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Golden Knights Analysis

McCrimmon’s To-Do List Includes Near-Impossible Tasks

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Kelly McCrimmon, Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon to-do list this summer starts with the recognition that he has 45 days to figure out how to keep a 41-goal scorer.

Forty-five days take us to Friday, June 28, the first day of the NHL draft .  Traditionally, there’s plenty of trade talk leading up to the opening day of the draft. If McCrimmon hasn’t made a trade or two to create some cap space, his leading goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault will likely be using his unrestricted free agency to sign elsewhere on July 1.

In the end, he may not be able to create enough space to get it done. Here’s what McCrimmon has on his plate this summer:

Trying to Create Cap Space

The Vegas Golden Knights, according to Capfriendly.com, show roughly $900,000 in salary cap space remaining for next season. They have 20 players signed, and the usual NHL roster size is 23 players. If you factor in that goalie Robin Lehner will stay on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR), next then the Vegas cap space grows to about $6 million.

The projection is Marchessault could get a three-year deal worth $6.6 million on the open market. Even if Marchessault accepted $6 million, the Golden Knights would need to create space to sign two more low salary players. It would mean saying goodbye to other free agents, such as Chandler Stephenson, William Carrier and Alec Martinez among others.

The only way to avoid  that would be to trade a higher salaried player like defenseman Shea Theodore ($5.2 million), Adin Hill ($4.9 million) or two lower-priced players like Brayden McNabb ($2.85 million) or Nicolas Hague ($2.294 million).

McCrimmon will have to explore those options.

Theodore, Hill and McNabb will all be unrestricted free agents after next summer. Hague, 25, will be a restricted free agent.

Theodore is the logical choice to move for several reasons. He has good value in the marketplace, and the Golden Knights would still have good defensive depth without him. Theodore has a modified no-trade clause, but his list is limited to five teams.

Make Sure Vegas Hits on the 19th Pick

The Golden Knights kept their pick because the draft is in Vegas. They need to take advantage of this to give themselves some for the future.  One aspect of being a GM, especially in the salary cap era, is to create a pipeline with a steady flow of players. The Vegas strategy has been to trade away picks and prospects for proven players.

Eventually, that plan is going to bite back. If they trade Theodore, the Golden Knights could add draft picks and/or prospects to help restock their prospects

This No. 19 represents the best first round position since they drafted 17th in 2019. They drafted Peyton Krebs.

Tie Up Logan Thompson With New Contract

After July 1, they need to start working on a new deal for Thompson who has proven himself to be a quality netminder. As previously mentioned, Hill will be a UFA next summer. He could test the market.

Thompson, 27, can also be a UFA next summer. He should cost less than Hill, 28. The best aspect of negotiating a new deal for either Hill or Thompson is that the new cap hit wouldn’t start until 2025-26.

Figure Out What Went Wrong

The Golden Knights managed nine goals in their last five games in their first round series against Dallas. The chemistry didn’t seem right.  Mark Stone wasn’t the same force. Vegas didn’t have the look of a defending Stanley Cup champion.

“I feel like we never got to where our game can be,” Vegas goalie Adin Hill said. “Last year, we saw what we can do in this locker room. I think you can argue we might have had a better team on paper this year. We didn’t play the same way on the ice, I don’t believe.”

They competed hard, and pushed the series to seven games. But they came away believing something was missing.

“I think, how we play the game, our makeup of our team, is a good formula,” Coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We just got to tweak a few things and we have to get better…where we fell short. Well, that’s on me to make sure we go through that.”