SUMMERLIN, NV — Kelly McCrimmon isn’t shy with words. The Golden Knights GM, who has built and rebuilt the Golden Knights since moving into the role beneath president George McPhee, spoke for about 35 minutes Friday on topics small and large.
However, he rushed past the Vegas futures of Ivan Barbashev and Robin Lehner.
One month ago, McCrimmon punted a question on Lehner’s rehab status, admitting he wasn’t well informed on the process. However, McCrimmon has been in touch with Lehner over the last few days, including the night of the Stanley Cup victory. The pair exchanged texts, but McCrimmon was non-committal about any aspect of the future, except that it’s too soon to know if retirement is likely.
“(Lehner), who I texted back and forth with after the game the other night, he’s had major surgeries. Three of them,” McCrimmon said. “Those are the conversations that our medical team will have with Robin as we move forward and assess where he’s at. We’ll know more about that in a little bit of time.
“I think with respect to (Lehner), our conversation was about the accomplishment the other night,” McCrimmon said. “I sure think it’s premature to suggest (retirement). To say much more than that, I don’t have that information.”
The Golden Knights are up against the salary cap already. They have $3.4 million in cap space, but that won’t be enough to return the Cup-winning roster intact. An inference from the severity of Lehner’s ailments and McCrimmon’s lack of real update is that LTIR for another year is plausible, which would grant the Golden Knights additional cap space.
After shining through in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Ivan Barbashev figures to get a healthy raise on his $2.25 million salary. Barbashev had 16 points in 22 games with the Golden Knights and a whopping 18 in 22 playoff games.
Regarding Barbashev and the other UFAs, such as Phil Kessel, Teddy Blueger, and Adin Hill, McCrimmon acknowledged the clock was ticking but didn’t tip his hand on any decisions or efforts.
“It’s June 16th, and we have work to do.”
Vegas Golden Knights Sustainability?
McCrimmon has admitted the original Misfits caught lightning in a bottle, and he didn’t think they would duplicate their success as constructed. The goal has been to build a rock-solid team capable of winning for years.
With some irony, McCrimmon restated that he feels last year’s team was his best, but injuries and bad luck forced them to miss the playoffs.
Has McCrimmon finally reached that point of sustainability?
“One of the things that I feel we’re going to be able to keep the core of our Stanley Cup championship team together better than a lot of the previous winners,” McCrimmon said. “(We’re) pretty good regarding players locked up for next season. I think we’ll have work to do. We’ll have some things that we need to manage, but I think that we’re going to have a significant core of this team return … You hope that this experience makes you a better team.”
The only regular member of the top nine, at least in the playoffs, who is unlikely to return is Barbashev. Otherwise, the Golden Knights who stormed through the playoffs will be back, from Jack Eichel to Jonathan Marchessault and the entire blue-line corps.
“This notion from some people that we were all-in, that if we didn’t win it this year, It was this year or bust. I think that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said McCrimmon. “We go to the NHL Draft as the Stanley Cup champion with a first-round pick.”
Many Cup winners and teams in pursuit deal their first-round pick by the NHL trade deadline. McCrimmon’s noted that the Golden Knights have five picks.