A big week is looming for the Vegas Golden Knights. They have three games in five days, all at home, against three quality opponents. And they’re going to be without their top two scorers.
Yes, it sounds like a daunting task. Not having Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone won’t be easy to overcome. But if you believe Peter DeBoer, it sounds like some of his injured players from the preseason may be ready to return to the lineup, perhaps as early as Wednesday when the Golden Knights host the St. Louis Blues. Friday, the Knights host Edmonton and then play the New York Islanders Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.
Nicolas Roy, William Carrier and Brett Howden all skated Saturday at City National Arena prior to practice. The team took Sunday off and when they return to the ice Monday, maybe one or more of the trio will practice with the rest of the Knights.
The team has missed all three, as well as Mattias Janmark, who has been in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol for the last five days and has not been cleared yet to return to team activities. Roy not only can center the third or fourth line, he’s a very good penalty killer. Carrier is one of the team’s most physical players and when he’s right, he’s also one of the fastest on the roster. Howden, who the Knights acquired from the New York Rangers in the offseason, was still trying to find a comfort level with the team when he got hurt with an undisclosed injury last month.
Assuming Roy and Carrier are able to play Wednesday vs. the Blues, here’s a guess as to what the Golden Knights’ forward lines might look like:
Reilly Smith-William Karlsson-Jonathan Marchessault
Evgenii Dadonov-Nolan Patrick-Keegan Kolesar
William Carrier-Chandler Stephenson-Peyton Krebs
Jonas Rondbjerg-Nicolas Roy-Brett Howden or Jake Leschyshyn or Pavel Dorofeyev or Jack Dugan
A lot of the bottom six will depend on how the team handles its salary cap obligations. They have until Wednesday to sort things out and if they decide to call up anyone from Henderson of the AHL, it’s a 20-minute drive to City National Arena to practice.
Will Pacioretty go on long term injured reserve? If he’s going to be out six weeks as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.ca reported Saturday, it certainly makes sense as the team can get some temporary cap relief from Pacioretty’s $7 million. If Stone were to go on LTIR, that’s an additional $9.5 million the Knights save.
You may be wondering, if Pacioretty and Stone are on LTIR, does that mean the Knights can go after Jack Eichel? Conceivably, yes. But at some point, you’re going to have to pay the piper in order to be cap compliant. Eichel probably isn’t going to be ready to play until right before the Olympics as he is going to require surgery on the disk in his neck and he would opt for the experimental procedure, assuming the Knights gave him their blessing to have it his way.
Ultimately, you’re adding $10 million in salary to a cap that’s already maxed out. You’re still going to have to move pieces and likely involve a third team in order to get Eichel to wear a VGK sweater. Remember, Alex Tuch is also on LTIR and his $4.75 million returns to the books when he comes back.
But back to this week. If Roy, Carrier and/or Howden are unavailable, it means bringing back more than Krebs, who figures to be in the lineup with Pacioretty and Stone out. So do Leschyshyn an Rondbjerg get another shot? Does Dorofeyev? Or do the Knights tap Dugan on the shoulder and play him vs. the Blues?
Dugan was on the roster last Tuesday for the season opener against Seattle, but he was hurt and was not available. However, Dugan was well enough to play Friday for the Silver Knights in their season opener and scored midway through the first period. He’s an option for the fourth line.
So be patient everyone. This will get sorted out by Wednesday.