Squire Report, Vol 11: Transactions

12 July 2018

Player movement and roster construction is dominating the hockey news cycle, so let's see how Vegas shapes up...


COLIN MILLER (4 years, $3.875M cap hit)
Four more years of "Miller Time"!
He was a huge factor on the backend, playing all 82 games and leading the Golden Knights defensemen with 10 goals and 41 points.  He'll turn 26 in October and should be given every opportunity to excel from an offensive standpoint - it's also nice to see GM George McPhee recognize his blossoming talent with the 4-year commitment.  Meanwhile, the cap hit is low enough to keep the team's salary structure in great shape moving forward as well.  I can easily see him outplaying this contract by the time it ends, and I'm excited to watch him continue to develop into a well-rounded defender.

RYAN REAVES (2 years, $2.775M cap hit)
A much-maligned acquisition at the trade deadline (I certainly questioned the move at the time), Reaves shook off some early mistakes and found his role on the team by the end of the regular season.  Once the playoffs started, he quietly went to the press box for the first 9 games and waited for his turn, only to come on strong when re-inserted into the lineup, scoring the game-winning goal to clinch the Western Conference championship against Winnipeg AND the game-tying goal in the third period of Game 1 of the Cup Final.  While the cap hit may seem a little high for a 4th-line player, the two-year term makes it easier to swallow.

Vegas added to their depth by re-signing some key contributors from their AHL affiliate in Chicago: forwards Stefan Matteau, Brandon Pirri and Tomas Hyka; defenseman Zac Leslie; and goaltenders Oscar Dansk and Maxime Lagace.  
- Leslie will be looking to build upon an impressive stint with the Wolves, as he tallied 17 points in 27 games after coming over in a trade with Los Angeles.  Depth at the Vegas blueline should keep him in the AHL, but here's hoping he continues his solid play.
- Matteau and Pirri seem destined to remain in Chicago for most of the year, outside of the occasional injury-related call-up to Vegas, but I think Hyka has a chance to shine - his waiver-exempt status could doom him to staying in the AHL, but he has a good chance to stick with the Knights if he has an impressive training camp.  
- Though Lagace did serve as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup during the postseason, I still feel the team sees Dansk as having the brighter future in net.  In addition to his 3-0 record in the NHL, his AHL stats (13-3-2, 2.44 GAA, .918 SV%) were better than Lagace's as well - there's a reason he was the first goalie to be called up from Chicago when injuries struck the Vegas crease.  My only fear is that Dansk could be lost to waivers in much the same fashion that Vegas claimed Malcolm Subban at the beginning of last season.


PAUL STASTNY (3 years, $6.5M cap hit)
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!  Stastny comes over from Winnipeg to add some serious skill down the middle, and much-needed playmaking to the mediocre Vegas power play.  While he never quite lived up to expectations after signing an expensive four-year contract in St. Louis, his terrific playoff run with the Jets came at just the right time and he cashed in with this new deal.  His addition to the lineup should allow Erik Haula to slot in on the wing - or, even better, push him down to the 3rd line center - which should give coach Gerard Gallant several options throughout the forward group.

NICK HOLDEN (2 years, $2.2M cap hit)
After showing flashes of brilliance with both Colorado and the New York Rangers, Holden joins the Knights to add some veteran experience and bolster their depth on defense.  I'm not really expecting much, but he could play some valuable minutes on the third pair and move up if any injuries arise.  McPhee told reporters that you can never have enough defensemen, and adding Holden gives Vegas a strong 8-man rotation going into the season.  Two years is a fair deal for both player and team as well.

DANIEL CARR (1 year, $750K cap hit)
CURTIS McKENZIE (2 years, $750K cap hit)
One-way contracts for two players who've spent recent years striving for consistent playing time at the NHL level, who could battle it out for a roster spot in Vegas.  I've always been high on Carr, who stepped into Montreal's lineup as an injury substitute and certainly didn't look out of place.  Meanwhile, McKenzie was a lethal scorer for the AHL's Texas Stars, and brings some added toughness to a very fast Knights team.  Passed over on the depth charts of their respective teams, I would have been completely fine if either had been selected in the Expansion Draft, which makes me think that both could certainly earn that "Golden Misfit" tag.


