At the end of the day, there are two types of decisions; good decisions and bad decisions. President of hockey operations George McPhee and general manager Kelly McCrimmon have made a number of big decisions in their six years of running hockey operations for the Vegas Golden Knights.
“When the hockey department was ready to make a decision, (owner Bill Foley) supported the hockey department. We wanted to be a successful team based on making a lot of good hockey decisions. Most of the decisions that have been made have been good ones.”
—McPhee on the NHL Network
The Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup in season 6. Does that mean every decision was good over the past six seasons? Today we look back at some key decisions in Golden Knights history
Vadim Shipachyov: Shipachyov’s time in Vegas was short-lived, three games with the Golden Knights to be exact. The KHL standout was primed for a breakout in the NHL. Shipachyov was better than a point-per-game player for the three previous seasons with St. Petersburg SKA in the KHL. It seemed likely Shipachyov would have a spot on the opening night roster in season 1.
Shipachyov’s Puckpedia timeline is fascinating. In a span of just over a month, Shipachyov went from being assigned to the AHL, recalled to the NHL, assigned to the AHL, suspended by the Golden Knights for leaving the AHL affiliate, to retiring. Wow.
Shipachyov was unhappy about learning the game at the AHL level. Having a two-way contract further complicated things as he was sent between the AHL and NHL to save on the salary cap. The Golden Knights did not give in to Shipachyov basically demanding to play at the NHL level.
It was a good decision for the Golden Knights to handle Shipachyov in the manner they did. No player gets any special treatment. Not a veteran goalie or an up-and-comer from the KHL. This was a key moment in the foundation of the culture of the Golden Knights.
Tomas Tatar: This was the first time the Golden Knights swung for the fences in a trade. Tatar was acquired for a first-, second- and third-round draft pick in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings. The Golden Knights were on their way to winning the Pacific Division and setting up for a long playoff run.
Tatar turned out to be a bust. The Golden Knights played 20 playoff games in the 2017-18 season, Tatar was scratched for 12 of those games.
Yes, McPhee swung for the fences with Tatar. McPhee also struck out in three straight pitches. Tatar was a bust and the Golden Knights gave up a lot of draft capital. It was a bad decision to trade for Tatar.
Marc-Andre Fleury: Acquiring Fleury in the expansion draft was a great decision. Was trading Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks for essentially nothing the right decision? Fleury was entering the final year of his contract that paid him $7 million AAV. Robin Lehner was entering the second of a five-year contract worth $5 million AAV. Having $12 million locked up between two goaltenders did not make sense. Logan Thompson and Adin Hill combined for $2.94 million in cap space last season for comparison.
At the end of the day, trading Fleury was a good decision based on the plan for the Golden Knights. Lehner was expected to be as good as, or better than, Fleury and for $2 million AAV cheaper.
Max Pacioretty: The Golden Knights were able to trade Tatar for Pacioretty, but it also cost Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick. Suzuki has gone on to become the captain of the Montreal Canadiens and scored over 60 points in his past two NHL seasons.
Pacioretty was one of the best goal scorers for the four seasons he was with Golden Knights. Injuries led to Pacioretty missing large chunks of games in each of his four seasons in Vegas. Pacioretty had some interesting words after he was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes after the 2021-22 referring to Vegas as a country-club environment.
At the end of the day, acquiring Pacioretty was a bad decision. The Golden Knights were a few years too late on acquiring Pacioretty. However, it was a good decision to trade Pacioretty for future considerations after the 2021-22 season. That freed up the cap space to extend Reilly Smith.
Eichel was nearly a point-per-game player in season 1 and led in playoff scoring. Early indications are that Vegas won the trade with the Buffalo Sabres.
This is no-brainer — obviously it was a good decision in trading for Eichel. It was tough watching Tuch go, but winning the Stanley Cup eased that pain.
Two key decisions were made for the 2023-24 roster. Smith was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins to free cap space to extend Ivan Barbashev. Hill received a two-year extension worth $4.9 million AAV. Time will tell of these will be good or bad decisions.