The compressed NHL schedule has become the compressed NHL offseason, and the Vegas Golden Knights have a few advantages. Even as general managers across the league are gridlocked waiting for the Seattle Kraken, once the first domino falls, it’s going to be a wild ride that doesn’t stop until mid-August.
And then prospects and rookie camp begins in mid-September, with training camp to follow shortly after. And then we’re into next season.
Current: NHL Buyout window is open. Closes July 27.
July 17: GMs must submit their protected list for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft by 5 p.m. EST.
July 18: Those lists are made public.
July 18-20: Seattle Kraken have an exclusive window to negotiate with teams’ unprotected pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs).
July 21: Seattle Kraken expansion draft (8 p.m. EST).
July 23: Day 1, Round One of the 2021 NHL Draft.
July 24: Day 2: Rounds Two through Seven of the NHL Draft.
July 28: The free-agent frenzy begins at noon. RFAs may negotiate with other teams. UFAs may sign anywhere.
Salary Cap: Will again remain flat as the NHLPA continues to repay losses from the shortened COVID season and 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs bubble. It is $81.5 million.
Vegas Golden Knights Stories and Decisions
July 17: The Golden Knights are exempt from the expansion draft drama. They will neither have to submit a protected list or lose a player in the expansion draft.
Just because they are exempt from losing a player does not mean they are exempt from making trades leading up to the expansion draft. Some teams would rather get an asset in return for a player about to depart than lose him for nothing. Nashville turned Viktor Arvidsson into a 2021 second-round pick and 2022 third-rounder by dealing him to the LA Kings.
The scenarios and possibilities are endless for GM Kelly McCrimmon. A two-for-one swap? Picks for a helpful center? Maybe acquire more assets to facilitate a Jack Eichel trade?
July 23: The NHL Draft. The Golden Knights managed to retain their first-round pick and hold the New Jersey Devils’ second-rounder from the Nikita Gusev trade.
Vegas will pick 30th in the first round, but the second-rounder is 36th overall. Those picks should yield two nice prospects, assuming McCrimmon keeps them. *Ahem, Buffalo.
The draft is traditionally a trade-happy affair, but that’s because GMs are pressed into tight quarters and can sneak around the corner for a private chat (I once watched a secretive GM walk across an entire arena for a quiet spot away from prying eyes, attempting to hammer out a deal. It didn’t work).
But the days following the expansion draft could be akin to the wild west. We’re talking Tombstone, Arizona. The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning are WAY over the cap. They have to shed players–good players. There will be a lot of talent available and desperate GMs. The Eichel trade has its best chance to happen after the expansion draft, too.
RFAs and UFAs, Alec Martinez.
Because the Vegas Golden Knights do not have their original second-round pick, they cannot offer RFA star defensemen such as Cale Makar or Quinn Hughes. No matter, a player hasn’t switched teams since 2009, though Montreal Canadiens signed Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet in 2019.
Carolina matched it.
No, the big issue here is defenseman Alec Martinez and how to get him back on the blue line but squeeze him under the cap. The current crop of LHDs is pretty thin, though an NHL scout confirmed to VHN that 6-foot-7, 255-pound Dallas defender Jamie Oleksiak has played his way into top-four defenseman consideration. Oleksiak may be the belle of the ball on July 28.
Will still don’t know what Golden Knights owner Bill Foley and McCrimmon will do with the Fleury and Lehner situation. Sure, they could hang on for one more year of Fleury’s $7 million contract, but that seems like luxury spending in bad economic times.
Three teams will lose a goalie to Seattle. More could lose a significant salary, which frees them up to make a run at either goalie.
As I opined last week–the goalie who brings the most appropriate return should be the one to go.
No. 1 Center
The UFA market has a list of stars, but none of those players are centers. The best free-agent pivot is 35-year-old, David Krejci. Montreal’s light-scoring but effective middle-six center Philip Danault is also a free agent.
Not a bumper crop for the middle.
A legit leading center will have to come via trade. The Golden Knights also have to move salary to make it happen. If not a salary dump, then a blockbuster-type deal with multiple players going one way is the only other way to make it happen.
You make the popcorn. I’ll get the drinks.