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.
Without Lundqvist, Could Washington Chase Fleury?
Henrik Lundqvist announced today that he won’t be suiting up for the Washington Capitals this season due to a heart condition. While he didn’t completely close the door on playing again he did say that medical tests made it clear that playing hockey is not what he should be doing right now. While Lundqvist spends the next several months figuring out what’s next, the Capitals find themsleves without a goaltender. Is there a fit for Marc-Andre Fleury in Washington?
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Let’s start with the basics. Lundqvist was due just $1.5M on a one-year contract with the Caps this season. That cap hit will go away with him on LTIR. Then there’s Michal Kempny, who had off-season surgery to repair a torn Achilles which puts him out 6-8 months. Kempny carries an AAV of $2.5M and placing him on LTIR frees up more space. So now the Caps are able to maneuver a bit more with $4M of LTIR space. Once they trade a contract back to Vegas, we can make the math work.
It’s no secret the Golden Knights would be spending a lot of money on goalies if Fleury remains on the roster. Fleury has a cap hit of $7M each year for the next two years, and Vegas has to retain half of his salary to make the following numbers really work. With the groundwork in place, let’s take a look at some options for the beloved Marc-Andre Fleury.
To me, the guy who makes the most sense coming back to Vegas is Carl Hagelin. With three years left on his deal at an AAV of $2.75M the math can work for the Golden Knights. Vegas could retain that $3.5M of salary for Fleury and just get under the salary cap.
Hagelin is one of those guys who puts up decent NHL numbers in terms of points (30+ in a good year) during the regular season. Come playoffs, he’s a sought-after piece of the puzzle. He works hard and brings intangibles to a third-line role, plus has the experience of winning a pair of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017.
The 32-year-old vet had a good regular season in Washington, but like many players struggled in the bubble. It was a rare poor showing for Hagelin, but the Caps also didn’t look very good as a team either. Hagelin has appeared in a whopping 136 playoff games in his career. That’s tied for 19th among active players with Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, and Kris Letang. Pretty heady company.
More than anything, that playoff experience is what the Golden Knights could really use most. There’s no doubt this team is a regular-season monster, deep and talented. But to get over that final hump and hoist the Stanley Cup, Hagelin might be that third-line glue guy.
Well, there’s always Kempny. A member of the 2018 Stanley Cup Champion Capitals, he’s battled injuries since. He missed the 2019 playoffs and part of the 2020 season with a torn hamstring. Then in October, he tore his Achilles training and had surgery on it which will keep him out 6-8 months.
Kempny has one more year after this on his deal for $2.5M and will be 31 in September. If he’s healthy he’s a nice piece on the back end with championship experience for 2021-22. If he’s unable to rehab the injury and come back, then the money stays on LTIR for Vegas.
If Vegas were to trade for his $2.5M to stash on LTIR, it places them just barely under the cap and doesn’t ruffle the current defense. I like the current top six D for the VGK and this makes a lot of sense for me. Washington might have to do some figuring if they trade this cap hit, but they might not be done making moves yet anyway.
At this point, I don’t think moving Jensen’s $2.5M makes as much sense for Washington as it does for Vegas unless they’re comfortable with both Trevor van Riemsdyk and Jonas Siegenthaler in the top six D this season. However, if the Caps are comfortable with those two (or any other low-cost option) then the math works out similarly to Hagelin’s.
As far as the Golden Knights’ needs on defense, they’re looking good without Jensen. But if they were to acquire the 30-year-old rearguard it frees up the ability to make another move on the back end. I’m not sure that’s where this will end up going, but it does provide more depth for Vegas at a reasonable price.
Admittedly, this is not as likely a scenario but is still a possibility.
There is a fit for Marc-Andre Fleury in Washington. Hagelin is the piece that I think the Golden Knights would most covet and for both teams, makes the most sense. There would be no further juggling required by either side. Plus Vegas gets a solid third-line player with a Stanley Cup pedigree. Combining him with Alex Tuch and Chandler Stephenson could yield a very strong third line for Vegas. If Fleury is ok going to DC, this might provide opportunity for both teams.
Pacioretty: Trade Rumors “Lightweight Stuff”
Vegas Golden Knights fans have been through the rumor mill lately so many times it’s old hat. Max Pacioretty says it’s the same for him when it comes to trade rumors.
Recently Pacioretty trade rumors have reached their zenith, so much so that Golden Knights owner Bill Foley had to come out and say they’re not shopping him.
But to the former Montreal Canadien, those trade rumors are no big deal:
Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty on hearing his name in trade rumors this offseason: "I played in Montreal for 10 years, so this is lightweight stuff. I've heard a lot worse. … This is nothing." #VegasBorn
— David Schoen 📰🗞🏒 (@DavidSchoenLVRJ) December 15, 2020
Speaking to David Schoen of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Pacioretty dismissed the trade rumors as “lightweight stuff.”
Of course, Pacioretty ended up on the Golden Knights after months of being in the Montreal rumor mill. To say trade talk and speculation run rampant in Montreal is almost understating things. Canadiens fans and media love a good discussion about trades, and it’s not always kind.
Of course, the VGK have been front and center in NHL trade rumors ever since signing Alex Pietrangelo to his massive seven-year, $61.6M contract. By far the biggest free agent acquisition of the off-season, Pietrangelo’s deal put the Golden Knights over the cap by just under $1M, so something has to give.
Pacioretty has been a popular target for trade rumors among the national and local media, easy to understand when the target is a consistent 30-goal scorer who led the team in goals (32) and points (66) last season. Pacioretty, like Marc-Andre Fleury, carries a $7M AAV on his contract. He has three years left on the deal.
Keep an eye on VHN this week – it looks like the NHL is close to announcing a finalized plan for its return to play in January or February of 2021. Plus the Golden Knights still need to make a move or two to get under the cap.
Tom’s Daily: VGK Trade Rumors, Mighty Ducks to Return
Tom’s Daily talks more trade rumors, a Wayne Gretzky rookie card sets a record, Disney is bringing back The Mighty Ducks,
Vegas Golden Knights
More and more names continue to get swept into the Golden Knights trade rumors pool. Let’s be honest, everyone has a price. That said, I think that while there is likely one more trade to be made, don’t get swept away in the rapidly flowing current.
Here’s a look at whether Jonathan Marchessault might not be a better acquisition for another team over Max Pacioretty. (NBC Sports)
It was only a matter of time before the name Alec Martinez ended up in the trade rumors too. Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period lists him among potential Golden Knights on the move. (The Fourth Period)
You can’t make all of the NHL owners, GMs and coaches happy all of the time. Especially when it comes to figuring out a new divisional alignment for this season. (Sportsnet)
Well of course they are. The NHL is facing backlash over reports it wants to buy COVID-19 vaccines privately. I’m sure every other league does too, but the NHL is getting roasted for it. (CityNews 1130)
A Wayne Gretzky rookie card just set a record, marking the first time a hockey card has sold for more than $1M (NHL.com)
A judge has left the door open for the family of the late Steve Montador to pursue legal action against the NHL after his ruling. (TSN)
They’re back! Picking up where the movies left off, Disney has announced the return of Gordon Bombay and The Mighty Ducks in a new series on Disney+.
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers continues the legacy of hockey's finest fowls. 🏒 The series picks up where the films left off. Emilio Estevez returns as Gordon Bombay and @thelaurengraham is joining the flock. Coming to @DisneyPlus. pic.twitter.com/r6JwLDYzmx
— Disney (@Disney) December 10, 2020