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Vegas Golden Knights Top Three Trade Targets: Forward

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Vegas Golden Knights Gold jersey

As we near NHL free agency on October 9, this series will look at the VGK Top Three Trade Targets at forward, defense and goaltender.

We know there will be movement around the league, but the question remains how much? Some analysts are saying this could be one of the most active markets ever. Others think perhaps many teams stand pat and try to figure out their own situations internally. I think there are enough teams with needs and wants beyond their current asset pool that things are going to really get going this week.

As much as I’d love to see Patrik Laine in those awesome new gold uniforms, he’s not on the list. I think there are a few too many factors that make a deal for him (and some other players) a combination of too-high a price, too much money, too little term or other factors that led me to other decisions.

Also let’s keep in mind that when targeting trades, Vegas is a team that has certain needs and wants. They don’t need to hit a home run and reinvent the roster – but if that impossible dream is there then take a swing. They need to make little adjustments to a roster that has seen a lot of playoff success. It was clear the team needed one more point producer up front as scoring dried up. They also could use a versatile player who can move up and down the lineup to fill holes. A tall order to be sure, but let’s take a look at what’s around.

Trade Target: Phillip Danault – C MTL

Probably my favorite target on the board for many reasons. Danault is a very good defensive center and at 27 still has a few years of upside growth potential. He also managed 13-34-47 in the regular season for the Canadiens so checks my box for added scoring. What matters most to me about Danault is that he is a center with experience, yet young enough to have several more productive seasons.

The Deeper Dive on Danault

When it comes to stats and advanced metrics, there’s a lot to like. Last year he recorded a career-high 119 blocks. For the second season in the past three he put more than 62% of his shots through to the net. His Corsi-for is 55.1% and Fenwick-for is 54.1% despite having 56.2% of his starts in the defensive zone. Danault is a guy who can chip offensively and help lock it down on D. I could see him plugging in as a third line center and really giving the Golden Knights three solid lines that can contribute. Plus a line with him down the middle would be favored to shut down an opposing combo.

As far as possibilities go, he’s likely affordable and a realistic get. Danault carries a $3.25M cash outlay in the final year of his current three-year deal with an AAV of $3.083M.

So what name comes up if we stretch a little?

Trade Target: Johnny Gaudreau – LW CGY

Calgary itself is in flux. The organization seems caught between believing it can win with the assembled core and clamoring for something to change. From the outside looking in I’d be more concerned with goaltending and defense, but Gaudreau received a lot of blame this year as his numbers dropped significantly. Not good when you account for 8.3% of your team’s cap at $6.75M through 2021-22. Vegas would really need to clear the decks on salary to make this happen.

That said after two years of better than a point-per-game, dropping to 58 points in 70 games isn’t terrible. More concerning would be his minus-10 rating and slightly above 50% possession metrics despite 58.7% of his zone starts coming in the offensive end.

The Deeper Dive on Gaudreau

There are reasons to believe he’ll rebound this season. His 8.6% shooting percentage was well below his career 12.1% mark. Plus Gaudreau only posted 18 power play points, far below his totals from the two previous seasons. Many other stats including expected goals-for were way off for the 27-year-old left wing last year. I really believe last year will be a blip on the long-term radar. Perhaps while Calgary is in this uncertain state, Gaudreau could be pried free.

Trade Target: Kyle Palmieri – RW NJD

Palmieri is a model of mid-level scoring consistency. For the last five seasons he’s finished between 24 and 30 goals. This is the final year of his five-year deal worth an AAV of $4.65M – cash outlay $4.25M. He does have a limited NMC but it’s hard to imagine a player not allowing a trade to Vegas, especially considering New Jersey’s rebuild. That’s another reason why I think he can be picked up is that the Devils are rebuilding and would trade for younger players with more team control.

The Deeper Dive on Palmieri

This is a player where you have to agree to live by the sword, die by the sword. His metrics won’t win you over if that’s your most important measuring stick. No, Palmieri is more of an eye-test guy. You have to see the impact he has on the ice to understand his value. I look at his scoring consistency over the last five years and have to remember that the Devils have been a bottom-seven team in goals for in four of the last five seasons. In fact in his first two seasons they were dead last and third-last respectively. Only a 17th-place finish in this category three years ago breaks the chain. When you realize Palmieri scored 13.5% of New Jersey’s goals in 2019-20, his impact comes more into focus. On a team where he could be made to flourish by the weapons around him, Palmieri could be a steal in line for a nice extension from the Golden Knights.

