Four days ago the Vegas Golden Knights signed three players to multi-year contract extensions. Michael Amadio and Logan Thompson both got near league-minimum extensions and will remain with the Golden Knights for the next couple of years.
But the biggest extension news came with the Golden Knights signing defenseman Brayden McNabb to a three-year contract extension. The deal will run until 2025 and will pay McNabb an average annual value of $2.85 million.
This is a slight upgrade from McNabb’s current cap-hit of $2.5 million which ends this summer and would have made McNabb an unrestricted free agent.
An original Golden Knight, McNabb has played 315 career NHL games with the Golden Knights and has 15 goals, 42 assists, and 57 points. While not known for his offense McNabb has provided shutdown defense and currently leads the NHL in blocked shots this season with 115.
Locked Up Defense
With McNabb now re-signed the Golden Knights have the core of their defense signed for next season. Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, and Alec Martinez have at least two years left on their contracts. In late October the Golden Knights also signed defenseman Zach Whitecloud to a six-year deal, showing their trust in the young defenseman who has emerged as a regular.
Only Ben Hutton and Nicolas Hague remain as regular NHL defensemen that are pending free agents. The Golden Knights have their defense locked up. So what’s the problem here?
As has been the case for the Golden Knights a lot through their five-year history, the team is once again at the NHL salary cap. A trade to free up cap space is likely before the NHL trade deadline to make room for Jack Eichel. But with extensions to Whitecloud and now McNabb, this problem will follow the Golden Knights into 2022-23.
With the McNabb/Amadio/LT extensions, #VegasBorn are already set to be over the salary cap net season.
They still have to sign: Smith, Janmark, Hutton, Roy, Hague, Howden, Brooks, Kolesar, Rondbjerg, Leschyshyn, Miromanov, etc. if they want to keep their current roster together pic.twitter.com/Cqh6xf39gx
— Owen Krepps (@OKrepps85) January 31, 2022
The NHL’s salary cap is increasing to $82.5 million next season, but that will not be enough to save the Golden Knights.
Trimming up the Defense
What this leads me to conclude is that the Golden Knights may end up having to shed a player on the back end to free up necessary cap space. Pietrangelo and Theodore aren’t going anywhere and with their new contracts, neither are Whitecloud or McNabb. That’s four defensemen already. Hutton and Hague, all things considered, would be easy to keep and Dylan Coghlan has a few years left on his entry-level contract.
We have also seen this season just how deep the prospect pool for the Golden Knights on defense has been with Daniil Miromanov, Brayden Pachal, and Kaeden Korczak.
That leaves Alec Martinez as the odd man out. Could the Golden Knights look to shed the 34-year old defenseman whom they worked so hard to sign?
Odd Man Out- Alec Martinez
Martinez has only played 11 games this season. He took a skate to the face against the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 11th and has not played since. The defenseman sat on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) for a good chunk of the season before he recently joined the team in practices.
He has yet to return.
Without Martinez, the Golden Knights have remained one of the top teams in the Western Conference and still sit atop of the Pacific Division standings. Without Martinez players such as Whitecloud, Hutton, and even Theodore have had increased roles and are thriving with the Golden Knights.
if you're reading this, Shea Theodore has better hands than you pic.twitter.com/Jz52QcqcCl
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 21, 2022
This is not to say that Alec Martinez is not a valuable member of the Golden Knights organization, rather saying that the Golden Knights may not need his services and can use the cap space elsewhere. Martinez is in year one of a three-year deal that counts $5.25 million against the salary cap.
The NHL is a “what have you done for me lately” type of league and the Vegas Golden Knights are an organization that follows that motto very closely. This franchise has shown they are not afraid to make big moves if it means getting them a step closer to the Stanley Cup, even if that move means trading a fan-favorite player or valuable member of the team. Alec Martinez could potentially be the next name shipped out of Las Vegas.
They still need room to activate John Robert Eichel.