Are all these changes actually making the Golden Knights better?

Golden Knights
Getty
2 Comments

Whether they actually land the player or not, if there is a big name available in free agency or trade you can bet the Vegas Golden Knights are going to be involved.

They were reportedly in on Erik Karlsson when he was traded two years ago, and have since acquired Tomas Tatar, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Alec Martinez, Robin Lehner, and most recently Alex Pietrangelo. That is a lot of big-name talent to come and go through the organization in a short period of time.

In the cases of Pacioretty, Stone, Lehner, and Pietrangelo, all of them have been signed to significant contracts that have eaten up a significant chunk of the team’s allotted salary cap space. It has resulted in significant — and constant — roster overhaul that has forced them to jettison a lot of very good players. In most cases, they have received less than market value in return.

The re-signing of Lehner (and the inability to move Marc-Andre Fleury) and free agent acquisition of Pietrangelo has already cost them Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt, for what amounts to two mid-round draft picks and a depth defenseman. That is far less than what they should have been able to get in a trade for either player, but everyone knew they had almost no leverage and had to dump salary. That is the result.

[Related: Is Marchessault better trade target than Pacioretty?]

There are two primary causes for situation: The signing of Pietrangelo, which furthers their seemingly unquenchable thirst for splash roster moves. Also the inability (or unwillingness) to trade Fleury after re-signing Lehner. Given their salary cap situation, it is almost certainly going to cost them at least one more player off the current roster. Who that player will be remains to be seen.

Max Pacioretty’s name was talked about for two days, but Golden Knights owner Bill Foley attempted to squash those rumors on Thursday.

Is there still a market for Fleury? Jonathan Marchessault? Somebody else?

According to the CapFriendly database, the Golden Knights are roughly $1 million over the $81.5 million cap. There are a handful of smaller contracts on the roster they could dump to get under that number. Nick Holden, Tomas Nosek, William Carrier, and Ryan Reaves all make between $1 and $2 million, which would satisfy the bare minimum requirement. But if the Golden Knights want any kind of wiggle room under the cap for in-season additions it would require a bigger contract to move. Which would be another significant departure from the roster

How much better are they?

Pietrangelo is still a great player. He is a top-pairing defender, makes a big impact offensively, and alongside Shea Theodore gives them two outstanding defenders at the top of their lineup.

That is significant, and his impact will also be felt beyond this season.

But that contract has already cost them a lot in the short-term.

Stastny was one of their top centers the past two seasons and is still an excellent player in his own right. He drives possession, can still score a little, and without him they are now extremely thin at a very important position. That could be a problem, especially for a team that has only been an average offensive team the past two years and saw its offense disappear at the worst possible time in the playoffs.

While Schmidt is a legit top-four defenseman, there is little doubt that Pietrangelo is an upgrade.The question is whether or not that upgrade is worth the cost elsewhere on the roster, especially when the team has not addressed its biggest weakness (finishing ability offensively).

The outlook

When the Golden Knights first signed Pietrangelo my mindset was that it was worth it. Great player, fair contract, and anytime you can add a top-pairing defender you should probably go for it. They are difficult to find.

But the more this offseason goes on, and the more you see what all Vegas has had to do to make it work, as well its long-term salary cap outlook and there are definitely some concerns. Especially if it costs them another player from the top half of its roster to get under the salary cap.

In the end Vegas’ entire organizational philosophy seems to be built around swinging for the fences in building its roster and then worrying about the fallout later.

So far the results have been strong. They have been a playoff team in each of their first three years and already been in the Western Conference Final in two of those seasons. They are an improbable third period collapse in a Game 7 away from having gone on three lengthy postseason runs in as many seasons. But you have to wonder if all of this roster juggling will eventually catch up to them, especially with a roster that is mostly signed long-term, still has some flaws, and is starting to get older.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

austonmatthews
Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.