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A Scout’s Take on Pietrangelo to Vegas; Schmidt to …?

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Credit: Michael Miller (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Alex Pietrangelo is close to signing with the Vegas Golden Knights, as soon as perhaps tonight, according to Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic.

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:

However, David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period interjected:

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.

UPDATE:

 

 

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[…] to be done in order to clear the cap space and become compliant for the VGK. Nate Schmidt has been rumored part of a nearly-completed trade, but the deal has not been finalized. Even if Schmidt’s nearly $6M cap hit is removed from […]

Vegas Golden Knights

Fleury’s save on former teammate turning point for Vegas in 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 the game take place at the other end.

Sunday the Arizona Coyotes took a whopping 16 shots on the Vegas Golden Knights’ 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.

Oliver Ekman-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.

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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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