The Vegas Golden Knights are going into tonight’s game with only five defensemen and 13 forwards instead of the usual 6+12=18 setup for skaters.
Why? The answer is simple. Cap compliance.
By dressing Keegan Kolesar and his $725k salary, the Golden Knights will barely clear the bar and get under this season’s $81.5M salary cap. After signing Alex Pietrangelo in the off-season and trading away Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt, the Golden Knights were still a sliver over. So they waived Nick Holden and were able to shave another ~$1M against the cap. The problem is, they don’t have a sixth defenseman they want to dress who makes what Kolesar does. So 13 forwards it is.
Vegas will have to do similar juggling all season long, but GM Kelly McCrimmon doesn’t seem concerned. McCrimmon cited the workhorse time on ice numbers of both Shea Theodore who led Vegas in that category last year, and Alex Pietrangelo who led the St. Louis Blues in the same category. Perhaps rotating five defensemen and giving more ice time to the workhorses will bode well for Vegas. If there’s a season to do it, one that only lasts 56 games as opposed to 82 might be the one to do it.
Keep an eye on how the defense fares over the first two or three weeks of the season. If things go well, expect to see this setup more often than not for the Golden Knights.