The Vegas Golden Knights inaugural 2017-18 roster will be one that will never be forgotten. Not only was it the first-ever NHL roster for the city of Las Vegas, but the team surpassed all expectations and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Since then the team has undergone some significant changes from a mostly expansion draft formatted roster to what it is now. Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Alex Pietrangelo, and Jack Eichel are all welcome editions to the Golden Knights but do not have the “misfit” pedigree that some members of the original team had.
The Golden Knights are looking to recapture the magic of their first season. As a result, James Neal, David Perron, and even Marc-Andre Fleury are no longer a part of the Golden Knights organization despite being star players on the initial team.
Looking ahead and making predictions here, which original Golden Knight will stay the longest with the Golden Knights?
Which original Golden Knight will last the longest?
For this thought experiment, we will be taking the seven current Golden Knights players that were on the 2017-18 roster into account. The only requirement for these players is that they have had to play at least one regular-season game in the Golden Knight’s inaugural season.
The players that we will discuss are William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, William Carrier, and Zach Whitecloud. Some of these names were acquired via trade, but still played on the inaugural roster so we will take them into account.
7) Brayden McNabb
McNabb is a pending UFA, on the wrong side of 30, and has a contract north of $2 million. With the Golden Knights being the cap-strapped team that they are with Jack Eichel now in the mix, general manager Kelly McCrimmon might have to cut ties with McNabb.
In five years with the Golden Knights McNabb has 54 points in 289 games. He is first in all-time penalty minutes for the team and the VGK could have a hard time in replacing McNabb’s rugged and hard-nosed style of play.
But with Zach Whitecloud proving to be a reliable NHL defenseman, McNabb could easily walk as soon as free agency hits this summer. He could also even be a candidate available at this season’s NHL trade deadline as the Golden Knights have to get cap-compliant if they want Eichel before the playoffs.
6) William Carrier
Carrier is in a bit of the same boat as McNabb as a depth player on the Golden Knights roster that makes a tad too much money. Carrier has three years left on his contract that has an AAV of $1.4 million. Again, this could be an area in which McCrimmon could look to shed some salary as soon as this year.
Paul Cotter, Jake Leshychyn, and Jonas Rondbjerg have proven to be NHL-ready forwards. Their entry-level contracts are a bit cheaper than Carrier’s cap-hit. Carrier’s career-high in points is only nineteen and he could be an easily replaceable player for the Golden Knights.
5) Reilly Smith
On the other hand, Smith is an irreplaceable member of the Vegas Golden Knights but will be coming off his $5 million contract this offseason. The Golden Knights will be looking to keep Smith around, but the cost may be a little too high. Smith is on pace for a 57 point season and is second on the team in goals.
He is a player that has thrived off of the idea of being a ‘misfit’ and turned himself into one of the top wingers in the NHL. The chemistry that Smith has with two other players on this list in Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson is unmatched. Also, outside of whoever is in the net, Smith is the Golden Knight’s best penalty killer and has two shorthanded goals this season.
Don’t fret over Smith getting resigned as he will likely want to stick around in Las Vegas on a team-friendly deal. But at 30-years old and in his eleventh year in the NHL, Smith could be the first out of the misfit line to leave the Golden Knights down the road.
4) Jonathan Marchessault
Pretty much everything that I said about Smith applies to Marchessault. He is another player that has reinvented himself after coming to the Golden Knights. Marchessault is the Golden Knight’s all-time leader in goals, assists, and points.
One of the worst trades in NHL history for the Florida Panthers if you ask me…
Marchessault has three years left on his deal that pays him $5 million against the cap. It is impossible to know what the Golden Knights will look like in three years’ time, but they will likely still be in a position to contend. It is reasonable to think that Marchessault will want to stay with the Golden Knights.
But just like Smith, Marchessault is 30-years old and there will be a day in which Marchessault will have to leave the Golden Knights. Just not anytime soon.
3) William Karlsson
Rounding out the misfit line we have Wiliam Karlsson, perhaps the biggest misfit of them all. He went from six goals with Columbus Blue Jackets to 43 with the Golden Knights in the span of one year. A fan favorite, Karlsson now has a perfect center to play second fiddle to with Eichel assuming the role as the first-line center leaving the misfit line to play on the second.
Karlsson ranks higher than his linemates of Smith and Marchessault simply because he is two years younger and is signed to a contract that will take him to 2026-27 on a modified no-trade clause. With today being Black Friday, a William Karlsson jersey wouldn’t be a bad investment.
2) Zach Whitecloud
It may be a bit of a surprise to see Zach Whitecloud on this list but he played one game in the 2017-18 season so he is eligible. Whitecloud recently signed a six-year extension that will take him to the 2027-28 season which seems like an eternity from now.
Whitecloud was signed by the Golden Knights as an undrafted free agent. He has become a solid find for the Golden Knights since. The 24-year old scored two goals in his return to the lineup after a hand injury and has 16 points in 76 career NHL games.
Whitecloud may not be as flashy of a name as Smith or Marchessault, but he is young and has a tremendous amount of upside. It looks like the Golden Knights have faith in Whitecloud as he is emerging as a solid young defenseman for the team. But there is one more name that fits this category.
1) Shea Theodore
While Shea Theodore’s current contract lacks the amount of term that Karlsson and Whitecloud’s deals have, I feel safe saying that he will likely be the original Golden Knight that stays the longest with the team. McCrimmon and the Golden Knights would have to lose their mind to either trade or let Theodore walk.
Theodore just escaped some NHL trade rumors as he was rumored to be a piece that the Buffalo Sabres would wanted back in a Jack Eichel deal. Thanks to some clutch negotiating from Kelly McCrimmon, that never happened and Theodore is here to stay.
A former first-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, Theodore has 123 points in 282 career games with the Golden Knights and is only 26. If he continues his upwards trajectory, he will likely be a member of Team Canada’s Olympic team in 2022. Theodore is a crucial part of the Golden Knights roster in search of their first Stanley Cup.
The Golden Knights have been built on the identity of being outcasts and misfits. Despite the team adding big pieces like Eichel and Stone, they still have this identity with these original Golden Knights and will for the foreseeable future.
One of these key misfits in Jonathan Marchessault will be back in the lineup Saturday night as the Golden Knights take on the Edmonton Oilers for a critical matchup.