We’re rapidly approaching the Trade Deadline and the next seven weeks or so will be packed with important decisions for the Vegas Golden Knights.
It is that time of the year where the hockey world will be dominated by trade talk, and the Vegas Golden Knights will be at the very heart of it.
In the market for a puck-moving defenseman, and maybe some depth scoring, the Golden Knights are going to be a major player between now and Feb. 24.
They may not send ripples through the hockey world like they did a year ago after pulling the trigger on a blockbuster trade for elite forward Mark Stone, but the Knights will be active.
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And that’s why these next seven weeks will be crucial for the front office in terms of the short-term outlook of this team going forward.
Because, as talented as this roster is, it has some clear and visible flaws and correcting those could be the difference between embarking on a deep postseason run or suffering another disappointing First Round exit for the second consecutive year.
As a result, the onus and the pressure will be on General Manager Kelly McCrimmon and President of Hockey Operations George McPhee to use their wealth of experience and deluge of contacts to significantly improve this roster.
However, it won’t be easy.
After doing a good job of stocking up on valuable cap space, the Knights have seen that decimated following a string of injuries, meaning that they will have around just $2,022,211 in cap space by the Trade Deadline.
That isn’t a lot of cash to splash when you are in need of a top-four defenseman and ideally a third-line scoring wing.
So, the front office will have to get creative and that starts with shedding some contracts between now and Feb. 24.
Cody Eakin carries a cap hit of $3,850,000 and will become a UFA in the summer, so the forward is the most logical player to be moved.
That is no simple task, though, given that Eakin has endured a difficult regular season with just seven points (three goals, four assists) in 27 games with a plus/minus rating of -8.
Defenseman Nick Holden, who carries a cap hit of $2,200,00 and is also a UFA in the off-season, and Ryan Reaves, $2,775,000 cap hit, could also both be used as trade bait although I personally feel the latter won’t be moved given the role he plays for this team.
In truth, the franchise won’t get back much in return for either Holden or Eakin given that they are both playing on expiring contracts, although the main objective will be to clear cap space.
That is just mission one. If McCrimmon, who will be navigating his first Trade Deadline as the official GM of this franchise after taking the title back in the summer, can indeed shed some contracts then his work will only have begun.
The next step will be to decide on their preferred targets and then proceed to hammer out a trade or two.
There are a plethora of puck-moving defenseman that will be available, including New York Rangers stud Tony DeAngelo and New Jersey Devils blueliner Sami Vatanen, and bringing the right one into that locker room will be crucial.
Also important will be to address the lack of secondary scoring that has severely hindered this team for much of the year.
Ranked 15th in the NHL in Goals For Per Game (3.04), the Golden Knights have struggled to generate much offense from outside of their potent top six forward unit, which has provided 209 of the 359 total points put up by the team this year.
That tells you all you need to know about the lack of depth scoring, and that weakness has to be rectified if Vegas wishes to go deep in the postseason.
Granted, it is probably more of a priority that the Golden Knights address their woes on the blueline by bringing in a puck-moving, offensive defenseman, but the need to spark a futile third line into life is also just as pressing.
One thing we do know for certain, however, is that the Vegas Golden Knights front office face a defining chunk of time ahead as they try to address this team’s flaws and get them ready for what will hopefully be a deep postseason run.
If McCrimmon and McPhee can do what they’ve done so successfully during their time at the helm of this franchise and pull off a big trade or two, then the Golden Knights should be in good shape both down the stretch and for the playoffs.
But, if they fail to make the right moves and plug some gaping holes that are producing some serious and damaging leaks, then this could be a rough end to 2019-20 for the Vegas Golden Knights and their front office.