This move also follows the most recent demotion of Vadim Shipachyov, who could end up involved in a trade out of Sin City.
Garrison’s been in quite a decline since 2014-15, his first season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He’s stayed pretty healthy, but his production has dropped from 30 points in ’14-15 to 11, 9 and down to one this season. He’s only suited up for four games after being one of Vegas’ expansion draft picks and averaged 18:53 of ice time per night.
His booming shot could help a power play and given he’s in the final year of his deal, that would make him an attractive pickup for another club (along with his $2.5 million salary), as opposed to Shipachyov, who’s on a two-year deal.
Vegas has an abundance of blue liners in their organization, but it’s clear general manager George McPhee was unable to flip one of this defensive assets hence Friday’s moves. One quote he gave on Thursday referring to Shipachyov’s status could apply to Garrison, 32, in this case.
Via Sin Bin Vegas: “Unfortunately, we have a lot of players here, and we have certain people that have really blossomed and are playing extremely well right now, and they deserve to be in the lineup.”
Allow this hot take: while the wins and points are likely to dry up – to at least some extent – there’s one thing that shouldn’t go away for this edition of the Vegas Golden Knights: motivation. For better or worse, we’ve rarely seen an NHL team brimming with so many players fighting for careers, reputations, and millions of dollars.
If the bottom falls out as far as the standings go, it will still be interesting to follow these situations. Contending teams may feel the same way during the trade deadline, at least when it comes to Vegas’ many expiring contracts.
With that in mind, let’s break down this roster to examine the not-so-quiet desperation in Vegas.
If you want a quick look at how open-ended the Golden Knights’ future is at the moment, consider their spending this season vs. in the future.
By Cap Friendly’s numbers, the Golden Knights are committed to a $70.87 million cap hit in 2017-18; that number goes down to $36.92M to 14 players in 2018-19 as of this moment.
James Neal: Coming into this season, the narrative felt like a solid power forward who gets a raw deal. Early on in this franchise’s young life, he’s turned into a hero.
He has little reason to stop pushing, at least considering this fork in the road. There are millions on the table for Neal, making him a great source for bad gambling metaphors (if you’re into that kind of thing).
David Perron: In many ways, he’s a lower-profile version of Neal. They both have shown dynamic scoring ability, though sometimes they’ve been frustrating. Each forward has a lot to prove and has also been around the league quite a bit. They’ve even both been traded by the Pittsburgh Penguins. They both face crucial contract years where they can turn heads with strong seasons.
And, hey, Perron had his own hero moment for the Golden Knights last night:
Jonathan Marchessault – Currently injured, but also in a prominent spot where his next contract could vary wildly.
A slew of defensemen – The Golden Knights’ logjam on D isn’t necessarily going to last long. There are only three notable blueliners – and as you likely know, Vegas has a ton of them – with more than one year on their deals: Nate Schmidt, Griffin Reinhart, and Brad Hunt.
The likes of Jason Garrison and Luca Sbisa have seen better days. Even so, maybe the fear of a dull free agent market and/or getting benched for one of Gerard Gallant’s many other options will push their “compete levels” to new heights?
Something to prove
Speaking of Gallant, there’s little doubt that he likely has a chip on his shoulder stemming from the way things ended with the Florida Panthers.
He has quite the opportunity on his hands: a relatively competent roster for an expansion team, yet he’s also graded on a curve because this is an expansion team. Has Gallant already locked up at least some top-five Jack Adams votes?
Goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban – Both being on two-year deals provides some inherent motivation, but even considering their very different careers up to this point (“MAF” has more Stanley Cup rings  than Subban has NHL wins ), they each likely have some fire in their bellies.
“The Flower” handled the end of his Pittsburgh Penguins days with incredible grace. You have to think that he wants to prove that they made the wrong choice, or at least that he still “has it.”
Vadim Shipachyov – He didn’t just have to wait until age 30 for his first crack at the NHL. Due to the multitude of defensemen, “The Ship” also had to wait to make an impression in Vegas. Expect him to make up for lost time.