JAMES NEAL (signed with Calgary; 5 years, $5.75M cap hit)
In my opinion, it was in the team's best interest to let him walk, especially after it appeared that the five-year term was the main sticking point (he was reportedly seeking SIX years!).  While Neal will always hold a soft spot in the hearts of the Vegas faithful for his amazing run in October - as well as scoring some key goals in the playoffs - I felt that the contract he got from the Flames would have likely crippled the Knights in the near future, and that money would be more useful elsewhere.

DAVID PERRON (signed with St. Louis; 4 years, $4M cap hit)
Like Neal, I figured Perron would also use his success in the desert as a springboard to land a longer contract, and I'm glad he found it with another team.  He returns to St. Louis for the third team, though this upcoming Blues team could be as formidable as ever with the acquisition of Tyler Bozak and Ryan O'Reilly.  Perron's minutes and production should hopefully be replaced in Vegas by the younger Tomas Tatar, and his departure should also create increased opportunities for players such as Tomas Nosek and Ryan Carpenter to unleash their offensive skills.

LUCA SBISA (unsigned)
The signing of Nick Holden seemed to close the door on Sbisa's career in Vegas, and honestly speaking, it's for the best - while he definitely had a strong first half of the season playing on the top defensive pair with Nate Schmidt, injuries took their toll and he wasn't the same player by the end of the year, highlighted by a dreadful performance in the playoffs.  The fact that he still has yet to sign on with an NHL team seems to validate McPhee's decision as well, although I'd like to see him get a chance to redeem himself with another organization.


Yeah, it seems a bit weird but they stood pat.  After having already traded away four of their own picks in this draft, the Knights still made eight selections this year, picking twice in the 4th, 5th and 6th rounds.  They also traded a 2019 7th round pick to get back into the 7th round this year and select goaltender Jordan Kooy from the OHL's London Knights.  But I was wrong - McPhee made no moves at the top of the draft and selected Russian forward Ivan Morozov with the 61st pick.

Seemingly chosen in the Expansion Draft specifically to be traded for draft picks and/or prospects, I've felt all year that neither would return to Vegas next season, so I was not surprised at all when it came to fruition.  Neal and Perron received new long-term contracts and the Knights preserved cap space for upcoming deals to their young core.  As hard as it may have been for some fans to see them both go, it's also a lesson that the NHL is a business and you always have to keep an eye on the future.

As the deadline quickly approached, it was revealed that THREE different Knights had filed for arbitration: Colin Miller, Tomas Nosek and William Karlsson.  All three had terrific seasons with increased roles on the first-year expansion team, so I can't blame them one bit for trying to maximize their value.  Miller has already agreed to a four-year deal, and I expect Nosek won't be far behind - but I have a feeling the Karlsson negotiations will not go as smoothly.  Once again, we are reminded that hockey is a business.


When a player goes from scoring 6 goals in a season to 43(!), how can his agent and his general manager possibly find a deal that will make sense for both sides?  That's why it seems inevitable that it will be left up to the decision of an arbitrator, which I don't think is that big of a concern.  Jesse Granger of the Las Vegas Sun made his case for giving Wild Bill a longterm contract (he and I wound up having a friendly Twitter debate on the subject), and there are surely more Vegas fans who agree, but I'm of the opinion that a two-year deal fits the team best and allows Karlsson to cash in on a longterm contract IF he can prove that this past season wasn't a fluke.

I've unsuccessfully predicted this a few times already, but I think it finally happens this month.  Ottawa is looking to trade Erik Karlsson.  Carolina is likely to deal Justin Faulk.  Montreal is ready to move on from Max Pacioretty.  Any of these three could be key additions to the Knights, and McPhee does have the assets to make it happen - but if not them, I could still see a smaller trade being completed to help add either scoring depth at forward or speed and puck-moving ability on the defensive end.  We'll just have to wait and see...

After having gone through an arbitration hearing of his own last summer, Schmidt turned in a fantastic season that saw him prove his worth as a top-pairing defenseman.  With unrestricted free agency looming in one year, I think his stock will only continue to rise on the heels of another solid season, so it would benefit the organization greatly if they could lock him up now before his salary demands significantly increase.  Or maybe it's just selfishness on my part, because I'm specifically waiting for Schmidt to get this extension so I can add his name and number to my Knights jersey.  Get it done, George!

And with that, I bid thee farewell...

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