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Golden Knights Offseason

Krepps: Trading Nicolas Hague Might Not Be Such A Bad Idea

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Just a few minutes ago, the Minnesota Wild made the first true trade of the 2022 NHL offseason. The Wild traded pending restricted free agent Kevin Fiala to the Los Angeles Kings for a first-round pick and a prospect. This trade could potentially kickstart a period of NHL trades before free agency.

For the Vegas Golden Knights, they might be entertained at offers to some of their restricted free agents as they will most likely not have enough salary-cap space to sign them all.

The Golden Knights have Nicolas Hague, Brett Howden, Nicolas Roy, and Keegan Kolesar, as notable restricted free agents and Mattias Janamark and Reilly Smith as unrestricted free agents.

Smith and the Golden Knights reportedly have a verbal agreement in place for a three-year extension at around $5 million. This gives the Golden Knights less than $1 million in salary-cap space to sign 5+ players, which leads us to the idea of a potential trade involving one of these players.

Shedding Salary

Trading away a restricted free agent won’t bank the Golden Knights any immediate cap space. But it will provide them the relief of not having to sign whichever player they end up trading. Not only this but with the player being owned by the VGK, they would get something back in return via trade.

As important as these players are to the Golden Knights, none of Roy, Kolesar, Howden, or Hague are core players on the team’s current roster just yet. For the most part, the Golden Knights have their core locked up for the foreseeable future with guys like Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, and Shea Theodore.

Despite what 2021-22 may tell you, the Golden Knights are in win-now mode and shooting to be contenders in 2022-23. Having young players on any roster is essential. But when they start to cost you money you don’t have against the salary cap, problems arise.

Hey, How About Hague?

On Sunday, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News first reported that at least two Eastern Conference teams were calling the Golden Knights about Nicolas Hague. At 23-years old, Hague is coming to the end of his entry-level contract with three seasons of NHL experience.

He has been mentored well by Alex Pietrangelo, frequently playing on the top pairing with the veteran defenseman. In 142 games, Hague has 10 goals, 32 assists, and 42 points. He has slowly but surely been developing his game and the Golden Knights have high hopes for him as their highest remaining draft pick from their first-ever draft in 2017

Depth at Defense

But Hague is not the only young defenseman in the Golden Knight’s system whose development is coming along smoothly. Zach Whitecloud turned heads in 21-22 and led the VGK in plus-minus with a +21. Dylan Coghlan also showed what he is made of with his hard slapshot and two-way play. Heck, even Shea Theodore is still just only 26 years old.

Combine this with veteran guys like Pietrangelo, Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, and Ben Hutton, and the Golden Knights suddenly have one of the deepest D-corps in the entire league when healthy. This begs the question of whether or not Hague still fits into this lineup next season.

This past season was a trainwreck in terms of figuring out the Golden Knight’s defensive structure. Martinez, usually a regular on the blue line, missed 56 games with a facial laceration. Four defensemen came up from the AHL and made their NHL debuts. Guys like Hutton and Whitecloud also came out of nowhere as solid D options.

As risky as it is to trade away a young defenseman, the Golden Knights might with Nic Hague.

What’s the Price?

The Golden Knights have the depth to replace Hague right now, but depending on how good of a player he becomes in the future, this potential trade may backfire on Kelly McCrimmon. We have seen the Golden Knights organization trade away young players and get away with it such as Erik Brannstrom and Cody Glass, but also seen it backfire with Peyton Krebs and Nick Suzuki.

With Hague being an RFA the VGK would only be trading away his player rights, meaning that he would have to negotiate a new contract with his new team. That, combined with the saved hassle of the Golden Knights themselves not having to negotiate a new contract and the saved cap space, might make the price tag lower on Hague.

The cost on Hague will depend on just how special of a player these rumored Eastern Conference teams see Hague as. Is he a top-pairing guy in their future? Top-four? Depth defenseman? We will have to wait and see, that is, if the Golden Knights even decide to trade him.

VHN’s Take: If the Golden Knights see themselves as contenders they should bite the bullet and trade away Hague’s rights. There will be no shortage of teams interested. They have other young defensemen within the organization that can replace him such as Whitecloud and Coghlan.

Trading Hague would sting, but it would save some cap space and allow the Golden Knights to recuperate some assets in return.

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 covers the Vegas Golden Knights for Vegas Hockey Now and writes for the Boulder City Review-Journal. 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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