Reilly Smith – There are players who were claimed with things to prove even with relative comfort in Vegas; Cody Eakin probably feels insulted by the Stars exposing him to the expansion draft.
Smith is a rare case of a quality everyday NHL player who was just given away in a trade. The Panthers didn’t need to give up both Smith and Marchessault, but they did. That should give him at least a short-term boost, right?
The weird mascot: You think that “Chance” the Gila Monster hasn’t seen your disparaging tweets?
Look, ignore the hot takes. Most professional athletes care deeply and work hard. Sidney Crosby‘s future has been set since day one, and yet look at how he attacks a meaningless training moment with Brad Marchand:
In professional sports, expansion teams usually don’t do so well in their first couple of years, and it’s pretty easy to see why.
Expansion teams have to pick up leftover players that other teams decide are expendable for a variety of reasons. Also, developing chemistry with 20-plus guys doesn’t happen over night, especially when other teams have been together for multiple years.
With all that being said, it’s easy to see why most of the hockey world expects the Golden Knights to struggle out of the gate.
General manager George McPhee did a relatively good job putting the roster together. He also managed to acquire two additional first round draft picks via trade.
Between the pipes, the Golden Knights were able to get their hands on Marc-Andre Fleury from Pittsburgh. Fleury, who has three Stanley Cups on his resume, has already become the face of the franchise. Former Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard will serve as his backup.
The last time NHL had expansion teams was back in 2000-01, when the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild came into the league. Believe it or not, neither team finished in the basement of the NHL standings. The Jackets finished 23rd of 30 in their first year, while the Wild finished in 25th position. By no means were those teams good, but they weren’t the worst teams in the league (the Lightning and Islanders were the two worst teams that year).
So, how many teams will be worse than Vegas this year?
The first team that jumps off the page in that regard has to be the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs were just awful last year, and they didn’t do a whole lot to get better. If someone finishes behind the Golden Knights, it may very well be them.
The Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes and New Jersey Devils also have to be considered when talking about who can finish below the expansion side this year.
Alright, it’s your turn to have your say. Feel free to vote in the poll below and leave your opinion in the comments section, too.
Gallant thinks Golden Knights can ‘win and compete consistently’ during inaugural season
What can we expect from the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18? No one really knows what they’ll look like once they hit the ice because they’ve never played together before.
Of course, the expectation is that they’ll be bad, which is fair considering the track record expansion teams have in pro sports. But are they gonna be “Colorado bad” or will they be able to hold their own more often than not?
“I knew we were going to have a pretty decent team, but the team was better than I thought,” head coach Gerard Gallant said, per NHL.com. “I thought we got better top-end players than I thought we’d get.
“So I think we did a real good job building our team. Is it good enough to win and compete consistently? I think it is.”
Through the expansion draft, Gallant’s team was able to find themselves a quality number one goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury and a relatively young backup in Calvin Pickard.
“There’s going to be issues,” added the Golden Knights head coach. “Some nights we’re going to have trouble scoring goals. You look at our roster, there’s a lot of good players. Are there any superstars there?”
It’ll be interesting to see how Vegas’ first year in the NHL will unfold under Gallant and general manager George McPhee’s watch.
Vegas GM doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to move extra d-men
The Vegas Golden Knights currently have 10 defensemen under contract — and that is without Nate Schmidt signed.
Schmidt and the Golden Knights have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 3, so there is still plenty of time for them to negotiate a new deal for the restricted free agent blue liner without having a neutral third party decide the matter.
Schmidt’s agent, Matt Keator, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that talks with the Golden Knights have been positive, which lends to optimism that perhaps the club and player will avoid this whole process with a deal.
A new contract between Schmidt — left unprotected by Washington in the expansion draft — and Vegas would put the Golden Knights at 11 d-men less than two months before training camp opens.
While it seems more moves are likely on the back end for Vegas, general manager George McPhee doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry right now, per the Vegas Review Journal.
“We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”
Their blue line also includes five players — Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland — that are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. As far as Vegas’ defensive group is concerned, this could mean future trades during the season as other clubs, perhaps playoff bound, look to possibly add a rental late in the year.