In the NHL’s most unusual season ever, free agency looms large and every potential deal is a big one. As it appears Alex Pietrangelo, Taylor Hall, Torey Krug and others are headed for new homes the Vegas Golden Knights have some work of their own to do as they look to return to the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, the Marc-Andre Fleury Trade Rumors continue to swirl.
The Fleury Trade Rumor Carousel Keeps Spinning
Perhaps one of the most persistent positions for trade rumors is goaltender. We know the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to be dealing a goaltender, likely Matt Murray. Lately, there’s been a new thought swirling that Marc-Andre Fleury could be bought out by Vegas and return to the Penguins. While a source indicates it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Fleury back in a Pens uniform, a buyout doesn’t seem likely because it in no way helps the Golden Knights unless the NHL offers an amnesty buyout option this summer due to the flat cap. The chances of that happening appear to be slim and none, but you never know.
If the NHL does offer teams one buyout, Fleury is an excellent candidate for it because of his $7M cap hit this year and next. That space would be massive for Vegas when it comes to Robin Lehner’s rumored but unconfirmed 5 year/$5M per deal plus if you’re going to lure Alex Pietrangelo to Sin City it’s going to take roughly $9M a year.
At this point, any team that acquires MAF in a trade must have cap room and the need for a veteran goaltender. Enter the Ottawa Senators, who announced earlier today that they will not offer a contract to 39-year-old Craig Anderson. The Sens have 30-year-old Anders Nilsson for one more year at $2.6M and 25-year-old Marcus Hogberg for one more year at $700k before he hits RFA status.
More importantly, they have a massive $39.6M in cap room to play with. Keep in mind the Sens only have four forwards and four defensemen signed right now, but they have six forwards with RFA status meaning they won’t have to shell out a ton of money. Only Scott Sabourin and Matthew Peca up front plus Ron Hainsey on D are UFAs of note. The Senators also announced today they would move on from veteran rearguard Mark Borowiecki.
The move would also be a positive PR move for a team that has struggled to generate goodwill among the fanbase in recent years. Fleury would get to finish his career closer to home and at full value. Plus he would provide some needed leadership for Ottawa.
Also of note, the Senators own three first round picks (3, 5, 28) and an incredible 13 picks in total for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. If Vegas doesn’t want to bring back salary in any way, there’s always the possibility of draft picks and/or prospects. This could be one of those rare hockey trades where both sides could get what they need.
The NHL Awards were given out earlier this week and VHN took a shot at predicting the winners with mixed results. I will say that Connor Hellebuyck and Roman Josi winning is well-deserved and criticizing them is ridiculous.
Also in the “dissapointing” category for VGK fans is that Golden Knights players were mostly absent from the voting. Of note, Shea Theodore did finish sixth in Norris voting with one third place vote, seven fourth place votes and 13 fifth place votes. Robin Lehner also finished sixth in Vezina voting thanks to one second place vote good for three points, but that almost ranks as a courtesy vote from his Islanders-nominated season.
In what could be considered a surprise by many Roman Josi takes the Norris as best defenseman. I had the pleasure of watching Josi play when I was calling games for the Nashville Predators. Do yourself a favor next season and when Nashville is on spend some time focusing on him. He is extremely intelligent and has tremendous vision and anticipation in all zones. Josi’s ability to read and react is among the best in the game.
Connor Helebuyck deserves this award, because in so many ways he was the glue that held the Winnipeg Jets together. If it wasn’t for his playing out of his mind Winnipeg would have been at the bottom of the heap for most of the season. Consider that from the time the Jets played their last playoff game in the spring of 2019 until opening night they lost four starting defensemen. That’s incredible to me. Throw in the circus that was the Dustin Byfuglien affair and it’s a wonder the Jets were able to produce the results they did. I know there are some who would argue a goaltender shouldn’t win MVP honors but I have no problem with calling a goalie the most important player to his team across the league. No one else plays all 60 minutes.
This past summer I had to run my brother’s fantasy hockey draft because he had to work late. Advantage Greg. As I was text updating him throughout the draft, I sent the message “Congratulations. You’ve just drafted the NHL Rookie of the Year Cale Makar.”
