Ryan Reaves

Ryan Reaves extension Golden Knights AP
Getty Images

Vegas Golden Knights sign Ryan Reaves to $3.5M, 2-year extension

2 Comments

LAS VEGAS — The Vegas Golden Knights signed tough guy Ryan Reaves on Monday to a two-year contract extension worth $3.5 million.

He’ll count $1.75 million against the salary cap in each of the next two seasons. Reaves announced the new deal in a video on the Golden Knights’ Twitter page.

“There’s two things I haven’t accomplished: No. 1 haven’t won a Stanley Cup, No. 2 haven’t won a scoring title,” Reaves said. “Now, I can win a Stanley Cup this year. I can do it. Can’t win the scoring title. Can’t do it. Just missed it by a couple points. And I also can’t do it next year if I don’t have a contract. So I am happy to announce that I just signed a two-year extension with your Vegas Golden Knights.”

The 33-year-old from Winnipeg had eight goals and seven assists for 15 points – 95 short of Leon Draisaitl‘s league-leading 110. Reaves did lead the NHL with 316 hits in 71 games this season.

He is a veteran of 649 regular-season games and was part of Vegas’ 2018 team that reached the Stanley Cup Final. The Golden Knights have a bye into the traditional first round of an expanded, 24-team playoff if the season resumes.

MORE: Reaves drops feud with Evander Kane for a “much bigger cause.”

Ryan Reaves drops feud with Evander Kane to focus on ‘much bigger cause’

As one of the most fearsome fighters in the NHL, Ryan Reaves is no stranger to conflict. Yet, in recent times, he’s putting aside one conflict (his feud with Evander Kane) while dealing with a more complicated “internal” conflict (supporting protests following George Floyd’s death, while grappling with his family’s background in law enforcement).

Reaves’ background really is pretty mind-blowing, and practically demands his nickname become “The Lone Reaver.”

Let’s unpack the backgrounding of the Reaves – Kane beef, but then get into that “internal conflict.”

Reaves puts aside conflict with Kane

Reaves told Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he contacted Kane following Kane co-heading the Hockey Diversity Alliance. If their feud didn’t already seem petty, it certainly looks that way in comparison to what is going on in the U.S. and around the world.

“I spoke to Evander and told him I want to jump in on this powerful message,” Reaves said. “We have to put aside our differences on the ice and come together for a much bigger cause.”

To review, the Kane – Reaves beef goes back. In fact, it goes back longer than I personally remembered.

Back in February 2017, then-Sabres forward Kane might have snuck an elbow on then-Blues enforcer Reaves.

Things really ratcheted up as the two took part in a brewing rivalry between the Sharks and the Golden Knights. The two traded trash talk and fought during that memorable 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Despite quite a bout, Reaves told reporters that he didn’t really gain respect for Kane. (Kane, meanwhile, insulted Reaves’ perceived lack of hockey skills.)

While a fight didn’t do the trick — and, sometimes a bout really does build rapport (just ask Michael Jordan and … Steve Kerr?) — Reaves is paying Kane some respect now.

And, yet, Reaves’ conflict brews in a different way.

The conflict for Reaves includes an incredible family legacy

Graney’s column on Reaves is definitely worth a read, though some will understandably cringe at seeing “both sides” in the headline. But it turns out that Reaves seeing both sides is valid, and also a route to understand how extraordinary Reaves’ story really is.

To start, Ryan Reaves’ father Willard was a sergeant in Winnipeg following a CFL and brief NFL career. Willard provided some fascinating insight on the differing forces pulling at Ryan Reaves.

“(Law enforcement) in our family dates a long, long ways back,” Willard Reaves said to Graney. “We have several who chose this as (a profession). Because of this, Ryan can see all of this from both sides. He’s mixed race (his mother Brenda is Caucasian). He can analyze and internalize from either point. He will come to his conclusions. He will deal with the facts and what he sees and hears.

“And there is internal conflict.”

As it turns out, Willard wasn’t kidding about the family’s roots going a long ways back in law enforcement. Ryan Reaves is apparently the great-great-grandson of Bass Reeves, aka the possible inspiration for “The Lone Ranger.”

Reaves’ great-great grandfather: Bass Reeves, possible “Lone Ranger” inspiration

Ryan Reeves great-great grandson of Bass Reeves Lone Ranger
via Wikimedia Commons/public domain

Whether Bass Reeves was the inspiration for “The Lone Ranger” or not, he was a figure of such stature to earn his own statue. This AP article by John Lovett touches on the high points of a life that was against-all-odds:

Born into slavery in Crawford County; escaped servitude during the Civil War; possibly fought for the Union with the Keetoowah Cherokees; survived dozens of gunfights riding for Judge Isaac C. Parker as one of the first black U.S. deputy marshals west of the Mississippi; acquitted of murder for the death of his cook; arrested his son, Benjamin, for shooting his wife, Castella, in a jealous rage. These are just a few of the incredible stories of a man who hunted down men nobody else could capture.

