The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway. But the Vegas Golden Knights, for the first time in franchise history, do not have the pleasure of playing in them. Instead, the team will have even longer to reflect on their season and what went wrong on the golf course.
The Golden Knights had a strange season, with injuries playing arguably the biggest part in their downfall as no players played a full 82-game season. Cap issues were the other highlight as the Golden Knights tried to circumvent the NHL salary cap in the same way the Tampa Bay Lightning did in 2021.
But there is more to winning than stapling together a roster of superstar players.
With the season over and the offseason upon us, the Golden Knights have several questions that need to be answered before next season. How will this team manage the cap? What happens with the goaltending? And what will this team look like fully-healthy heading into next season?
We can start to answer these questions by looking at a list of names whose futures are uncertain with the VGK.
An original Golden Knight, Reilly Smith has been one of the most consistent and reliable offensive forwards in the team’s five-year history. Despite being a pending UFA, the Golden Knights opted not to trade Smith at the NHL Trade Deadline and instead went with Evgenii Dadonov (sort of).
Smith was one of the healthiest Golden Knights up until the team’s eastern-swing road trip in March where he left with a knee injury and never returned. If Smith signs elsewhere in the offseason, then his last game with the Golden Knights was on March 8th against the Philadelphia Flyers.
There is no question that Smith will be looking for a raise, coming off of the $5 million contract he signed with the Florida Panthers. At 31-year old, Smith scored 16 goals, 22 assists, and 38 points in 56 games this season. He will be looking for one last major contract in his NHL career.
If he stays with the Golden Knights, he will have to take a pay cut, and with the team up against the salary cap as always, it will be tough for GM Kelly McCrimmon to keep Smith.
As another scoring winger who makes exactly $5 million, the Golden Knights are going to have to pick between Smith and Dadonov. There is just not enough cap to go around for both of these two players to remain on the roster.
Dadonov has had an interesting 12-month span being traded from the Ottawa Senators to the Golden Knights and then being supposedly dealt to the Anaheim Ducks at the Trade Deadline before the NHL voided the deal due to his no-trade clause.
The Russian didn’t let this affect his play as he finished the season with 20 goals, 23 assists, and 43 points. After the trade deadline, Dadonov had 16 points in 16 games. But he went through a stretch in early 2022 where he failed to score a point in 14-straight games.
Dadonov only missed four games this season– two due to COVID-19, and two in his trade limbo period after the deadline. So amidst an injury-prone season, Dadonov was one of the healthiest Golden Knights. He also has another year left on his contract at $5 million.
We could potentially see McCrimmon re-attempt trading Dadonov in the offseason to free up cap space. But if both Dadonov and Smith leave, then the Golden Knight’s forward corps will take a massive hit.
Already taking a pay cut to stay in Las Vegas, Mattias Janmark’s one-year bridge deal is now up. At $2 million, I don’t see any scenario where Janmark stays with the Golden Knights. The VGK simply does not have the cap space.
Janmark failed to provide the consistent secondary scoring that the Golden Knights signed him for. He finished the season with 9 goals, 16 assists, and 25 points as one of the healthier Golden Knights, all things considered, as he played in 67 games.
Janmark went through multiple stretches without scoring and without Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Reilly Smith consistently in the lineup, this was a huge problem for the Golden Knights.
Laurent Brossoit has another year left on his contract at $2.325 million and will have surgery this offseason. But he may not be returning to the Golden Knights, as Logan Thompson’s emergence has cost him his job.
With both Brossoit and Robin Lehner battling injuries all season, Henderson Silver Knights starter Logan ‘LT’ Thompson came in and stole the show for the VGK. In 19 games played, LT went 10-5-3 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.68 goals-against-average.
This one is simple– if the Golden Knights are looking to cut some cap, Brossoit and his over $2 million salary can easily be replaced by a younger, and frankly better, goaltender in Thompson as a backup.
This would make Brossoit’s last game with the Golden Knights a March 15th loss against his former team in the Winnipeg Jets.
Patrick once again struggled with injuries, and just cannot catch a break as he missed 57 games this season. Acquired in a one-for-one deal for Cody Glass, the Golden Knights must have seen some potential in Patrick that I don’t see. Maybe it’s McCrimmon’s ties to the Brandon Wheat Kings.
As a player who makes $1.2 million and only scored seven points in 25 games, Patrick is nearing bust-level as a former no. 2 overall draft pick. But the kid is only 23-years old and could surprise everyone with a bounceback season in 2022-23.
But it might not be with the Golden Knights as they need as much cap space as they can get. Patrick has one year left on his contract before he becomes an RFA.