If you know nothing about how the salary cap works in professional sports, the Max Pacioretty and Dylan Coghlan for future consideration trade made a couple of weeks ago by the Vegas Golden Knights makes no sense. However, if you have some understanding of it… well… it still… kind of doesn’t make any sense.
Look, the National Hockey League is a business, and that business requires hard decisions, especially when there is a looming threat named the salary cap consistently over your head. But no matter which way you slice it, general manager Kelly McCrimmon has traded two of the best players in Golden Knights history for absolutely nothing these past two offseasons. Marc-Andre Fleury, and now Pacioretty. We can sit and argue about whether or not this was the correct decision, but the moves have been made, and there is no turning back.
So with a $7 million cap dump and a couple of free agency signings made by the Golden Knights, let’s look at their updated salary cap situation.
Vegas Golden Knights Salary Cap Outlook
According to CapFriendly, the Golden Knights currently have roughly $9.9 in cap space. However, that number still has both Laurent Brossoit and Nolan Patrick on LTIR, along with Shea Weber. With these two players removed and Weber remaining on LTIR (as he will likely never play an NHL game again), the number goes down to $6.4 million. To make a complete lineup, the Golden Knights would have to call up guys from the minors like Jonas Rondbjerg and Sakari Manninen and standout Logan Thompson, which leaves them with just $4.1 in space.
Restricted Free Agents
The Golden Knights currently have five restricted free agents left to sign. They are Nicolas Roy, Nicolas Hague, Keegan Kolesar, Jake Leschyshyn, and Brayden Pachal. Both Pachal and Leschyshyn will almost certainly get near league-minimum AHL deals and can be sent to the minors, eating up zero cap space.
Kolesar and the Golden Knights will be headed to arbitration on August 10th but can come to a deal before that date to cancel the meeting. In 77 games last season, he scored 24 points and led the team in penalty minutes. From how he has worked his way up in the system, Kolesar is, without a doubt, a roster player for the VGK and will eat into the team’s remaining cap space.
Hague and Roy are interesting cases as both are coming off their entry-level contracts and have bright futures ahead in the NHL. But with the Golden Knight’s cap situation, they will likely be inked to bridge deals in the vicinity of 2-4 years. Based on their performances, especially Roy, who nearly had a 40-point season, both require major raises.
It will be tough for general manager Kelly McCrimmon to re-sign all of these players with the remaining cap space he has, which leads us to…
More Deals to Be Made?
Just as it seems as if the Golden Knights have salary cap breathing room, they manage to find their way up against the cap repeatedly. The Fleury and now Pacioretty deals have only temporarily fixed the salary cap problem at the cost of two superstar and fan-favorite players. Assuming the Golden Knights need more cap space, who else could they trade this offseason?
William Karlsson has been an interesting case as his contract is simply not reflective of his play on the ice. He makes $5.9 million against the cap and has been outplayed by Chandler Stephenson and Nicolas Roy as centers in the Golden Knights organization these past few seasons. Now with Jack Eichel in the mix, Karlsson could be moved. But it could be hard to move his contract as Bill has a modified no-trade clause, makes nearly $6 million, has five years left on his deal, and only scored 35 points last season.
The easy choice here seems to be taking the two players that currently sit on LTIR in Brossoit and Patrick and move on from them and their $2.35 and $1.2 million cap hits, respectively. Patrick has been ravaged with injuries and only played in 25 games last season. Laurent Brossoit struggled in his first season as a backup in Vegas as Logan Thompson took his job.
Another thing that greatly impacts the Golden Knights salary cap structure is the health of their players. It’s easy to say that since the offseason allows months of rest and recovery, that every player on the Golden Knights will be 100% heading in to 2022-23. In reality there are a lot of questions marks with players such as Brossoit, Patrick, Robin Lehner, and Mark Stone. All of these players have been dealing with injuries/surgery this offseason. But if any one of them are not ready to start the season, we could see them being placed on LTIR for cap relief.
Free Agency Shopping Budget?
So with all of this in mind, can the Golden Knights even afford to spend on the free agency market? There are still some solid players out there such as Nazem Kadri and John Klingberg, most of which are out of the team’s price range. We will be looking at the Golden Knights depth chart and which areas they need to improve on another day but as for now I could see Paul Stastny, Phil Kessel, or Sonny Milano being of interest to the Golden Knights.
But they need to find even more cap space to make it work.