What do you think? Which players would you go after up front? Let us know in the comments!

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TURNING POINT: Fleury’s save comes up big in Golden Knights win

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Marc-Andre Fleury's save on Phil Kessel with 16:55 left in the game was his biggest of the game, preserving the 62nd shutout of his career.

The hardest thing for Marc-Andre Fleury to do between the pipes is watch his Vegas Golden Knights teammates on gameday, when most of the action is taking place at the other end.

Sunday the Arizona Coyotes took a whopping 16 shots on Vegas’ veteran netminder during a 1-0 win in Glendale, Ariz.

“So sometimes I thought the hardest thing was just to stay focused and be ready for those things,” Fleury said after registering his 62nd career shutout and improving to 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and .951 save percentage this season.

Those things, he referred to, were two big saves that may have proved to be turning points for Vegas, which is now 5-1-0 and just one of two teams in the league with five wins.

“They were game changers,” said Jonathan Marchessault, who had the lead assist on William Karlsson’s game-winning goal with 43 seconds left in the game.

Just before the horn at the end of the second period, Fleury denied Jakob Chychrun’s shot through traffic from the top of the right circle.

But it was the save early in the third period that was Fleury’s best, and preserved the shutout and kept momentum fueling into the Golden Knights.

Arizona’s Phil Kessel was able to snatch the puck free from William Carrier in Vegas’ zone, skate through and around Golden Knights defenseman Zach Whitecloud in the neutral zone and bust free for a breakaway chance on his former Penguins teammate.

After shuffling backhand-forehand five times to his forehand, Kessel was stuffed by Fleury.

“I saw it was Phil Kessel coming on the breakaway, and I’ve faced him a lot in practice (in Pittsburgh),” Fleury said. “Sometimes I overthink stuff and what he likes to do, but I was really happy to make that save.”

From there, Fleury faced just four more shots over the final 16:55. And adding to the deflation of the Coyotes’ hopes after Fleury’s save on Kessel was a clanker moments later.

Johan Larsson rang one off the far post, the puck squirted back toward Fleury, whose left pad was off the ice and allowed the puck to get underneath so he could cover it and stop play.

“The breakaway save on Phil Kessel … that’s a huge momentum save for us at the right time, to give us a chance to get back to work and keep the pressure on them,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “I thought Flower gave us exactly the kind of game we needed tonight.”

With his shutout, Fleury passed Walter Broda for sole possession of 16th all time.

“We had our moments,” Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. “You’re looking for that big moment.”

For the Golden Knights, once again, it was their face of the franchise since they entered the National Hockey League.

W.G. Ramirez is the newest columnist and reporter for Vegas Hockey Now. He is the Golden Knights beat writer for The Associated Press and remains a contributor to The Hockey News. Catch him on Twitter @WillieGRamirez

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Tom's Takeaways

Karlsson’s Late Goal Lifts Golden Knights

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William Karlsson Vegas Golden Knights NHL training camp schedule

William Karlsson played the role of hero for the Vegas Golden Knights, notching the game-winning goal with just 43 seconds remaining in a scoreless game to give the VGK the 1-0 victory Sunday afternoon.

With cheers coming from what sounded more like a partisan Vegas crowd, Jonathan Marchessault dug out a puck from behind the Coyotes net and centered to Karlsson. Karlsson made no mistake, burying the puck on the stick side of Darcy Kuemper (26 saves) for the game-winning goal.

Marc-Andre Fleury posted his 62nd career shutout on 16 saves. The victory was his third straight to open the 2021 season.

For the Vegas Golden Knights, the win is redemption after giving up five goals to the Coyotes on Friday night for the team’s first loss of the season. This time Vegas never really let Arizona into the contest, giving up only four shots in the first period.

The game felt sluggish at times, perhaps due to the afternoon start but also the fact that these same two teams were facing each other for the fourth straight time. Fortunately for Vegas, they were able to break through late and steal the victory.

“The name of the game was patience,” Karlsson said with a relieved laugh after the game. “We had a lot of chances and sooner or later they will go in. I thought we had a great game. Eventually (it) has to go in and it did.”

When the Golden Knights had the energy up and forechecked aggressively in the game they generated chances. Nowhere was that on display more than the game-winning goal. Alex Tuch dumps the puck into the corner from neutral ice as Marchessault attacks with speed into the Coyotes zone, beating out an icing call. Marchessault puts the puck into an area just off the net in the slot where Karlsson was able to follow up and immediately shoot the puck, not allowing Kuemper to set up for the shot.

