It’s no secret a Marc-Andre Fleury trade is the most obvious way to take all the pressure off of the Vegas Golden Knights cap situation. Currently the team sits $973,334 over the cap with 21 of 23 possible contracts at the NHL level (stats courtesy of PuckPedia). If the team retains some of the salary they still could be cap compliant to start the season. But that’s a long shot.
GM Kelly McCrimmon said Fleury and Robin Lehner are the team’s goaltenders for this season. Does it mean the entire season? If so, what other options are available to the Golden Knights?
Long Term IR for Lehner
This will help put the team under the cap, at least to start the season. By placing Lehner, who had shoulder surgery this off-season, on LTIR the Golden Knights give themselves a nice $4M or so in cap room. Now, Lehner won’t be on LTIR all season, and the later the season actually starts the harder this might be to pull off. Lehner tweeted this shortly after his surgery in October:
Surgery went great. 🐼 be buzzin in camp
— Robin Lehner (@RobinLehner) October 15, 2020
That said, there’s always possible “complications” that can arise.
Trading A Player
Along the lines of the Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt trades, another trade would have to see the VGK ship out a player who makes $1M or more above what they take back in salary. Potential deals aren’t easy to structure because of two reasons.
First, teams know Vegas has to move something salary-wise. Don’t expect anyone to really jump to help out one of the strongest teams in the NHL. Whatever deal is made Vegas might have to give a little more than it wants to, or take less in return.
Second, it’s a precarious balance to maintain the level of play. When you bring in a huge new name like Alex Pietrangelo, there will be some shuffling in the locker room. Feathers will be ruffled, egos potentially bruised. So having a room on pins and needles waiting to see if one more trade is made to accommodate the new guy’s monster contract isn’t the best place to be.
Who could go? I’ll get more into this in a future article, but players that would generate interest on the roster are many. I’d say the top candidates would be Jonathan Marchessault ($5M), Ryan Reaves ($1.75M), Tomas Nosek ($1.25M), Alec Martinez ($4M) and Nick Holden ($1.7M). Now, I’m not in a hurry to deal any of those guys, but if something has to give…
Only Marchessault and Martinez give you the ability to bring back an NHL player. The other roster holes would have to be filled from the prospect pool, which isn’t necessarily bad.
In fact, something we really haven’t mentioned as being on the Golden Knights side is the organization’s depth. Despite trading away two top prospects in the last two years, Vegas remains pretty well stocked. Credit all the draft picks stockpiled by George McPhee for giving the VGK plenty of flexibility to wheel and deal as needed.
It’s possible that some players could be elevated into roles this season very capably. We are right to talk about how Cody Glass put on 20 lbs., changed his diet and really dedicated himself to being in top shape this season. He’s pegged as the 2C behind William Karlsson.
But what about some other names? Peyton Krebs was part of the bubble contingent this year with Vegas, yet his name hasn’t surfaced as much as I thought it might. Part of that is because Krebs isn’t playing right now (nor is really anyone else except a few colleges). This is still surprising given the decision to include him when it was clear Glass wouldn’t be heading to Edmonton.
Krebs has the potential to be a game breaker. He’s a talented playmaker who, if he shot the puck more, could put up even bigger point totals. He has speed and intelligence. If Krebs matures physically as well this could be the year to give him a look. The only reason to not do so would be to preserve the first year of his entry-level deal for next year. Krebs could play center but would figure to break in on the wing.
Another player to keep an eye on is Nicolas Hague. Hague split time between the NHL and AHL last year, appearing in 38 games with the VGK. Vegas could see him as ready to go full-time if a player like Holden is traded. He has pretty good advanced numbers in his limited NHL time as well. Plus at the AHL level he’s shown some of the offensive ability he flashed in junior, so he could be a potential second power play defenseman if needed. This could be the move to watch out for on the back end and seems the easiest one to make without really skipping a beat.
There are a handful of other players who could compete for a spot this season including Lucas Elvenes, Dylan Sikura, Keegan Kolesar, Tomas Jurco, Jake Bischoff and possibly Jake Leschyshyn. Don’t count any of these players out – you never know who has a monster summer in training or just simply figures something out. Age has nothing to do with it, it clicks for different players at different times.
Don’t panic. The Golden Knights have a lot of time before they need to make a move, and will definitely have options when they choose to do so. I believe they will keep both Fleury and Lehner for most of the season and potentially all of it.