A life like this lends itself to Paul Bunyan-style tall tales. Also via Lovett:

Reeves was also known to love racing his sorrell horse, and would go to extremes to serve writs. Once, he walked 28 miles dressed as a beggar and fooled two men and their mother into letting him stay the night. The men with a $5,000 bounty on their heads woke up in handcuffs.

All things considered, it’s understandable that Reaves told Graney “I do kind of toe both lines” between understanding the perspectives of protesters and police. Considering that Reaves wants to align with (former?) foe Kane, it sounds like he’s ultimately invested in doing the right thing.

In other Reaves news …

The Golden Knights signed Reaves to a two-year contract extension. It’s worth $1.75M per year.

More current and former NHL players speak up about racism:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Perry, Spezza, and other NHL free agent forwards with uncertain futures

3 Comments

When Corey Perry told the Dallas Stars website that “I know there’s more hockey left in me,” Perry was discussing being ready for play to resume. But what about next season, and possibly beyond?

Perry falls into a category of upcoming NHL free agents with uncertain futures. The reasoning is simple: they may or may not get to make the call about retirement. A lack of interest might simply force them to hang up their skates.

Let’s take a look at Perry and some of the most interesting cases of borderline players. To be clear, players most likely to decide for themselves (example: Joe Thornton) are fodder for different posts. This list also skates past players with expiring contracts who already essentially retired, such as David Clarkson and Johan Franzen.

When in doubt, I’ve also focused on NHL free agent forwards who are 30 or older.

This list focuses on forwards. Later this week, we’ll also tackle defensemen and goalies.

Perry and other forwards with uncertain free agent futures in the NHL

Corey Perry

The lasting image of Perry’s first (and possibly last) Stars season was his “walk of shame” after getting ejected during the 2020 Winter Classic.

Perry’s season got off to the wrong foot in a literal way, as he broke it before his first game in a Stars uniform. He never really got any traction from there, managing just five goals and 21 points over 57 games.

Perry’s possession stats were mediocre, and they’ve honestly been that way for a while. The difference is that his offense plummeted, with the drop-off being especially sharp these past two seasons. Combine that decline in offense with Perry being a 35+ contract, and there are a lot of hurdles.

But all it really takes is one team to consider him a low-risk option, much like the Stars did in 2019-20. It’s not that outrageous to give Perry a mulligan. If you want a nasty veteran with some scoring touch, you could talk yourself into a cheap, one-year deal for Perry.

While Perry’s production has been putrid lately, he generated 49 points in 2017-18, and 53 in 2016-17. Perry also suffered bad puck luck (6.5 shooting percentage) in 2019-20, so there’s another way teams can talk themselves into signing the 2011 Hart Trophy winner.

Jason Spezza

Once you accept that Spezza is no longer going to push 90 points, it’s pretty easy to embrace investing in the 36-year-old. No, 25 points in 58 games isn’t spectacular, but managing that many with an ice time of just 10:50 TOI per night is impressive.

Check Spezza’s historical isolated impact at Hockey Viz and you’ll notice that, as his offense has declined, Spezza’s become a responsible defensive presence.

Spezza viz, Perry and other NHL free agents
via Hockey Viz/Micah Blake McCurdy

Spezza also mostly took Mike Babcock’s Babcockery in stride, which should count for something. Spezza is a low-risk no-brainer.

Carl Soderberg

Carl Soderberg’s a little older than I realized, as he’ll turn 35 on Oct. 12. Some of his underlying stats are pretty underwhelming, so I wonder if his place in the league may involve ranking lower in the pecking order than he has with Arizona and Colorado in recent seasons?

Ryan Reaves

Honestly, Ryan Reaves seems like the type of player I’d expect to be teetering out of the league at 33. Teams want a menacing presence who can play a bit, though, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him continue to get pretty lucrative deals. And, really, Reaves checks out reasonably well in this RAPM comparison with Spezza at Evolving Hockey, too:

