It was the first of what could become many moves in the next week-plus. The Vegas Golden Knights trade sent center Brandon Pirri to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for center Dylan Sikura.
The 25-year-old Sikura has played a total of 47 games over three seasons with the Blackhawks, posting 1-13-14 and a plus-5 rating. A former sixth-round pick (#178) by the Hawks in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Sikura finished up four years at Northeastern with a Hobey Baker nomination before turning pro in the spring of 2018. Things looked good for the Aurora, Ontario native coming out of college as he posted back-to-back 50-plus point campaigns. With the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL, he has posted a promising 68 points in 91 games over the last two seasons.
It appears Chicago’s frustration with Sikura is the lack of translation for his game to the NHL level. In his limited action with the Blackhawks, he’s seen some time with the top six rotation but has yet to really break out.
For Vegas, even if he slots in on the third line the potential for a breakout is strong. The VGK have plenty of depth upfront and finding a playmaking pivot for Alex Tuch would be a tremendous boon. The Golden Knights had six forwards finish over the 30 point plateau in the regular season. Tuch disappointed with only 17 points in 42 games while at age 26 Chandler Stephenson could potentially take a step forward next season after posting 22 points in 41 games. Sikura figures to be in this mix somewhere and perhaps the hope is that his acquisition sparks something in the middle of the lineup – including his own emergence.
Sikura has one more year left on his current extension with a cap hit of $750k and a base salary of $800k, both good for Vegas. If he pans out, the trade could yield a tremendous upside for the Golden Knights.
Pirri spent the bulk of his time with the Chicago Wolves and only recorded two assists in 16 games for the Golden Knights this year. This move opens up a potential hole not only for players like Sikura to emerge but also looking ahead Peyton Krebs looks ready to take the next step for 2020-21.
The Vegas trade came eight days before the 2020 NHL Draft and the coming free agent frenzy. Sikura is only a little fish on the radar which could include some big targets.
Who Joins the Vegas Golden Knights in a Pandemic Division?
We here at VHN are in “fun mode” at this point of the off-season. It’s fun to follow thoughts and ideas that swirled at various points in the last few weeks but had to be shelved for stuff like “breaking news“, “Alex Pietrangelo” and “Robin Lehner vs. Marc-Andre Fleury IN A STEEL CAGE!”.
Well, maybe the last one combined reality with one of those crazy ideas…
But at this point, we don’t have any real idea of when the season will start. It appears less likely with the second wave of COVID-19 things actually do hit that January 1 initial projection. Vegas owner Bill Foley has speculated it could be February 1 if not later.
I think it’s a given that we will see a shorter season, likely 48 games. Historical precedence exists and for TV reasons the season has to end by the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
Likewise I don’t think you can play this season in a bubble, but you might be able to hub for part of it. If the teams did hub, I believe it would be at the start of the season. Once the border between Canada and the US is open again for non-essential travel I see things going back to what we consider “normal”.
So with that in mind, here are my predictions for Pandemic Division distribution for when the NHL would resume play in January/February.
Yes. A Canadian pandemic division would be essential and is actually a great size. Plus, it gives the Canadian networks must-watch matchups almost all the time to start the season. So we have Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver in the CD. Plus if the US/Canada border really does remain closed until at least January 1 if not beyond, it’s pretty much how the NHL has to proceed. So we might as well warm up to the idea now.
Look at the immediate benefits of Toronto/Montreal and Edmonton/Calgary hammering away at each other as they’ve always done. Then we have the potential for new rivalries with the Jets who are the only centralized team in Canada. Everyone else is closer to the coasts. Plus with Ottawa spending the way they are and with an owner saying they’ll win a Stanley Cup in four years, they’re a team to watch.
Obviously this leads to questions, such as structure for the remaining divisions, each of which will have eight teams because I’m having four divisions. What happens to the Golden Knights and the former Pacific Division?
What Happens To Vegas
The VGK will end up in a pandemic division with current rivals San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. But to fill out the last three teams in the division, I’m going to draw a new map and create some awesome rivalries. Coming in as the last teams will be the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and St. Louis Blues.
This would undoubtedly be the most fun possible for VGK fans because it grows the rivalry with Dallas; Colorado/Vegas will turn out to be the marquee matchup in my opinion; St. Louis wants its mojo back and has something to prove. Plus imagine the Pietrangelo vs. STL storyline playing out six times or more in a season.
I realize you might think this sounds like the creation of someone with inherent bias, but geographically it makes sense. Ignore for just the start of the season how Dallas hated being in the Pacific and left for the Central. It rekindles those old Ducks/Stars matchups that used to get out hand. Everyone will be gunning for Dallas and for Vegas. Colorado could be the best team in the NHL to start the season if healthy, yet in a division like this it will be survival of the fittest. Plus, even if you write off Arizona and the California teams (sorry Sharks fans) for the season, this setup gives you the potential for a great clash somewhere every single night.
This pandemic division was also altered from my first call. Originally it was an easy time to lump Buffalo, New Jersey, NYI, NYR, Boston, Philly, Pittsburgh and Columbus together. Nice and tidy. But that left me with that oddball “South” division which wasn’t very southern for half of it.
So as I always say, sacrifices have to be made, but the division might be better for it.
Now, I have a lineup I’m pretty happy with. I take the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins.
Wow – really shook up some things there! And broke off the traditional rivalries that go all the way back to the Patrick Division days with PIT/PHI and the NY teams. But let’s look at some of the crazy awesome upside here.
