After Thursday’s blockbuster trade for Jack Eichel, the Vegas Golden Knights are $10 million over the NHL salary cap when they have a full complement of players. When Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Jack Eichel are healthy, the Golden Knights have a lot of talent and way too little money.
That means more blockbuster trades are coming, or…
Or, can the Vegas Golden Knights “Nikita Kucherov” Jack Eichel?
Yes, “Kucherov” is now a verb, and the Hockey Now network is making it so. The 2020-21 Tampa Bay Lightning winger underwent significant offseason surgery and languished on LTIR. He skated for a couple of months before the Tampa Bay Lightning activated him for Game 1, Round One of the 2021 NHL playoffs.
Tampa Bay didn’t have the salary-cap space to activate him, even as he skated to rehab his surgically repaired hip for months. Through the magic of televangelists and Saturday morning vitamin infomercials, Kucherov became healthy on the first day the salary cap no longer applied.
Now Kucherov is a Stanley Cup winner and a Bud Light poster boy.
Can the Golden Knights follow Tampa Bay’s example? How long can Eichel hide on LTIR after ADR?
“It’s really challenging to give you a timeframe because this surgery has never been done in this sport. I keep thinking 4-5 months, maybe 3-4 months. I see you all grab your pens & write that down, and I’ll tell you we don’t know,” said Vegas Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon.
The Golden Knights Timeline:
The NHL regular season is scheduled to end in late April. That’s six months from now.
Actually–it’s only five and a half months for a player–here’s the “roster shenanigans” move the Golden Knights can pull.
The Golden Knights can let Eichel practice while on LTIR, then they will be able to send him to the Henderson Silver Knights for a conditioning assignment.
The conditioning assignment can last six days or three games, though a player can apply for two more games. In the weekend-heavy AHL schedule, that can be about two weeks if a team were strategic enough.
The Silver Knights have five games from April 13 to April 23, their season finale. The Vegas Golden Knights have three games after that and conclude their season on April 29.
After the conditioning assignment, the Golden Knights aren’t’ required to activate Eichel immediately. They can drag their feet through the desert for a bit longer because the CBA failed to address this possibility.
Run a few more tests before activating Eichel? Sure.
So, let’s say Eichel is about ready to resume operations in mid-March (4.5 months). He can skate with the Golden Knights for a few weeks until early April, report to Henderson on the three-game conditioning assignment, petition for a couple more games because he hasn’t played hockey in a year, come back to the Golden Knights for “more tests” then be activated for the playoffs.
As the Tampa Bay Lightning proved, it’s not “#1 Bullsh*t,” but it’s entirely legal.
It’s a bit of a stretch, but the alternative is sacrificing good players.
McCrimmon could spend the next few months on the NHL trade market trying desperately to shed about $10 million of NHL salaries so the team can activate Eichel as soon as he’s ready.
That is a real possibility if Eichel can be ready in three months, and delaying the Eichel era isn’t possible.
Some potential names that could find themselves on the chopping block include Evgenii Dadonov ($5 million cap hit), Brayden McNabb ($2.5 million cap hit), or even Chandler Stephenson ($2.75 million cap hit). Eventually, McCrimmon will have to make some tough moves–now or before next season.
Or, someone can sit back, grab a Bud Light and hope history repeats itself as they drink that beer from a 34.5-pound silver chalice earned with a team $10 million over the cap.
It is fully legal if the Vegas Golden Knights can line up the dates.