It’s interesting to see the opinions flying around right now when it comes to a Max Pacioretty trade for the Vegas Golden Knights. It seems several hockey pundits are sporting varied versions of the same take: a Pacioretty trade would be bad for the Golden Knights.
I couldn’t disagree more.
First, allow me to say I’m in no hurry to see a Pacioretty trade happen. I like the player, I think he has massive value and brings a lot to the VGK. Plus there’s something to be said for keeping a core intact so they can continue to grow and mature.
That said, we are not only in the salary cap era, but in the COVID cap era. A lot of teams have run out of room or are gasping for air very close to the cap. There won’t be any real increase to speak of for a few years yet, meaning teams have to look farther down the road than previously thought. It’s not that paying Pacioretty an AAV of $7M is too much or a bad contract. In fact his cash outlay goes down to $7M this year and $5.25M for the last two years after that. But with Marc-Andre Fleury’s contract unable to be moved off the books, Pacioretty becomes the sacrificial lamb.
I think a lot of the fear surrounding a Pacioretty trade is based on production. It’s hard to deny how effective Pacioretty and Mark Stone have been together for the Golden Knights. They make every center who plays with them better. And he’s coming off his best offensive season since 2016-17 with Montreal after scoring 32 goals and 66 points in 71 games.
On the surface that seems like a lot to lose. However, I believe Vegas already has the answer on the roster in Alex Tuch. Tuch was having a breakout year in 2018-19 prior to the arrival of Mark Stone in a trade with the Ottawa Senators. Tuch was rightly bumped down the lineup to make room for Stone, but his production suffered. After motoring along at a .78 points-per-game rate through his first 55 contests (16-27-43) Tuch’s production flagged, notching just 4-5-9 in his final 19 games for a .47 ppg rate.
Last year was also a disappointment for Tuch in the regular season when he managed just 8-9-17 in 42 games while dealing with injuries. He did rebound nicely in the playoffs, leading the team in goals with eight and showing as one of the best Golden Knights in the return.
Previously I asked the question which Alex Tuch will show up for the VGK this year. A Pacioretty trade opens up a spot on the second line for Tuch once again, and I’m willing to bet the 24-year-old forward’s production goes back up. In fact, it might even supercede the expectations his 18-19 season set.
Of course this will tie into who ends up as the 2C this season as well, but Stone is one of the best all-around players in the league. He will elevate the play of Cody Glass, Chandler Stephenson, or whoever might end up in the middle of the second line. A line of Tuch-Glass-Stone could turn out to be a tremendous producer for the Golden Knights and head coach Peter DeBoer.
The other possibility, if the Golden Knights do not wish to elevate Tuch to the second unit, is free agency. I feel like a Pacioretty trade will loosen the purse strings again if the Golden Knights bring back a mix of prospects and picks. And keep in mind after trading away some top prospects the last few years, the VGK may be primed to do just that. With the extra cash on hand, they could pursue Mike Hoffman and his 30+ goal potential as well.
Either way, Vegas is in the driver’s seat once a deal is made. I can see the Golden Knights choosing to promote from within. That was the answer given this off season for how to fill the hole at center. It makes sense they’d take the same approach on the wing for the second line.
Finally, there’s Bill Foley shooting down the Pacioretty trade rumors on local TV. Make what you will of that, but Foley is more outspoken than most owners in a good way.
One thing is for certain, the Pacioretty trade rumor mill will continue to churn until the VGK make a deal. With him or without him.
Golden Knights Training Camp Day 2 In The Books
Yesterday was a very exciting day as the Vegas Golden Knights took to the ice for the first time in training camp. Day Two wasn’t nearly as exciting, but necessary as things moved forward. Here are a few key takeaways from today’s action.
As of now, Nick Holden remains on what I’ll pencil in as the 7/8 pair with Dylan Coghlan. As I said yesterday don’t read too far into things because the Golden Knights are going to need eight solid D to make this season work. For the time being, it looks like Zach Whitecloud and Nicolas Hague are going to get a chance to show what they can do as a unit. Alex Pietrangelo remained with Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore with Alec Martinez.