FOUR of the Original Six teams are in a division together. For Detroit, they only recently came back to the Eastern Conference. Chicago has been in the West for a long time and is now the only O-6 team out there. But look at it now! Hawks, Wings, Rangers and Bruins all in the same division. Rangers/Bruins has deep, angry roots and would be awesome to see renewed. Wings and Hawks much the same. Plus now Minnesota and Buffalo fans get a different perspective on things as well. I like how this works out for my “Southern” division as well. And for Buffalo it’s a chance to really finally establish that downstate rivalry in hockey.
Hopefully the NHL embraces the rare chance to realign and perhaps stoke some other unique rivalries. Initially I had this pandemic division looking somewhat differently than my final alignment. I had constructed a division that included the obvious Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers triangle.
Is now the time to say I miss the Atlanta Thrashers? RIP ATL hockey.
I was going to lump Washington in here with pretty much the rest of the Central Division, but I now realize that’s not going to play out as well as I first imagined.
So for my remaining five teams, I bring in the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
And believe it or not, I think there’s some nice synergies here.
Nashville and Pittsburgh rivalry? Well, the Penguins (and former Pred Patric Hornqvist) did deny Music City a Stanley Cup. This also keeps the Crosby/Ovechkin thing going – but I’m really over that narrative. However it appears the NHL and NBC are not.
Nashville and Columbus used to be rivals in the Barry Trotz/Ken Hitchcock days, but that’s faded with the CBJ in the east. Perhaps now they could rekindle that, especially with John Tortorella as the new protagonist.
I also think that Philly, Washington and Pittsburgh are good teams that will compete with each other every night. Now you have a division with legit contenders and a defending Stanley Cup champion going head-to-head to start the season almost every night. And let’s face it, Columbus can completely spoil an evening for anyone every time out.
In creating my pandemic division setup I allowed for some rivalry retention as well as nods towards recent clashes. I think this is the best balance of geography and rivalry, but what do you think? How would you align your four divisions? Let us know in the comments!
This Date in Vegas Golden Knights History: Dansk Records First Win
This date in Vegas Golden Knights history will feature highlights and historical moments from the franchise’s inception until now.
October 24, 2017
VGK 4 – CHI 2
Oscar Dansk won his first NHL start, making 29 saves to help the Vegas Golden Knights to their fourth straight win.
After trailing 1-0, Vegas scored four straight goals to take a commanding lead they wouldn’t relinquish. William Karlsson, Tomas Nosek, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Jonathan Marchessault scored for the VGK.
Vegas became the 10th team in league history to record a four-game win streak in its inaugural season.
Dansk started the game because both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban were injuried.
Dansk earned his first NHL win three days before against St. Louis, taking over for the injured Subban and winning in overtime.
Could Dahlstrom Compete For a Spot on the Blueline?
Carl Dahlstrom is now a Vegas Golden Knights defenseman after coming to the team along with a fourth round draft pick from the Winnipeg Jets for center Peter Stastny. The move was one of several things the VGK did to open up the cap room to sign top free agent prize Alex Pietrangelo. Although the return went widely unnoticed because the trade was deemed a “salary dump” for Vegas, Dahlstrom could be a key piece of the near future.
At just 25 years of age, Dahlstrom is a former second round pick (#51) by Chicago Blackhawks in 2013. The Stockholm, Sweden native has 64 games of NHL experience under his belt between the Hawks and Jets. And at 6-4, 231 lbs. he brings good size and an impressive reach.
While his NHL offensive numbers aren’t fantastic – just 10 assists in those 64 games – Dahlstrom is just entering a phase of development where many defensemen begin to flourish. It used to be that if a player hadn’t made his impact by 24 he was written off. Stories of players making it later in their careers were few and far between. But with players coming to the NHL via other routes than major junior, the conversation has changed. Some players opt to play pro overseas first. Others go the US college route. Either way, we’re seeing more players migrate to North American hockey later than ever in many cases.
If we look under the hood for Dahlstrom’s advanced metrics, things aren’t bad. Though limited to just 15 games with the Jets last year, his Corsi-for was 51.4% and Fenwick-for 50.7% – on a Jets team that clearly listed defense as its weakest link. Plus his Team On-Ice Save Percentage figure has risen every year of his three years in the NHL, hitting 93.1% last season.
One thing to keep in mind was that the Jets were a team based on superior goaltending and being able to score enough goals to survive. Vegas is not built that way, especially now with Pietrangelo patrolling the top pairing. Heading into training camp Dahlstrom figures to compete somewhere between the six and eight spots on the depth chart.
Something else I look at is the Jets were rebuilding their blueline. The team claimed Dahlstrom off waivers from Chicago as part of that effort. It’s possible he just never quite fit in with either Paul Maurice’s plans or system in the ‘Peg.
Another reason to believe in his upside was his trip to the AHL All-Star Game in 2017-18. At the break, he was leading the Rockford IceHogs in assists and finished with 25 helpers in 64 games. He added only three goals, so clearly his emphasis is more on passing than shooting. It never hurts to have a defenseman with the vision to distribute the puck, especially given Vegas’ talent up front.
It’s easy to overlook depth acquisitions when they’re made. But Dahlstrom should get at least a handful of games for the Golden Knights this season. He is in the final year of a two-year deal with an AAV of $850k and salary of $900k in 2020-21. It makes sense that the VGK would like to see what they have not only in camp but in the regular season if given the chance.