The price of winning the Stanley Cup was Reilly Smith traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins just 11 days after the parade. Smith’s reliability and versatility will be very tough to replace.
The Golden Knights must prepare to be without Mark Stone this season. Relax everyone. This is not an article suggesting Stone should be traded. The reality of Stone missing half or more of this season’s games due to injury must be acknowledged. Stone missed 84 of the last 162 regular season games. Expect the Golden Knights to take a cautious approach to keep Stone healthy for the playoffs.
The closest player-for-player replacement for Smith is Nicolas Roy. Smith has put up better offensive numbers than Roy. Roy had 30 points in 65 games last season compared to Smith’s 56 points in 78 games. However, Roy spends most of his playing time on the fourth line. Roy’s offensive numbers would go up with consistent third-line minutes.
Replacing Smith’s 144 shifts he took on the penalty kill last season is a big challenge. This is where we can see the next stage of Jack Eichel’s growth. Much has been made about Eichel’s growth as a two-way player and potential Selke candidate. Eichel had 48 shifts on the penalty kill last season and it would be nice to see that number double this season. Ivan Barbashev will also see plenty of shifts on the penalty kill.
Barbashev, Pavel Dorofeyev, and Roy can make up for the loss of Smith’s 10 power-play points.
Replacing Smith and Stone
Let’s assume Stone’s ceiling is 50 games played. Who is going to plug the holes in the lineup for the 32 games Stone may miss?
Roy may be the best candidate to elevate to the second line. Elevating Roy to the second line creates an opportunity for William Carrier to join the third line. Carrier was on pace for 22 goals prior to injuries last season.
Brett Howden had 63 shifts on the penalty kill last season. His penalty-kill shifts will increase with Stone is out of the lineup.
Stone had nine power-play points in 43 games last season for the league’s 18th-best power-play. Carrier, Dorofeyev, and Paul Cotter can chip in on the power play when Stone is out.