Three members of the Vegas Golden Knights have a lot to play for once the 2023-24 season starts. A handsome payday, getting the net back, or earning their keep.
Chandler Stephenson: Acquired via trade with the Washington Capitals in 2019 for fifth-round pick, Stephenson has exceeded expectations. The 29-year-old center signed a four-year extension worth $11 million prior to the 2020-21 season. Stephenson logged 51 goals and 113 assists in the first three seasons of his four-year deal. In 58 playoff games with the Golden Knights, Stephenson chipped in 31 points.
Stephenson has found a comfortable spot centering a line with Mark Stone during his time in Vegas.
The salary cap is projected to go up by as much as $4 million for the 2024-25 season. Stephenson’s four-year deal in Vegas expires after the 2023-24 season. Another 60-point-plus season could set Stephenson up for a nice payday, Vegas or elsewhere.
Logan Thompson: Adin Hill became the hero and got paid. Thompson was the starter for the 2022-23 season and preferred goaltender of Bruce Cassidy. When Thompson and Hill were both healthy, Cassidy started Thompson approximately 65% of the time. Despite Hill’s nearly $10 million extension, a competition is expected for the net in September. Cassidy will play the hot hand while focusing on maintaining the health of his two goaltenders.
Thompson has a history with general manager Kelly McCrimmon dating back to his days with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2014. An undrafted free agent signed by Vegas in July of 2020, Thompson put up a stellar .943 save percentage, 1.96 GAA and a record of 16-6-1, which won Thompson the Baz Bastien Memorial Award (AHL’s version of the Vezina awarded to the best goaltender).
After a series of injuries to the Golden Knights goaltenders during the 2021-22 season, Thompson was the last goaltender standing. Going 10-5-3 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.68 GAA, Thompson gave the Golden Knights a chance down the stretch to qualify for the playoffs.
Entering the second year of a three-year deal worth $2.3 million, Thompson is looking to take the net back from Hill and to set himself for a nice extension with the Golden Knights.
Ivan Barbashev: Similar to Hill, Barbashev had a solid playoff run with the Golden Knights and got paid. Barbashev was placed on the top line with Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault and a lethal top line was created. Eichel led playoff scoring and Marchessault won the Conn Smythe.
In 23 regular-season games and 22 playoff games with the Golden Knights, Barbashev put up 34 points. That would adjust to just over 62 points over the course of an 82-game season. Barbashev scored 60 points just once in his seven-year career.
Barbashev played well with the Golden Knights and got a nice extension; now he needs to step up even more to earn his keep. Signing players to long-term extensions after having a big season can be risky. William Karlsson went from a 25-point season with the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 78-point season with the Golden Knights, which led to an eight-year, $47.2 million extension. It is arguable that Karlsson has lived up to his full salary.
What Barbashev has going in his favor is his chemistry with Marchessault and Eichel.