The Vegas Golden Knights had a successful first 50 games of their first regular season as reigning Stanley Cup champions. Everything was nice and smooth to start the season as it took the Golden Knights 13 games to suffer their first regular season loss. Injuries to Adin Hill, Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez, Zach Whitecloud, and Nicolas Hague slowed the momentum. The Golden Knights have 64 points which is the second most in the Pacific Division, but it is worth noting, that the Edmonton Oilers points percentage (.656) is slightly higher than the Golden Knights (.640).
The Golden Knights and Oilers will face each other Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights delivered positive news on the injury front. William Karlsson is practicing in a regular jersey and all signs point to him returning Tuesday against the Oilers. Tobias Bjornfot is practicing in a regular jersey. Ben Hutton is practicing in a non-contact jersey. Daniil Miromanov has returned to the Golden Knights from his rehab assignment with the Henderson Silver Knights. Jack Eichel, Shea Theodore, and William Carrier are skating on their own.
Points Need to be Banked in February
February is a 10-game month for the Golden Knights, five at home and five on the road. The Golden Knights’ home opponents are the Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Points at home have been easy to come by as the Golden Knights are 18-5-2 at T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights’ road opponents are the Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, Maple Leafs, and Boston Bruins. Points have not been as easy to come by on the road as the Golden Knights are 11-10-4 away from T-Mobile Arena.
There are 12 points on the February schedule that the Golden Knights need to secure; home victories against the Wild, Hurricanes, and Predators and road victories against the Coyotes, Sharks, and Senators. That leaves four games against the Oilers, Maple Leafs (twice), and Bruins for the Golden Knights can grind out points against.
The Golden Knights need to secure 14 or more points in February to make a push for the Pacific Division.
Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson, Alec Martinez, Michael Amadio, and William Carrier are unrestricted free agents after this season. It is safe to say that all five players will not be members of the Golden Knights after this season. Which players is the million-dollar question? Marchessault has been very consistent and a fan-favorite since day one. So were Reilly Smith and Marc Andre Fleury, who were traded away from the Golden Knights. Stephenson has set himself for a bump from his current salary cap hit of $2.75 million. Amadio will command greater than $762,000 per season. William Carrier has shown flashes of ability, but Carrier’s potential is limited by his risk for injury.
Martinez is tough to figure out. The 36-year-old could choose retirement, sign a reduced extension to stay in Vegas or explore free agency.
General Manager Kelly McCrimmon is often active around the trade deadline. Ivan Barbashev and Jonathan Quick were the notables that helped the Golden Knights to win the Stanley Cup last season. Robin Lehner and Alec Martinez were acquired before the 2020 trade deadline. Mark Stone was acquired before the 2019 trade deadline. Tomas Tatar was acquired before the 2018 trade deadline.
It is fair to assume McCrimmon is kicking tires with several players. The bigger question is how will he make any trades with the Golden Knights up against the salary cap. When fully healthy, the Golden Knights have virtually zero salary cap space to work with. It will be interesting to see what areas McCrimmon feels the Golden Knights to improve in. What will be more interesting is the path to doing so. Could one of the players with expiring contracts be on the move?
If we have learned one thing about McCrimmon, it is that there is not a single trade in the universe he is not afraid to make.