I covered the Frozen Four in Buffalo, NY (and that seems like another lifetime ago now) and watched the young defenseman from UMass dominate in all zones. I also remember after the Minutemen were eliminated the sad look on coach Greg Carvel’s face when I asked him about Makar. Carvel said all the right things about how incredible Makar was and the standard “we’ll see” if he comes back, but odds are his bag was being packed for Denver that night.
The reason I love Makar as the Calder winner is because he is the best all-around player in the rookie bunch. Not only does he produce offense but he’s great in his own zone as well, so rare for someone so young.
When it comes to Shea Theodore, his time will come. Theodore is among a crop of young defenseman including Calder winner Cale Makar and Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes that will dominate the defensive landscape for years to come. At some point, he’s going to win a Norris or two if his growth continues.
Leon Draisaitl showed he was the real deal when he found himself without game-breaking linemate Connor McDavid. While many expected Draisaitl’s output to drop, it did anything but. His scoring title is well-deserved as is his winning both the Hart and the Lindsay, which is the player-voted MVP. That speaks volumes about the season he had.
Oddly enough, Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry received one vote for fifth from TSN’s Renaud Lavoie, who spoke to PittsburghHockeyNow’s Dan Kingerski about why.
What do you think? Does Fleury end up in Ottawa? Let us know in the comments.
Without Lundqvist, Could Washington Chase Fleury?
Henrik Lundqvist announced today that he won’t be suiting up for the Washington Capitals this season due to a heart condition. While he didn’t completely close the door on playing again he did say that medical tests made it clear that playing hockey is not what he should be doing right now. While Lundqvist spends the next several months figuring out what’s next, the Capitals find themsleves without a goaltender. Is there a fit for Marc-Andre Fleury in Washington?
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Let’s start with the basics. Lundqvist was due just $1.5M on a one-year contract with the Caps this season. That cap hit will go away with him on LTIR. Then there’s Michal Kempny, who had off-season surgery to repair a torn Achilles which puts him out 6-8 months. Kempny carries an AAV of $2.5M and placing him on LTIR frees up more space. So now the Caps are able to maneuver a bit more with $4M of LTIR space. Once they trade a contract back to Vegas, we can make the math work.
It’s no secret the Golden Knights would be spending a lot of money on goalies if Fleury remains on the roster. Fleury has a cap hit of $7M each year for the next two years, and Vegas has to retain half of his salary to make the following numbers really work. With the groundwork in place, let’s take a look at some options for the beloved Marc-Andre Fleury.
To me, the guy who makes the most sense coming back to Vegas is Carl Hagelin. With three years left on his deal at an AAV of $2.75M the math can work for the Golden Knights. Vegas could retain that $3.5M of salary for Fleury and just get under the salary cap.
Hagelin is one of those guys who puts up decent NHL numbers in terms of points (30+ in a good year) during the regular season. Come playoffs, he’s a sought-after piece of the puzzle. He works hard and brings intangibles to a third-line role, plus has the experience of winning a pair of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017.
The 32-year-old vet had a good regular season in Washington, but like many players struggled in the bubble. It was a rare poor showing for Hagelin, but the Caps also didn’t look very good as a team either. Hagelin has appeared in a whopping 136 playoff games in his career. That’s tied for 19th among active players with Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, and Kris Letang. Pretty heady company.
More than anything, that playoff experience is what the Golden Knights could really use most. There’s no doubt this team is a regular-season monster, deep and talented. But to get over that final hump and hoist the Stanley Cup, Hagelin might be that third-line glue guy.
Well, there’s always Kempny. A member of the 2018 Stanley Cup Champion Capitals, he’s battled injuries since. He missed the 2019 playoffs and part of the 2020 season with a torn hamstring. Then in October, he tore his Achilles training and had surgery on it which will keep him out 6-8 months.
Kempny has one more year after this on his deal for $2.5M and will be 31 in September. If he’s healthy he’s a nice piece on the back end with championship experience for 2021-22. If he’s unable to rehab the injury and come back, then the money stays on LTIR for Vegas.
If Vegas were to trade for his $2.5M to stash on LTIR, it places them just barely under the cap and doesn’t ruffle the current defense. I like the current top six D for the VGK and this makes a lot of sense for me. Washington might have to do some figuring if they trade this cap hit, but they might not be done making moves yet anyway.
At this point, I don’t think moving Jensen’s $2.5M makes as much sense for Washington as it does for Vegas unless they’re comfortable with both Trevor van Riemsdyk and Jonas Siegenthaler in the top six D this season. However, if the Caps are comfortable with those two (or any other low-cost option) then the math works out similarly to Hagelin’s.