Vegas was definitely the better of the two sides throughout regulation, out-shooting and out-chancing the Coyotes especially in the later stages of the game. Darcy Kuemper deserves the credit for yet another great start for Arizona, making save after save to give the Coyotes a shot at the win.

The Vegas Golden Knights return home for the team’s toughest test so far, a pair of games against the St. Louis Blues starting Tuesday evening.

Tom’s Takeaways:

  • I feel like I’m beating the same drum over and over, but when the Vegas Golden Knights are generating scoring chances, it’s because of the forecheck. This team is built on speed and being aggressive, chasing down pucks and setting up scoring chances from that. Today’s game-winning goal was a perfect example of that.
  • Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t busy the entire time, but made every single save he needed to including a breakaway stop on Phil Kessel that could have spelled disaster for the VGK. I’ve never seen a goalie who stays so completely game-ready regardless of work schedule. Fleury won’t receive the credit he deserves for the work he did in this one, but without him being perfect, perhaps Vegas doesn’t win.
  • The Vegas Golden Knights have never gone past regulation with a 0-0 score, and came within 43 seconds of that happening against Arizona.
  • Once again Cody Glass sat and Nic Hague was back in the lineup, giving Vegas the traditional six defensemen and 12 forwards. Hague looked good and to underscore another point I’ve been making, this team is much better with six defensemen in the lineup.
  • Vegas also dominated in the faceoff circle, winning 61% of the draws.

 

 

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Tom's Takeaways

Coyotes End Golden Knights Win Streak At Four

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Shea Theodore Alex Pietrangelo VGK Vegas Golden Knights

The Arizona Coyotes stopped the Vegas Golden Knights winning streak at four games with a 5-2 victory at Gila River Arena on Friday night.

Connor Garland led the Coyotes offense with a goal and two assists, while Nick Schmaltz scored for the third straight game.

It’s a very difficult proposition to beat a team four times in a row – look at any playoff series. Arizona winning a game, especially at home, was probably due. The Coyotes seemed to have more spring in their step than they did Wednesday night when the Golden Knights handed the Coyotes a 5-2 loss. Several times the Vegas defense allowed odd-man rushes to the Coyotes, and running five defensemen once again likely contributed to some of the errors on the back end.

“It’s definitely different,” said Shea Theodore after the game. “You are rotating through partners (and) you can’t exactly get into the rhythm with one guy… at the same time I don’t think that’s an excuse.”

“We should be able to adapt. We just can’t give up that many odd-man rushes on any given night.”

Vegas Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer said he felt it was more the special teams that affected the outcome of the game.

“Penalties really kinda took our momentum out of the game. Both taking them, and obviously their power play goal early, and then a bunch of the other kills we had to have… when they did take (penalties) I didn’t think our power play created any momentum for us. For me that was… the story.”

“Some self-inflicted things tonight,” DeBoer said.

Whatever the reason, Vegas allowed the Coyotes to grow confident by ceding the opportunities and it showed. Arizona seemed to feel better about its game more and more as the game wore on.

Darcy Kuemper made 29 saves to earn the win as Vegas never quite seemed to find the scoring touch it displayed Wednesday night. Robin Lehner struggled, giving up four goals on 25 shots against and will likely want a couple of those goals back. Lehner seemed off the entire night, whether handling the puck, setting himself for shots, or tracking movement. Those games will happen, but they’re highlighted even more when the goaltender in the other net makes the needed saves. Kuemper was definitely the better of the two goalies on the night.

Fortunatley for the Golden Knights, they’ll be able to jump right back into the action against the Coyotes on Sunday afternoon at 4 pm MT, 3 pm PT.

Tom’s Takeaways:

  • The game marked the first time this season the Vegas Golden Knights have given up more than two goals.
  • Cody Glass returned to the lineup after sitting out a pair of games and recorded a power play goal in the third period.
  • Shea Theodore scored for the second straight game, an unassisted marker at 1:19 of the third period.
  • Vegas went back to a lineup that featured five defensemen and 13 forwards with Glass back in the lineup. Notably both Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo went minus-2 in the contest.
  • Mark Stone keeps his scoring streak intact, assisting on Cody Glass’ power play goal in the third period to give him eight points (2-6-8) in his first five games.
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