangelo is close to signing with the Vegas Golden Knights, as soon as perhaps tonight, according to Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic.
Hearing a deal between Alex Pietrangelo and Vegas could be getting close. A decision/announcement may come as soon as tonight.
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) October 11, 2020
Insider consensus suggests that the 30-year-old defenseman will sign a seven-year contract — the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement — at about $9 million dollars per year.
The Vegas Golden Knights currently have about $1.875 million dollars in salary cap space, so there must be a corresponding move at some point this off-season. Teams are allowed to be 10 percent over the $81.5 million dollar cap during the off-season.
Candidates for an eventual cap-clearing move include Marc-Andre Fleury (two years left at $7 million per), Nate Schmidt (five years left at $5.95 million), and Alec Martinez (one year at $4 million). Earlier in the week, the Vegas Golden Knights managed to off-load Paul Stastny and his one-year, $6.5 million dollar ticket to Winnipeg for a draft pick and Carl Dahlstrom.
According to Andy Strickland, Schmidt will be sent to Florida:
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) October 11, 2020
However, David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period interjected:
Follow up on this… Told that a Schmidt trade is still in place, but contrary to reports, he is not going to Florida. Stay tuned. https://t.co/jM2WUlX3yE
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) October 11, 2020
But will Pietrangelo be worth the cost?
Pietrangelo finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting this year, his third time finishing in the top-five over a distinguished 12-year career with the St. Louis Blues. The long-time Blues captain also led St. Louis to the Stanley Cup in 2019.
The Vegas Golden Knights may also be “just one player away.” In their first three years in the league, Vegas has made a Stanley Cup Final, and most recently, they reached the Western Conference Final last month.
Teaming Pietrangelo and fellow elite blueliner Shea Theodore will give the Golden Knights an enviable one-two punch from the back-end.
But it’s always dangerous to give a 30-something a maximum contract, as we saw with the contract that the San Jose Sharks gave Erik Karlsson last summer. Karlsson struggled relative to his lofty standards, and San Jose missed the 24-team playoff.
I reached out to an NHL scout to get his sense about Pietrangelo’s place among the top defensemen in the league and how much decline he forecasts over the life of the contract:
“Right now, he’s a borderline top-10 defenseman.
“I mean he’s an elite defender — don’t get me wrong.
“Just thinking out loud, I have Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, Seth Jones, and John Carlsson higher right now. Then you have Miro Heiskanen, Cale Makar, Charlie McAvoy, and Ivan Provorov coming.”
However, the scout didn’t see anything in Pietrangelo’s game that would suggest a precipitious drop. Using Karlsson as an example again, the Sharks superstar had been slowed by ankle and groin surgeries in two of the three years before San Jose re-signed him. The likely future Vegas Golden Knights’ No. 1 defenseman doesn’t have any such red flags.
“The point I’m trying to make is there are so many good defensemen out there. So top-10 will be real tough to maintain.
“I would imagine a decline even if it’s marginal.”
As I like to say, pay for the first four years, pray for the last four years. If Pietrangelo is indeed that final piece for a Stanley Cup, the cost will be well worth it for Vegas.
Despite all the reports about Alex Pietrangelo, I can confirm that he hasn’t made a decision and I don’t expect there will be one tonight
— Carlo Colaiacovo (@CarloColaiacovo) October 12, 2020