Reaves vs. Spezza, Perry and other NHL free agents
via Evolving Hockey

Other forwards

  • I assume Martin Hanzal will retire, being that he last played in 2018-19, and in just seven games. Then again, he’s merely 33, so maybe he’d give it another shot? Large, defensive-minded centers don’t grow on trees. At least, I have never been to such forest, and would prefer to get that image out of my head now, thank you.
  • Trevor Lewis is one of those supporting cast members from a championship team who garners a somewhat baffling level of loyalty. (See: many, many Detroit Red Wings.) It’s not that Lewis, 33, is terrible. It’s just that I’m not sure how much he moves the needle. His ice time plummeted by more than two minutes (14:01 to 11:54), too, so that’s not a great sign for Lewis.
  • NHL teams sure do love 35-year-old Nate Thompson. The Flyers gave up a fifth-rounder for him during the past trade deadline, and Montreal coughed up two picks for Thompson the year before. All for REASONS! So maybe “Nate Boucher” will remain in some demand?
  • I’m not certain about Patrick Maroon‘s health, but … can the guy catch a break? It would be sad if the 32-year-old spent another offseason twisting in the wind.
  • There’s a subcategory of “I’m surprised that person played so many games in the NHL this season.” Two of the biggest were Troy Brouwer (34, 13 games) and Chris Stewart (32, 16 games, first season in NHL since 2017-18). I’d say that they probably won’t land on teams in 2020-21 but … I’ve already been wrong about NHL free agent forwards before, and likely will be again.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Long-term outlook for Vegas Golden Knights

Getty Images
1 Comment

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Vegas Golden Knights.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

If you showed a non-hockey fan the salary structures of all 31 NHL teams, they’d probably not choose the Golden Knights as the team that’s only in the middle of its third season.

Rather than looking like they just entered the NHL, the Golden Knights are remarkably “established.” Consider their significant long-term commitments, which include luring players to Vegas:

That’s a lot of money, quite a bit of term, and many of those contracts include no-movement and/or no-trade clauses. Our Golden Knights are all grown up, already, folks.

On the bright side, a lot of those contracts are quite team-friendly. Theodore at $5.2M and Karlsson at $5.9M both stand out among the best deals (at least after Marchessault took a step back, and Tuch’s dealt with injury issues).

Few teams boast a strong mix of two top lines and some nice, prime-age defensemen at reasonable prices for considerable terms, let alone one that wouldn’t be old enough to go to Kindergarten. Yet, here we are with the Golden Knights.

[PHT Power Rankings: Where do Golden Knights rank among best and worst long-term outlooks?]

Long-term needs for Golden Knights

For some time, the Golden Knights experienced a serious need for a backup behind Marc-Andre Fleury. Considering that he’s 35, they had to know that MAF-or-bust wasn’t going to work forever. It sunk in 2019-20, to the point that they brought in Robin Lehner.

With Lehner being splendid during the past two years, and being much younger (in hockey terms) at 28, I can’t help but wonder if Vegas might try to be bold and keep Lehner around.

Doing so would require some juggling, possibly including trying to convince MAF to accept a trade … but it’s something the Golden Knights should at least consider.

Beyond figuring out goaltending depth one way or another — this free agent crop does look good, even beyond Lehner — Vegas faces the challenges most competitive teams do during this salary cap era. While I’d argue that Vegas is deeper than most, the Golden Knights could still use more help up and down the lineup.

Long-term strengths for Golden Knights

Under the assumptions you’d make about an expansion team, you’d expect the Golden Knights to possess a strong prospect pool. That they do, with the Golden Knights placing 10th on Scott Wheeler’s rankings at The Athletic (sub required), as one recent example.

When you pour over the details, the Golden Knights compiling a strong pool gets more impressive.

After all, the Golden Knights haven’t ever drafted higher than sixth (Cody Glass in 2017). They didn’t make a first-round selection in 2018, and only picked 17th (Peyton Krebs) in the 2019 NHL Draft.

In enjoying unexpected contention, Vegas also paid up for rentals and significant additions, bleeding picks and prospects like Erik Brannstrom and Nick Suzuki.

Despite losing key assets, the Golden Knights still managed to bulk up on prospects, giving them a strong chance of supplementing their current stars as they get older. Ideally, a Glass or Krebs may pick up the slack when players like Pacioretty run out of steam.

Beyond Pacioretty and Fleury, a lot of key Golden Knights are either in or around their primes. That Stone price tag might eventually be rough, but right now he’s a two-way superstar, and the Golden Knights can win plenty of best-on-best battles.

When you ponder the big picture, few teams enjoy a better long-term outlook than the Golden Knights.

MORE ON THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Wild’s Dumba fined $5,000 for slashing Vegas’ Reaves

NEW YORK — Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba was fined $5,000 by the NHL on Wednesday for slashing Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced the punishment, which is the maximum allowable amount under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The incident occurred in the first period of the Golden Knights-Wild game on Tuesday night, when Dumba hit Reaves with his stick in the midsection. Reaves was doubled over in pain for a bit before leaving the ice. Dumba had taken a big hit from Reaves along the boards just before the slash. Neither of those plays drew a penalty.

Reaves took two penalties in the game, roughing and high-sticking, for different incidents. The Wild beat the Golden Knights 4-0.