Ultimately, the 2019-20 season was a disappointment for the Vegas Golden Knights. Team leaders Reilly Smith, Mark Stone, and Max Pacioretty made that very clear in their year-end media availability. The sentiment of the players was that this roster was the best they've ever played with and anything less than a Stanley Cup win was unacceptable.
Management will certainly have a similar outlook on this past season. General Manager Kelly McCrimmon, with George McPhee close by, made a few trade deadline deals that addressed all three phases of the team. He added Nick Cousins up front, Alec Martinez on the blue line, and solidified the goaltending with Robin Lehner. McCrimmon supplemented a roster he already enjoyed, heading into the playoffs stronger, clearly in a win-now mentality.
Due to the COVID stoppage, the Golden Knights were afforded their whole, uninjured roster. Players like Alex Tuch, Pacioretty, and Stone were able to recover from injury and play a full playoff. Unfortunately, the healthy forward corps couldn't solve Anton Khudobin, as the Dallas Stars bounced them from the playoffs.
Something was off with the team. They weren't scoring goals - 57 in 20 games, 2.85 GF/game - and in between long stretches of great defensive zone play, would fall victim to a big d-zone breakdown and goal against. McCrimmon will have more work to do this summer. Sometimes, it only takes one new face to change a team dynamic.
Without a ton of salary cap space, McCrimmon will need to be shrewd with his cash and explore viable trade options. Moving underperforming, high-dollar assets while still upgrading the roster will be his challenge this off-season. Let's take a look at a few potential trade targets for the Vegas Golden Knights along with their cap hits.
1 year remaining @ $6.75 mil
5th on TSN Trade Bait List
36, 44, 30, 28
Through four seasons in the NHL, Patrik Laine has proven one thing and one thing only: he can score. He burst on the scene in 2016-17, scoring 36 goals in his rookie season. Sophmore slump, forget about it. Forty four goals in year two. The man simply snipes.
Are there down sides to his game and a reason why he's No. 5 on the TSN Trade Bait board? Yes. Do they matter all that much to a team as deep as the Vegas Golden Knights who could use another bona fide finisher on offense? Unlikely.
Laine is a sniper, to the very definition. His shot is dangerous and his defense can be non-existent. There have been rumblings about his compete level which is something the VGK have seldom experienced. Just as Laine could be a fit for the at-times dormant Golden Knights offense, their locker room dynamic could be the fit he needs.
He loves his power play time, scoring 9 (25% goal share), 20 (45% GS), 15 (50% GS), and 8 (29% GS) PPGs over his four seasons. While the high goal share percentages could be a negative, his totals are high enough that he helps at even strength despite his sub-50% Corsi For numbers without the PP. There aren't many legit snipers in the league, let alone on the trade block. Laine can be a team-changing acquisition.
While the Golden Knights would need to clear some cash, Laine would be a good add to the team. They could use the power play help and also need a little more finish in general. Aside from William Karlsson's outlier 43 goal 2017-18 season, Max Pacioretty is the only player within a sniff of Laine's output. You want more goals, he's your way to it.
NHL highlights of Jets super Finnish sniper, Patrick Laine! Please enjoy!! I do not own or claim to own the audio or clips used in this video
3 years left @ $4.5 mil
26th on TSN Trade Bait List
Shayne Gostisbehere's name is one that immediately comes to mind, while on the topic of the power play. He's another player whose rookie season exceeded all reasonable expectations. Despite his early success, he's fallen out of grace in Philadelphia, both with former Head Coach Dave Hakstol and the incumbent Alain Vigneault.
The man they call Ghost or Ghost Bear was a dynamic rookie. Spin moves, foot speed, and a booming shot made him the ideal offensive defenseman. He is extremely comfortable with the puck on his stick and routinely walks the blue line to open up shooting lanes. He quarterbacked the top PP unit right out of the gate, displaying just how skilled he is.
Between his 46-point rookie season and now, Gostisbehere has gone through multiple lower body injuries and healthy scratches. He plays an offense-heavy game which makes many coaches uneasy. In Vegas, he'd be a hell of a compliment to Shea Theodore on the Top PP unit. Nothing against Nate Schmidt, but the second PP unit would get an immediate boost with Gostisbehere.
