In sports, as in life, you need to be able to read between the lines. See what’s not being shown, hear what’s not being said as my dad would say. Especially when it comes to player movement, injuries and the NHL, everything is clandestine.
So let’s see if I can step into a translator role for you and explain the dominoes that have dropped over the last few days.
First, we’ve been talking about Alex Pietrangelo nearing a return for several days now. Pete DeBoer has been calling him day-to-day since before the team left for Denver and that was a week ago. Reading the tea leaves, it points to Pietrangelo’s return today since he will now be able to come off Long-Term Injured Reserve.
“I believe from a health perspective he looks like he’s gonna be available,” said head coach Pete DeBoer after today’s morning skate. DeBoer also did say the paperwork portion of things was out of his hands, perhaps alluding to the possibility that somehow the paperwork might not yet be in order. If everything goes according to plan, Pietrangelo should be back tonight.
Getting Pietrangelo back means a roster spot is needed. In the last few days the following moves have happened:
- Cody Glass has been sent down to the Henderson Silver Knights.
- Nick Holden was waived and designated for assignment to the Taxi Squad
- Dylan Coghlan was assigned to the Taxi Squad
- Oscar Dansk was assigned to the Taxi Squad
- Logan Thompson sent to the HSK
- Dylan Sikura sent to the HSK
- Carl Dahlstrom sent to the HSK
- Layton Ahac (D) signed three-year entry-level contract.
- Zack Hayes (D) signed three-year entry-level contract.
- Peter DiLiberatore (D) signed three-year entry-level contract.
Everyone caught up? Good.
The juggling of players between the AHL, Taxi Squad and NHL roster has become common for many teams this year, Vegas included. The Golden Knights must diligently manage the team’s cap resources every single day. That can mean players in and out constantly, and younger players who don’t need to clear waivers are often the ones moving up and down. It may be just as much a financial concern as an actual on-ice production concern when it comes to who goes up and down.
In the case of Cody Glass, his assignment to the Silver Knights is more related to play. I find the timing curious as it seems so many in the media had been asking about him lately and what both the coaching staff and teammates have seen from him… and then down he goes. It’s not a bad thing for a young player to figure it out in the minors. I actually wish more players had the time to do just that.
Remember that coming out of training camp the hope was that Glass would challenge for the center spot between Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. Instead, Chandler Stephenson won that battle handily and has been installed there all season. Meanwhile Glass has struggled, especially at five-on-five where he hasn’t scored all year. Even his advanced metrics show that Glass isn’t going in the right direction. So getting some time in the AHL with Henderson should help in getting his game back together and his confidence back up.
Then there’s the matter of waiving Nick Holden. Holden has appeared in 13 games this season with one assist and a plus-3 rating. Nothing earth-shattering, but for a guy who has been in and out of the lineup it’s not bad either. It was clear coming out of camp that Holden had fallen down the depth chart. He was probably the eighth defenseman on the ladder at that point, having been surpassed by the duo of Nic Hague and Cody Whitecloud plus the surprise emergence of Dylan Coghlan.
That means the 33-year-old defenseman is on the outside looking in and going through waivers just gives the Golden Knights the flexibility to move him around when he clears. It also shows he is most likely not in the team’s plans moving forward, but in my opinion he does provide valuable veteran depth at this point.
Then there’s the three college signings, all defensemen. Led by Peter DiLiberatore, who has been a Top 10 Hobey Baker award finalist the last two seasons, the new additions give the Vegas Golden Knights a chance to see what (if any) contributions these players might be able to make now and in the future. I remember being at the Frozen Four in Buffalo, NY as Cale Makar played his last college games and thinking that he could be something special for the Colorado Avalanche. It would be nice to see someone make an impact out of this trio, but for now this is a hard lineup to crack. It would take something special.
The #VGK signed 20 y/o '18 6th Round Pick D DiLiberatore to 3 yr ELC:
20-21: $700K Base, $92.5K Signing Bonus, $132.5K GP Bonus
Cap Hit: $881K, AAV $925K
6G 20P in 29 NCAA GPhttps://t.co/CPMzgN3Jlq
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) March 30, 2021
“We’ve got guys who can play up and down the lineup… especially in goal and on defense,” said DeBoer, who noted that if the team doesn’t make any real moves before the trade deadline he’s comfortable with the group he has now. “Those for me are the two areas that are really critical come playoff time.”
Also, pay no real mind to the juggling of players on and off the Taxi Squad roster. Much of the rearranging is done for bookkeeping and not as much for actual availability on any given night. Coghlan is an excellent example of a player listed as Taxi one day and plays in the game the next. Cap gymnastics are complex and you’ll drive yourself nuts if you try to read into anything but a financial statement behind it.
So what does it mean come the trade deadline in two weeks? First of all, it shows how comfortable the VGK are with the current team and that they might not be in a hurry to make a move unless it’s near perfect. Cap space is not something the team has, and any trades that might substantially free up space would also substantially weaken the roster.
There’s perhaps the door left open by what DeBoer didn’t say in his press conference today: he did not talk about his forward group when discussing the deadline. We know that last season part of the reason why the Golden Knights run was thwarted was a lack of scoring at times. I imagine Vegas would entertain adding one more player capable of occasionally putting the puck in the net if the right opportunity arose. They likely hoped Glass would be that player this season but he has failed to grow into that role just yet. So perhaps the team seeks a forward – possibly a center – who can contribute at approximately a half-point-per-game or better pace. That type of piece should be more readily available than a top line center or wing. And while the Golden Knights would love to land a legitimate top line center scoring threat, the price is too great to entertain.
So for now, Vegas gets the addition of a number one defenseman at no cost in Alex Pietrangelo. They will look to see if Glass can find a spark for his game in the AHL. And while not going out of their way to find one more piece to the Stanley Cup puzzle, they are certainly open to ideas.
Stay tuned, VGK fans. This should be an entertaining two weeks.