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Five Important Questions Facing the Golden Knights this Offseason

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Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights are going through a bit of an adjustment period given how strange this past year was. You can blame the season on injuries, COVID, underperforming players, or just plain bad luck. But for the first time in franchise history, the Golden Knights missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

On paper, the Golden Knights core is locked up with Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo, and Shea Theodore under contract. But a team with a Stanley Cup Contender writer all over them failed to make it to the playoffs as a whole. The VGK have a lot of questions that need to be addressed this offseason.

This will be part one of a two-part series. Because there is a lot this team needs to address this summer.

1- What Is Peter DeBoer’s Future?

Let’s start with the one I think the Golden Knights are having the most discussion with right now. During cleanout day, head coach Peter DeBoer addressed the media on his future with the organization.

He stated that he would be meeting with general manager Kelly McCrimmon and upper management in a week to review what his future would look like with the team. No updates have been provided since.

“I want to be back. I want to coach this team again. We never got a chance to do what we’re capable of doing. We’re excited about this group. This type of season has to fuel you for next year,” said DeBoer.

DeBoer has one year left on his contract with the Golden Knights. He had a rough season for a coach given the challenges that he faced with over 500 man-games lost to injury. He is 160-98-50 in Vegas.

The coaching carousel has already been put in motion this offseason with Barry Trotz shockingly being fired by the New York Islanders. The Islanders similarly had a disappointing season after they made it to the Conference Finals in back-to-back seasons, but failed to make the playoffs in 2022.

With this in mind, DeBoer could be next on the chopping block, simply just to give the Golden Knights a new voice in the locker room.

2- Who Stars For This Team?

To say that Robin Lehner struggled in his first season as the true bonafide starter for the Vegas Golden Knights would be an understatement. All season Lehner seemed to struggle with two major things 1) staying healthy and 2) staying consistent.

He was unable to give the Golden Knights the goaltending performance good teams need to make the playoffs and compete for a Stanley Cup.

Laurent Brossoit was not the best backup either as he also struggled with consistency and injuries. Both Lehner and Brossoit will have offseason surgeries and can hopefully bounce back in 2022-23. But one of them, if not both, may have had their jobs stolen by the VGK’s third goaltender.

Late in the season, Henderson Silver Knights call-up Logan Thompson turned heads in 19 games with the VGK. He was calm and collected in the net posting 10 wins, a .914 sv%, and a 2.68 GAA. “He’s OK.

With yet another goalie controversy in Las Vegas, who will be the Golden Knights tandem in 2022-23? Lehner and Thompson? Thompson and Brossoit? Lehner and Brossoit? Thompson and a free agent?

I hear there is a pretty good veteran goaltender available in free agency.

3- How Will Kelly McCrimmon Free Up Cap Space?

The offseason has just begun, but the Vegas Golden Knights are already up against the salary cap, despite having multiple players off the books due to free agency. The acquisition of Jack Eichel has put a stranglehold on GM McCrimmon when it comes to maneuvering around the salary cap.

At the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, we all know what happened with the voided Evgenii Dadonov trade to Anaheim.

As things currently stand, the Golden Knights have just under $3 million in cap space to resign 16 players (and that number is with both Brossoit and Patrick still on LTIR).

These players are Reilly Smith, Mattias Janmark, Jake Bischoff, Sven Baertschi, and Gage Quinney as UFA’s. Then Nicolas Roy, Keegan Kolesar, Nicolas Hague, Brett Howden, Jonas Rondbjerg, Jake Leschyshyn, Ben Jones, Daniil Miromanov, Brayden Pachal, Jack Dugan, and Dylan Ferguson as RFA’s.

Cap space will have to be found somewhere and it will be interesting to see what moves McCrimmon is forced to make. Does he attempt trading Dadonov again? Alec Martinez? Robin Lehner? William Karlsson? How many players can this team sacrifice for cap purposes before they lose their identity?

4- Is Reilly Smith Gone?

Perhaps the biggest name the Golden Knights are in danger of losing this offseason is Reilly Smith. The original misfit is coming to the end of his five-year $5 million contract that he signed with the Florida Panthers. He had a solid season with 38 points in 56 games but it was halted by a knee injury in March.

If he wants, a raise, which he most likely does, he will not be getting a substantial one in Vegas. The only thing the Golden Knights have going for them in terms of keeping Smith is loyalty to the player. Smith has spent every season of the Golden Knight’s existence with the VGK and formed the greatest line in franchise history with the Misfit Line of Smith, William Karlsson, and Jonathan Marchessault.

5- What Can Jack Eichel Do In A Full Season?

This question technically won’t be answered in the offseason, but still has a lot riding on it next season in 2022-23. The Golden Knights not only paid a hefty price to acquire Jack Eichel in early November with the players and pick they gave up they also made a huge commitment in terms of shaking up the team.

It’s not often a number one franchise centerman comes over in a trade and disrupts the team’s identity for better and for worse. We have already looked at just how much of a mess Eichel and his $10 million contract has affected the Golden Knight’s salary cap situation.

But this could all be worth it if Eichel can emerge as the player we all know he can be and saw in Buffalo. Eichel was solid in his return from injury/debut half-season with the Golden Knights. He scored 25 points in 34 games but played through yet another injury, this time to his finger.

We still have yet to see what Eichel can do in a full season with Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and others playing second fiddle to him. I for one, am excited to see what Eichel and the VGK can do after a longer than expected offseason full of rest.

Stay tuned for part two of this series on the Golden Knight’s offseason questions Saturday.

Welcome to your new home for Vegas Golden Knights breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to VHN+ for all of our members-only content the entire Vegas Hockey Now crew plus an ad-free browsing experience.

Owen Krepps is the new beat writer covering the Vegas Golden Knights for Vegas Hockey Now. A 2022 Robert Morris University graduate, he has previously written for RMU Sentry Media, Colonial Sports Network, The Titusville Herald, Pittsburgh Sports Now, and Pittsburgh Hockey Now.

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