One of the latest teams named in the Marc-Andre Fleury derby is the Minnesota Wild. The connection makes sense with Bill Guerin as GM and the Wild having shipped out Devan Dubnyk to the San Jose Sharks this week. But to make a Fleury trade happen requires more than just two teams deciding to make a trade.
Discussions to make a Fleury trade revolve largely around a third team being involved in a deal, taking some of the remaining $14M in salary over the next two seasons. According to the latest TSN Insider Trading video, TSN’s Frank Seravalli says that the VGK have been trying to work with several teams to fill that role including the Carolina Hurricanes. The issue lies in the price that Vegas is willing to pay. Seravalli reports Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon wants to trade a second round pick to a team to retain up to half ($3.5M per year for two years). But a second round pick was called “way too low” a price for other teams according to Seravalli. The price suggested for that kind of salary retention is both a first and second round draft pick.
With round one of the NHL Entry Draft tonight, the decision to move this year’s first round pick would have to come quickly. Vegas cannot afford to carry $12M in goaltenders, especially when the higher-priced option is the backup. It’s very clear Fleury’s time in Vegas has come to a close, but now the Golden Knights have to pay the price for the decision that’s been made. It’s not a negative or a knock, having Lehner inked to a five-year deal at a reasonable salary is great security. But in today’s cap and cash-strapped world, this is the economic reality of sport.
Fleury is the first of many dominoes to come, with other potential moves on the horizon this week prior to free agency. Expect Vegas to be one of the busier teams this week as they look to rearrange salary to make a big splash in free agency.
Will Vegas pay the price? Does Fleury end up in Minnesota? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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