If you don’t buy a ticket then you won’t win the lottery. The Vegas Golden Knights went all in at the Trade Deadline and they will be hoping it pays off.
In the words of the great Babe Ruth, “never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” The Vegas Golden Knights adopted that mantra on Monday as they again showed their aggressive streak.
While teams around them in an ultra-competitive Pacific Division improved, just look at the moves made by the Edmonton Oilers, the Golden Knights bided their time until pouncing.
With minutes remaining, it was announced that the Knights had pulled off a stunning trade for Chicago Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner.
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It was a productive day for Vegas who significantly improved in a number of areas, and they worked wonders with limited cap space.
The most notable deal of the day for the Knights was of course the bombshell trade for Lehner, which saw Malcolm Subban head to the Chicago Blackhawks.
In trading for last year’s Vezina Trophy finalist, the Golden Knights now have one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL and, as the old saying goes, you can’t win championships without elite goaltending.
Vegas now boasts two top-end netminders in Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury, and the trade for Lehner has many benefits.
For starters, it was clear that Subban wasn’t getting the job done which is why Fleury has started 44 games this year.
With Lehner a clear upgrade, Head Coach Peter DeBoer will now have the opportunity to rest Fleury more down the stretch in order to get him ready for the postseason, safe in the knowledge that they will have a backup in net who is 11th in the NHL in Save Percentage (.918) and 13th in goals saved above average (10.1).
Plus, Fleury hasn’t been vintage Fleury this year with a 25-14-5 record to go along with a 2.79 Goals Against Average and a .906 Save Percentage.
But, maybe the added competition coupled with more rest will help to get the best out of Fleury when it matters most, and that will only be a good thing for the Knights.
Vegas will now have two goalies who can get the job done and, should anything happen to Fleury (god forbid), their season won’t simply implode with Lehner now in the building.
The other interesting aspect in the Lehner trade is the fact that this is a pure rental with the 28-year-old a pending UFA, and we all know that the Golden Knights normally stay away from rentals.
However, it was another statement of intent from the Knights who are in win-now mode and they clearly feel that they can go on a run this year.
And the front office have got history of this.
The Stone trade happened at last year’s Trade Deadline and it was a clear, aggressive move to push the Knights over the top.
While they were dealt a painful First-Round exit by the San Jose Sharks, Stone has been excellent and he leads the Knights in points with 63 (21 goals, 42 assists) in 64 games this year, and he’ll be a huge factor in the postseason.
And the Golden Knights stuck with habit by being aggressive again this year, making a blockbuster move for Lehner to dramatically bolster their goaltending while adding a swiss-army knife type player in Nick Cousins who will slot in nicely on the third-line.
General Manager Kelly McCrimmon, who also added veteran defenseman and two-time Stanley Cup winner Alec Martinez last week, assessed the market, felt the price was too high for a puck-moving defenseman but saw the opportunity to get better in other areas and went for the jugular.
The Golden Knights know their window to win is right now given that they have a lot of money tied up in a core group of players, while they are paying a 35-year-old goalie $7,000,000 a year for the next two seasons.
Of course, Vegas will have to pay the bill at some point and they will, like every team in the NHL, eventually go through a rough couple of years. That is just a fact of life.
There is also the possibility that all of these moves could blow up in the face of the front office and they don’t end up with a championship.
But, for the next few years, the Vegas Golden Knights are built to win and you have to give the front office credit for understanding that, while continuing to be aggressive and going all in time and time again in order to maximise their team’s window.
This organization wants a Stanley Cup badly and they are doing everything within their power to ensure it happens, and you can’t ask for more than that.