VHN takes a look as to what it means for the VGK and its loyal fans.
While you could never judge a seven-year contract in an instant, the immediate impact for the Vegas Golden Knights is a seismic shift on defense. A top pairing of the right-handed Pietrangelo and left-shot Shea Theodore sounds tantalizing, but is unlikely. Theodore plays the right side despite being a left shot, and probably stays there. That means Pietrangelo on the top pairing with Brayden McNabb. As it stands now, Theodore will continue to play with Alec Martinez on the left side.
Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon addressed how Pietrangelo coming to Vegas will affect Theodore.
“I think adding Alex Pietrangelo is going to help Shea a lot for a couple reasons. One, it’s not possible that they’ll play together in certain situations but at the same time, Shea along with Alec Martinez were a great pairing for us and they were our second pair. I think if you look around the NHL a lot of the top offensive defenseman play in that spot in the lineup and that gives them a little more flexibility offensively.”
Basically, the top D pair is often assigned the shutdown role against the other team’s top forward line, so putting Theodore on the second pair allows him more favorable matchups to contribute offensively. Also by putting him with the veteran Martinez it helps to know there’s someone watching your back when you do jump into the play. Pietrangelo and McNabb will draw the top defensive assignments.
Right now Nick Holden and Zach Whitecloud are the third pair defenseman. The 23-year-old Whitecloud definitely grew as a player during Vegas’ playoff run, and pairing him with the veteran Holden will also help his game develop. In fact, bringing in a player like Pietrangelo who has won a Stanley Cup and worn the “C” before will help every player on the roster.
There’s the old saying about how there’s only one puck and you can’t split it. The most obvious example of that is Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson in San Jose. Two very talented, offensive-minded defenseman who struggled to play together (or apart) and share the puck. While I don’t see it being quite as big of an issue with Pietrangelo and Theodore, it is something to watch for in training camp. McCrimmon did say ultimately it’s up to head coach Pete DeBoer on how to deploy his talent. Having both Pietrangelo and Theodore on the top power play unit sounds incredible.
When it comes to playing the off-side, Theodore does so naturally. While Pietrangelo does seem to do most of his scoring from the right side, there are times on the power play when he started at the left point with the St. Louis Blues. Of course the addition of Pietrangelo to the lineup for Vegas gives even more flexibility for DeBoer not only in combinations but also in power play setup. Will Vegas go to a PP1 unit with two d-men up top, a 1-3-1, umbrella or some hybrid thereof? The possibilities are endless, and it will be up to DeBoer to figure out how to employ his assets best. Even McCrimmon said the power play should be even better with Pietrangelo on it, which is theoretically true. Now it’s just figuring out how to split the puck.
As Pietrangelo has advanced in his career, he spends less time on the penalty kill but is still a capable defender. After leading the Blues this year in TOI at 24:11, you have to remember that no skater can be on the ice at all times. So expect his contributions to the PK side of things to be limited.
Of course, the ripple effect is not only on defense for the Golden Knights. In order to afford Pietrangelo’s salary, Vegas also moved number two center Peter Stastny.
When it comes to Stastny’s replacement, McCrimmon hinted that the team was going to look inside the organization for his replacement. That will definitely help from a salary standpoint, and the Golden Knights have several candidates to step into the void.
In net, McCrimmon says the team will start next season with Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury. Lehner is going to undergo “clean-up” shoulder surgery soon and is expected to be ready for training camp. It now makes far more sense to keep Fleury in case something goes awry. Either way, Vegas now has potentially the strongest one-two punch in the NHL.
So at this point, it appears the waters have finally calmed for the Golden Knights in the off-season.
We know that for the next several seasons, money will be tight for teams because of the pandemic. Next year teams face the exact same salary cap as this year. In subsequent years the cap will only rise slightly. It’s a different economic reality than we all imagined back at the beginning of March. That now seems a lifetime ago.
What matters for Vegas is figuring out how to best implement Pietrangelo into the lineup. Second is figuring out who the new 2C will be. Training camp will be a fun and interesting place – whenever it may happen.