The NHL trade deadline is Mar. 8 and the Golden Knights will have played 23 games between now and then. The next 23 games will heavily dictate what general manager Kelly McCrimmon does leading up to the trade deadline.
The Golden Knights are currently decimated with injuries, what else is new? The Golden Knights have goaltending drama, what else is new? The Golden Knights are struggling in the middle third of the season, what else is new?
McCrimmon needs to sort through the current events of the Golden Knights and determine what the ceiling is for this season’s team. Can the Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup when the roster returns to full health? Will the roster return to full health? Do the Golden Knights need a healthy roster to win the Stanley Cup?
What McCrimmon thinks may not matter in the end. The next 23 games will force McCrimmon to choose a path for the future of this team.
The core of Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Nic Roy, Ivan Barbashev, Alex Pietrangelo, and Zach Whitecloud will be together until the 2026-27 season, assuming one of them is not traded away.
The next 23 games may determine how much longer Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson, William Carrier, Michael Amadio, and Alec Martinez remain with the Golden Knights.
Here are three trade deadline scenarios.
Nothing Major Happens
This is the most likely scenario. The Golden Knights are just three points behind last season’s pace through 40 games with similar injury issues. Adin Hill is expected to return this week. Help is on the way for the defense in Kaedan Korczak and Daniil Miromanov. Shea Theodore hopefully returns within the next month or so. William Karlsson’s injury is a bit cloudy; all we know is his week-to-week designation.
McCrimmon could find a path to a trade deadline acquisition to help the team’s depth similar to Teddy Bluegar last season.
Assuming no more major players are lost due to long-term injuries, the Golden Knights will be in contention for the Pacific Division championship and should comfortably make the playoffs.
McCrimmon is not likely to trade Marchessault, Stephenson, and Martinez if the team is in a spot to contend for a Stanley Cup despite their contract status.
Major Trade is Made to Improve Team
Mark Stone’s extended trip to the injured reserve opened up salary cap space to acquire Ivan Barbashev, Jonathan Quick, and Teddy Bluegar last season. Shea Theodore is on LTIR which freed up $6.2 million of cap space. Karlsson is currently on IR, but a move to LTIR would free up $5.9 million of cap space. Other players could get injured before the deadline. One never knows in Vegas.
If McCrimmon has salary cap space to work with, a move will be made to acquire a high-level player to help the team contend for a Stanley Cup. Many teams will be sellers at the deadline and McCrimmon has been an active buyer in the past.
Trades Made to Help Golden Knights’ Future
Look away Golden Knights fans, this is the reality no one wants to acknowledge. Many fans are still distraught over Marc Andre Fleury being traded away.
The salary cap is expected to rise by $4.2 million next season and another $4 million the season after. Marchessault, Stephenson, and Martinez account for $13 million of the Golden Knights’ $83.5 million salary cap. If those three veterans were not with the Golden Knights next season, McCrimmon would have $17.2 million of salary cap space to work with to find the right players to compliment the core mentioned in the earlier in the article.
McCrimmon is in the unique spot in which he could improve the long term outlook of the Golden Knights by potentially trading Marchessault, Stephenson, and Martinez for draft picks and/or prospects. The prospect pipeline would be strengthened while having nearly $20 million of salary cap space to work with keep the Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup window open for the next three seasons.
Let’s be clear, the only way this scenario happens is if the Golden Knights fall out of playoff contention over the next 23 games. There is not a path that exists in which Marchessault, Stephenson, and Martinez are traded prior to the deadline if McCrimmon feels the Golden Knights can contend for a Stanley Cup this season.