It’s 17 days and counting down until Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez will hit free agency. The Golden Knights must either splash some cash on Martinez, hit the NHL Trade market, or they’ll be shopping on the thin free-agent market.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the Martinez negotiations declined to comment to Vegas Hockey Now on the status or progress of talks.
“Sorry, I can’t comment,” one inside source replied.
Reading tea leaves, that’s a good sign. If the sides weren’t talking by now, there would be some dismissal or anger emanating from one or both of the camps. In this case, “can’t” is better than “won’t.” Take it as a positive, but don’t etch him into the lineup, just yet.
Martinez incredibly played with a broken foot in the NHL Semifinal. This season, the 33-year-old defenseman skated a career-high 22:34 per game and had the second-highest offensive output of his career with 32 points (9-23-32).
However, his six-year, $24 million contract is expiring.
VHN examined the pending UFA market for left-handed defensemen with the potential to both be within the Golden Knights budget and able to play top-four minutes.
The market is going to be paper-thin.
And fans expecting players to give a hometown discount are usually disappointed.
However, we may have missed one name when we compiled the list of potential GM Kelly McCrimmon’s free-agent targets.
Add Jamie Oleksiak to Vegas Golden Knights List
Coming up on the outside is former Pittsburgh Penguins and probably former Dallas Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. The big 6-foot-7, 255-pound defenseman has a checkered history in his nine-year career.
This writer graded him well during his one-year stay in Pittsburgh. He increased physicality and added to his existing offensive skills. However, there were gaffes and inconsistency, too.
Despite his hulking size, Oleksiak defaulted to finesse more than brute. Pittsburgh traded him (back) to Dallas for just a fourth-round pick in 2019. Over the past couple of seasons in Dallas, he fought his way above the 6/7 defenseman role to a top-four stature.
An NHL scout agrees.
“Oleksiak, he’s slowly come along,” an NHL scout confided to VHN. “He’s found his way to be a top-four defenseman.”
Oleksiak, 28, had a breakthrough in the 2019-20 playoffs when the Dallas Stars had a run to the Stanley Cup Final. This season, he 14 points with a career-high six goals (6-8-14). Oleksiak also dished 148 hits as he played all 56 games.
“After watching the playoffs, a lot of teams will want that big body to help solidify a strong D,” said the scout. “I think there’ll be a big market for him.”
Despite the flat salary cap, teams still paid free-agent defensemen very handsomely last fall. Our sister site Pittsburgh Hockey Now evaluated the market, and the results were green. Even the lesser D-men could be paid in the $4 million range, which will both raise Martinez’s value and make it difficult to replace him on the free-agent market.
The NHL scout echoed what Vegas Hockey Now and the network began hearing last week. Oleksiak’s stock has been steadily rising. More and more teams will be making that phone call to check in on the LHD.
By some estimates, Oleksiak will have eight to 10 teams pursuing his services. His status as a third-pair defender never far away from the press box has changed to a top-four defenseman.
His price range, thunderous size, and improving game may well place Oleksiak at the top of the Vegas Golden Knights wishlist. While those around the negotiations and McCrimmon are tight-lipped, expect the Golden Knights to keep a close eye on Oleksiak.