It didn’t look great for the Vegas Golden Knights when they started their sophomore season, but things have turned around for the franchise and they’re sitting at a reputable 29-19-4. They’re 6-4-0 in their last 10 and a full 10 points up on the Vancouver Canucks. They’re three points behind the Sharks.
The Golden Knights, therefore, will be looking to make a go of it again.
And, feisty media department aside, they’re going to want to prove they’re the real deal. Last year can’t be a fluke, especially as they look to set the tone for contemporary expansion teams. Seattle, take note.
The Golden Knights have $3.6 million in cap space and a few UFAs set for the summer, including Oscar Lindberg, Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, Brandon Pirri, Ryan Carpenter, and Deryk Engelland.
William Karlsson is a restricted free agent and becomes top priority. He’s a top line draw for Vegas and he signed a one-year deal in August of 2018, so you have to expect that situation to be re-evaluated. The single-shot contract was the result of a sudden spike in production for Karlsson. He popped off 43 goals, a massive jolt from the six goals he scored the year prior.
This season, Karlsson has 16 goals and 16 assists in 52 games. And that positions the Golden Knights to determine what he’s worth. Right now, there’s no desire to handle this matter in-season. Probably a good idea.
Vegas is taking to the post-season with the desire to win it all, as one does. General manager George McPhee has traditionally been active at the deadline, making three deals last season. He’s swung a deadline deal in 16 of his 18 seasons. And, despite a quantified desire to hold on to his picks, there are possibilities.
Of note is Brayden Schenn. The St. Louis Blues centre will have a year to go on his contract with the team, but there’s been some Golden Knights talk on account of his connections with assistant general manager Kelly McCrimmon. (Of course, there’s also talk of McCrimmon heading to Edmonton to become their next general manager, but that’s another article).
The bigger need for Vegas is on the back end. Everyone knows they tried to snag Erik Karlsson and everyone knows they could use a right-handed shot from the blueline. If they can pool up a points-producer, they can fill in a serious gap. Some reports suggest Alex Pietrangelo is in the mix, but that seems a long shot.
They have options in-house, like Zach Whitecloud, and the need could be met without breaking the bank.
But given a general lack of tradeable assets that the Golden Knights really want to part with (and that includes a wealth of draft picks), it looks like this club may be standing pat beyond the acquisition of a depth player or two.