As far as the Golden Knights’ needs on defense, they’re looking good without Jensen. But if they were to acquire the 30-year-old rearguard it frees up the ability to make another move on the back end. I’m not sure that’s where this will end up going, but it does provide more depth for Vegas at a reasonable price.
Admittedly, this is not as likely a scenario but is still a possibility.
There is a fit for Marc-Andre Fleury in Washington. Hagelin is the piece that I think the Golden Knights would most covet and for both teams, makes the most sense. There would be no further juggling required by either side. Plus Vegas gets a solid third-line player with a Stanley Cup pedigree. Combining him with Alex Tuch and Chandler Stephenson could yield a very strong third line for Vegas. If Fleury is ok going to DC, this might provide opportunity for both teams.
Pacioretty: Trade Rumors “Lightweight Stuff”
Vegas Golden Knights fans have been through the rumor mill lately so many times it’s old hat. Max Pacioretty says it’s the same for him when it comes to trade rumors.
Recently Pacioretty trade rumors have reached their zenith, so much so that Golden Knights owner Bill Foley had to come out and say they’re not shopping him.
But to the former Montreal Canadien, those trade rumors are no big deal:
Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty on hearing his name in trade rumors this offseason: "I played in Montreal for 10 years, so this is lightweight stuff. I've heard a lot worse. … This is nothing." #VegasBorn
— David Schoen 📰🗞🏒 (@DavidSchoenLVRJ) December 15, 2020
Speaking to David Schoen of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Pacioretty dismissed the trade rumors as “lightweight stuff.”
Of course, Pacioretty ended up on the Golden Knights after months of being in the Montreal rumor mill. To say trade talk and speculation run rampant in Montreal is almost understating things. Canadiens fans and media love a good discussion about trades, and it’s not always kind.
Of course, the VGK have been front and center in NHL trade rumors ever since signing Alex Pietrangelo to his massive seven-year, $61.6M contract. By far the biggest free agent acquisition of the off-season, Pietrangelo’s deal put the Golden Knights over the cap by just under $1M, so something has to give.
Pacioretty has been a popular target for trade rumors among the national and local media, easy to understand when the target is a consistent 30-goal scorer who led the team in goals (32) and points (66) last season. Pacioretty, like Marc-Andre Fleury, carries a $7M AAV on his contract. He has three years left on the deal.
Keep an eye on VHN this week – it looks like the NHL is close to announcing a finalized plan for its return to play in January or February of 2021. Plus the Golden Knights still need to make a move or two to get under the cap.
Tom’s Daily: VGK Trade Rumors, Mighty Ducks to Return
Tom’s Daily talks more trade rumors, a Wayne Gretzky rookie card sets a record, Disney is bringing back The Mighty Ducks,
Vegas Golden Knights
More and more names continue to get swept into the Golden Knights trade rumors pool. Let’s be honest, everyone has a price. That said, I think that while there is likely one more trade to be made, don’t get swept away in the rapidly flowing current.
Here’s a look at whether Jonathan Marchessault might not be a better acquisition for another team over Max Pacioretty. (NBC Sports)
It was only a matter of time before the name Alec Martinez ended up in the trade rumors too. Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period lists him among potential Golden Knights on the move. (The Fourth Period)
You can’t make all of the NHL owners, GMs and coaches happy all of the time. Especially when it comes to figuring out a new divisional alignment for this season. (Sportsnet)
Well of course they are. The NHL is facing backlash over reports it wants to buy COVID-19 vaccines privately. I’m sure every other league does too, but the NHL is getting roasted for it. (CityNews 1130)
A Wayne Gretzky rookie card just set a record, marking the first time a hockey card has sold for more than $1M (NHL.com)
A judge has left the door open for the family of the late Steve Montador to pursue legal action against the NHL after his ruling. (TSN)
They’re back! Picking up where the movies left off, Disney has announced the return of Gordon Bombay and The Mighty Ducks in a new series on Disney+.
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers continues the legacy of hockey's finest fowls. 🏒 The series picks up where the films left off. Emilio Estevez returns as Gordon Bombay and @thelaurengraham is joining the flock. Coming to @DisneyPlus. pic.twitter.com/r6JwLDYzmx
— Disney (@Disney) December 10, 2020