Gostisbehere is a left shot defenseman and plays best with a two-way or stay-at-home type partner. He likes to get his chances in the offensive zone and benefits from a mobile, responsible partner when doing so. He'd be a great fit with Zach Whitecloud on his right side, coming in as an upgrade over Nick Holden. He's on the outside looking in with the Flyers and he could be a cap casualty with Philly looking to free some cap space. This could be a win-win for both clubs.
Shayne Gostisbehere ripped through the Devils' defence to feed Travis Konecny, who scored on the Flyers' first shot on goal.
RFA, $3.15 mil '19-'20
20th on TSN Trade Bait List
Golden Knights hockey tends to be physical, chippy hockey. They have an abundance of Top-9 forwards, but could use a little change in the dynamic. Adding Max Domi, who combines skill with a ton of sandpaper, could be the shift that wakes up the club.
Nick Cousins, a similar player and his teammate in Montreal, was brought in at the trade deadline, but his deal expired at the end of the season. He's two years older than Domi and like Domi, is an RFA. There are positives to bringing back Cousins if that's the route the Golden Knights choose. He will be more affordable, is an effective player, and his line with Alex Tuch and Nic Roy dominated upon his arrival. Domi simply brings more scoring punch, with 17 and 28 goals respectively over the past two seasons.
While Domi would improve the team, he does have some cons to his game. At times, he has become susceptible to the dumb penalty and/or cheap shot. He's a pest at heart and it's in his blood, his father being Tie Domi. He'd certainly fit in Vegas and give them another viable scoring option, while embracing the forechecking, physical game the Golden Knights play.
Watch some of the top plays from Montreal Canadiens' star Max Domi. ---------------------------------------------- Subscribe to Sportsnet on YouTube - http:/...
7 years left @ $8.25 mil
4th on TSN Trade Bait List
A captain on the list? Well, it looks like the Coyotes swung and missed when they dealt for superstars Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel. They had a terrible draw following the Play-In round win over the Nashville Predators, matching up with the Colorado Avalanche. They'd go on to lose the series in five games.
They have some good pieces and solid goaltending, but with Hall set to hit the UFA market, it might be time to rebuild once again. Ekman-Larsson has been an effective, long-running voice as the Yotes captain. The 29-year-old, two-way defenseman would be a good get for any club and specifically adds stability to the VGK defense corps.
His cap hit is not small and money would need to go out the door, but by my count, there's at least $20 million on the VGK books that wouldn't necessarily be missed. Ekman-Larsson can score, plays great in his own end, and doesn't shy away from the physical game. He's the total package, but the team would need to decide if they're comfortable paying a 36-year-old OEL $8.5 million a year.
OEL has topped 30 points each season, dating back to 2011-12, excluding the shortened 2012-13 lockout season. He'd be a great all-around option for the Golden Knights defense, think of him as a better, younger Alec Martinez.
Highlights of #23 Oliver Ekman-Larsson... Goals, Plays, Pass, Fights, Hits, Shots, Dekes, Shootouts, Moves, Tricks, Breakaway, Dangles Song: Manafest - No Pl...
James van Riemsdyk:
3 years left @ $7 mil
Power play help is something the Golden Knights could use. They'd benefit from an experienced net-front presence, something they've tried with Ryan Reaves and Tuch in the past. James van Riemsdyk may be the best net-front PP player in the NHL and the Flyers are probably open to a deal for the power forward.
JvR can score. He's a proven goal-scorer with 247 goals, 234 assists, and 481 points in 741 games, split between Philadelphia and Toronto. He's coming off a down season, in which he still managed 19 goals and 21 assists (66 games) with limited ice time. Four of his goals came on the man-advantage, mainly playing on the second PP unit. He's accumulated 66 PPGs in his career. He'd be a steady net-front/slot presence for a team that could use more chances in the High Danger areas. Far too often, the Golden Knights settled for outside chances and failed to capitalize on their scoring ability. A move for JvR could shore up that hole for the Golden Knights.
Here is the player highlight for JVR. Hope you enjoy it! If you have any suggestions about videos let me know! I do not own this video. I have uploaded it fo...
Any of these moves will take money going out the door. The Golden Knights are not swimming in an abundance of cap space. In my next article, I will take a look at potential trade chips for the Golden Knights, assets that could go out the door before the start of the 2020-21 season, whenever that may be. Hit the comments below with some trade options of your own and let me know the reasoning behind them.
You can still catch me on Twitter to stay up-to-date on your VGK news. Come talk some hockey!