Today was more of a jumble of lines as some guys get a look playing up. Among them was Tomas Jurco who took the place of Max Pacioretty with Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone. Jurco is a guy I love for the VGK because this season because he’s a vet who can slide into the lineup on a moment’s notice and play a variety of roles. Definitely a taxi squad guy who makes you feel better about your depth.
Also, Stephenson is still centering this line. I know many of you wonder if Cody Glass is going to get his shot at the 2C but not yet. Stephenson did look good today, generating a scoring chance off a stretch pass up the middle and showing some speed. He’s skating with confidence early in camp, and I would not be surprised to see him exactly where he is now come opening night.
Finally, it was nice to see Jonathan Marchessault score for the second straight day. If he warms those goal-scoring hands up early, it could be a tremendous campaign for him.
Keep your browser pointed here for more camp coverage!
Tom’s Daily: Handicapping the West Division; Stepan to Sens
Tom’s Daily: Looking at the West Division; Vegas Golden Knights prospect Brandon Kruseand his unusual senior season; Stepan sent to the Sens; VGK fans have a new streaming option this season.
The West Division should be a fun, competitive division this year. At least in the top half. Here’s NHL.com’s look at how things might shake out. (NHL.com)
Brandon Kruse is working his way through an unusual senior season at Bowling Green. The Golden Knights prospect is projeting better than a point-per-game so far on the ice. (NHL.com)
Derek Stepan was shipped to the Ottawa Senators from the Arizona Coyotes, giving the Sens more center depth and eating up a chunk of that free cap space they had. (Sportsnet)
Ilya Kovalchuk won’t be playing in the NHL this year. Or next year. (NHL.com)
Michael Del Zotto signs a pro tryout contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Expect a lot of fringe NHL guys who don’t have deals to be competing for jobs this year. (Sportsnet)
Five questions facing the Florida Panthers heading into training camp. This team could be really good. It could also not. (FloridaHockeyNow)
According to Larry Brooks from the New York Post, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the only major league sports team to receive a paycheck protection loan totaling $4.82M. (New York Post)
Longtime NHL player and executive Dave Poulin is writing for the Toronto Star. Here’s his debut piece. (Toronto Star)
Tom’s Daily: New VGK Schedule; Pacioretty, Lehner Busts?; NHL Breaking News
Tom’s Daily: Breaking NHL news! Plus the Vegas Golden Knights have a schedule and we break it down for you; Bolts find cap relief but it’s not good; more
Vegas Golden Knights
Just in case you missed it, the NHL schedule dropped yesterday and we broke it down for you here. (VHN)
Here’s the team/league release on the schedule as well. (NHL.com)
Breaking News: It looks like the NHL has permission to move forward in Canadian cities. That’s a major sigh of relief. (Sportsnet)
Whew! Gritty has been cleared to return to NHL games this season. (The Hill)
Nikita Kucherov is going to miss the regular season due to hip surgery. While the Lightning certainly don’t want to be without one of the best players in today’s game, it certainly helps their situation with his $9.5M cap hit moved to LTIR. (Tampa Bay Times)
Ryan Miller is back with the Anaheim Ducks on a one-year deal and I love it. I hope Miller, one of the nicest guys in the game, gets to his milestone of 400 wins. It won’t happen this season unless something goes crazy sideways, but he needs 13 more to do it. (ESPN)
The Arizona State University men’s hockey team decided to start the season with a monster 36-day road trip. My personal longest road trip was 18 days and that was a nightmare. I can’t imagine double that. As it turns out, the team wanted it this way. (ESPN)
Are you all fans of fantasy hockey content? I can post more of that type of stuff if you are, let me know in the comments. For now, I’m putting this in here because of Max Pacioretty’s featured status as a fantasy “bust” for this season. Oh, and add Robin Lehner too. Not sure I agree, but here you go. (CBS)