Evgenii Dadonov is back, and it has been quite the eventful week for the Vegas Golden Knight’s upper management as their trade deadline deal has backfired. The NHL, as of Wednesday, officially voided the Golden Knight’s proposed trade that would have sent Dadonov to the Anaheim Ducks.
On the ice, things are fine, as Dadonov has four points in his return including an overtime game-winner Saturday against the Blackhawks. But off the ice, things are messy with the Golden Knights cap situation.
It’s no secret that the proposed Dadonov trade was a cap move for the Golden Knights. They would have freed up about $3.375 million had this deal gone through. But now, Kelly McCrimmon and the Golden Knights find themselves in a pickle with just over $1.7 million in cap space to spend and two players on LTIR that make a combined $14.5 million.
The math does not add up, and the Golden Knights cannot make a trade to free up cap space given the deadline passing on Monday. So they will have to resort to more creative ways to salvage a roster and fight through cap hell in hope of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
When McCrimmon met with the media on Trade Deadline day, he said that he expected both Mark Stone and Alec Martinez to return by the end of the season. Since then Martinez has returned but it has come at the cost of Reilly Smith being placed on LTIR for his knee injury.
What the Golden Knights will be forced to do as a result of the Dadonov deal being voided is keep players on LTIR. Stone and Smith as well as prospect Jake Bischoff give the Golden Knights $15.2 million in cap space. But the addition of Jack Eichel and his $10 million cap hit has the VGK up against the roof.
Just 14 games remain on the schedule for the Golden Knights this season and it looks like, given the circumstances, we will not see a fully-healthy lineup until the playoffs. That’s fine given that the salary cap doesn’t apply in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the Golden Knights… you know… have to actually make the playoffs in the first place.
They currently occupy the last Wild Card spot in Western Conference and have 14 games remaining. Nine of those games are against teams that are currently not in a playoff spot.
The Golden Knight’s current injury list is as follows- Mark Stone (back), Brayden McNabb (hand), Max Pacioretty (undisclosed), Reilly Smith (knee), Robin Lehner (lower-body), Laurent Brossoit (unknown), Nicolas Hague (unknown), Brett Howden (undisclosed), Nolan Patrick (undisclosed).
So Many Possibilities
What managing the cap during the stretch run will come down to for McCrimmon is reliant on three players: Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Reilly Smith. Both Smith and Stone are currently on LTIR right now. Pacioretty has had a setback with his current injury and given his $7 million cap hit, he might be looked at as an option for the Golden Knights to place on LTIR.
I’m spitballing here but let’s go over a couple of routes the Golden Knights could take to finish out the regular season. It essentially comes down to three options, which I will go over below. Thankfully my job is to cover the team and speculate and not to make these decisions.
Shoutout to CapFriendly as always for the number crunching and their incredible platform.
1- Stone and Smith (LTIR) and Pacioretty plays
2- Stone and Patrick (LTIR) and Smith and Pacioretty play
3- Pacioretty and Smith (LTIR) and Stone plays
Whatever the case may be for the Golden Knights heading forward at least one of their top scorers in Smith/Stone/or Pacioretty will be unavailable to them as they are on the hunt for a playoff spot. This adversity will show what this team is truly made of as they are in danger of missing out on the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.