Contracts that expire in 2024, the never-ending goaltender drama, Mark Stone’s back, Jack Eichel’s progression, and the 30-something crowd are the spotlight storylines for the 2023-24 season. Is there cause for concern for any of those storylines, or will next season run as smoothly as a triple-zero roulette wheel does for generating revenue at a casino?
2024 expiring contracts: The most notable Vegas Golden Knights contracts that will be expiring after the 2023-24 season are Jonathan Marchessault and Chandler Stephenson. Marchessault and Stephenson will be over 30 years old when the next season ends. General manager Kelly McCrimmon swapped the 31-year-old Reilly Smith for the 27-year-old Ivan Barbashev not long after the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup. McCrimmon sited that Barbashev is in his prime from the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. An indirect shot at Smith’s age.
Marchessault will be 33 when next season ends. McCrimmon will work on extending Marchessault if it makes sense. Marchessault being a day-one misfit or any other sentimental reason will have zero factors on McCrimmon’s decision to extend him.
Stephenson has been on a very friendly deal for the Golden Knights. $2.75 million per year for a center that has been on the top two lines for the last three seasons is a steal. Stephenson has 64 and 65 points in the last two regular seasons. In the 2020-21 shortened season, Stephenson was on pace for 56 points across an 82-game season. Is McCrimmon willing to commit $5 million or more to Stephenson, who will be 30 years old when next season ends?
Goaltender Drama: This is Vegas and there is always going to be goaltender drama. Deal with it. The duo of Logan Thompson and Adin Hill will platoon the net for the next two seasons. That is the best-case scenario. The goaltender situation has some concerns to it. If Thompson and Hill can remain healthy for most of the season, there will be nothing to worry about. Jiri Patera is an injury away from being in the Golden Knights’ everyday lineup. Is he ready for an NHL workload?
Jack Eichel’s progression: Regular season Eichel was very good. Playoff Eichel was amazing. The progression to Eichel becoming a team player from Buffalo to Vegas was easy to see. Eichel is expanding his two-way game as well. The line of Barbashev, Marchessault, and Eichel was fun to watch in the playoffs. It will be even more fun to watch for a full season.
Mark Stone’s back: If Stone has another back injury that forces him to miss an extended period of time, yikes. Stone has a bad back, but reports suggest his last surgery made things much better. The NHL investigated the Golden Knights for possible salary cap circumvention and concluded no wrongdoing last season. Will Stone’s back hold up?
The 30-something crowd: This is not a young Golden Knights team by any means. Alec Martinez and Alex Pietrangelo are the oldest players on the team. That is also the No. 1 defensive pairing. The Golden Knights will have seven players 30 or over when the 2023-24 season ends. There is a lot of experience on this Golden Knights roster with plenty of wear and tear. The Golden Knights could use a bit of luck on the injury front for a season, something they did not have for the previous two.