Las Vegas, NV. – The NHL’s Board of Governors meetings recently took place in Seattle, Washington. Representatives from each team gathered for a bi-annual meeting with the 2024-25 salary cap being one of the key issues discussed.
Commissioner Gary Bettman announced a salary cap increase of 5% to $87.7 million for the 2024-25 season. The salary cap could increase to $92 million by the 2025-26 season.
What does this mean for Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon? It is a fair assessment that McCrimmon will use close to every penny of the salary cap available.
Upcoming restricted free agents (RFAs) and their current cap hit
Pavel Dorofeyev $825,000
Kaedan Korczak $789,167
Jiri Patera $775,000
It is a certainty that deals will be made with the trio. Games played and performance will dictate what their respective cap hits are. Assuming they will account for less than $3 million of cap space combined is safe.
Upcoming unrestricted free agents (UFAs) and their current cap hit
Jonathan Marchessault $5 million
Chandler Stephenson $2.75 million
William Carrier $1.4 million
Michael Amadio $762,500
Ben Hutton $850,000
Alec Martinez $5.25 million
The upcoming RFAs and UFAs account for $18,401,667 of the $83.5 million salary cap, or 22%.
Unfortunately for McCrimmon, it is not going to be as easy as offering each of the UFAs a 5% raise for a couple of seasons to keep the team intact.
Stephenson’s next contract, should McCrimmon attempt to extend, is the most challenging to figure out. McCrimmon locked up Stephenson for four seasons for $11 million ($2.75 million AAV). Stephenson logged 65 and 64 points in the previous two seasons but is on pace for 43 points this season.
Marchessault is one of the remaining day-one misfits and has consistently outperformed his $5 million cap hit. It is a mystery as to what dollar figure and term Marchessault expects for his next contract. Will the soon-to-be 33-year-old be a member of the Golden Knights next season?
Carrier and Amadio have been bargains based on their stats and what they bring to the team. Both will expect raises with Amadio in line for a bigger raise of the two players. Amadio is on pace for 45 points which would beat his career high by 18 points.
Hutton is the Swiss army knife of the defense. He can play on any of the three lines and is a perfect plug and play seventh defensemen. It is safe to assume McCrimmon finds a way to keep Hutton in Vegas.
Martinez may be the biggest mystery of the upcoming UFAs. Retirement, testing free agency, or a contract extension are equally in play for the 36-year-old. It is safe to assume the next contract Martinez signs will carry an AAV of less than $5.25 million.
Impact of prospects and Henderson Silver Knights players on next year’s Golden Knights’ roster
Grigori Denisenko, Brendan Brisson, Jake Bischoff, Lukas Cormier, Kaedan Korczak, and Brayden Pachal will get long looks during next season’s rookie and training camps. Korczak is turning the corner of becoming a daily NHL defensemen. Pachal is a bit behind Korczak but a great right handed option similar to what Hutton brings to the left side of the defense. Brisson had a camp worthy of making the Golden Knights’ roster but his two-way contract status is allowing him time to learn the game at the AHL level. Denisenko is performing at a point-per-game pace in the AHL. Bischoff and Cormier are coming along nicely as well.
How could the prospects and AHL players impact next season’s Golden Knights’ roster? McCrimmon could opt to replace one of more of the UFA’s above with players like Denisenko, Brisson, and Korczak. That could give McCrimmon as much as $15,000,000 million in salary cap space to work with to sign free agents. The Reilly Smith trade caught Golden Knights fans off guard and something similar could happen after the 2023-24 season regardless if the Golden Knights win another Stanley Cup or not.
The Golden Knights have a strong core in Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Ivan Barbashev, Alex Pietrangelo, and Shea Theodore. Vegas will always receive a high level of consideration from free agents. No state tax, competing for a Stanley Cup, and playing for an organization not afraid to spend money is appealing to many players.
McCrimmon will do what he feels is best to win a Stanley Cup this season and put the team in place to compete for a Stanley Cup as long as the core is together.