The 2020-21 Roster
This is where it gets interesting.
Assuming that the salary cap for the 2020-21 NHL season remains at $81.5 million, and that seems the most feasible outcome right now, the Golden Knights will have little wriggle room to play with yet again.
As it stands, they will be spending $72,625,000 on 14 players on the roster next year, including $40,300,000 on seven forwards, with around $11,375,000 in cap space to play with.
That all sounds nice but, keep in mind, the Golden Knights do have a grand total of eight pending free agents to deal with.
We’ve mapped them out below with their current salaries:
- Ryan Reaves, F, $2,775,000 Cap Hit
- Tomas Nosek, F, $1,000,000 Cap Hit
- Jon Merrill, D, $1,375,000 Cap Hit
- Deryk Engelland, D, $700,000 Cap Hit
- Robin Lehner, G, $5,000,000 Cap Hit
- Nicolas Roy, F, $720,000 Cap Hit
- Nick Cousins, F, $1,000,000 Cap Hit
- Chandler Stephenson, F, $1,050,000 Cap Hit
Now, we will be taking a deeper dive into what free agents could go and who could stay later in the week but, for now, four or five of the eight players set to hit free agency in the off-season will remain.
I can see either Ryan Reaves or Tomas Nosek staying, while it is likely that Deryk Engelland could retire and I can’t see Jon Merrill being retained either.
That leaves the biggest question mark on UFA Robin Lehner, who will likely want a significant increase on his current average annual value of $5 million.
Should that be the case, I can’t see the Golden Knights wanting to swim in those waters given that they are already committed to paying starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury $7,000,000 per year through 2021-22.
Over $12 million on two goalies? That just isn’t a blueprint for success in a hard cap sport.
Then that brings us on to the Golden Knights’ three pending Restricted Free Agents.
Given that rookie Nicolas Roy hasn’t amassed enough service time yet, Vegas will be able to give the depth forward whatever contract they so wish pretty much, so his cap hit won’t rise too much above $720,000 for 2020-21.
As for Stephenson and Cousins, both players are arbitration-eligible and, as such, could also be offer-sheeted which would drive their value up.
Although, it is worth noting that any RFA can get offer-sheeted, not just arbitration-eligible RFA’s.
However, given that both are role players, it is likely that the Golden Knights will be able to thrash out new deals with both Stephenson and Cousins without too many complications and without having to overpay either player.
All of the above in consideration, then, and it is fair to assume that Vegas will spend a large chunk of the $11,375,000 cap space they have available on their group of free agents.
For example, say they spend a combined $8 million to keep Ryan Reaves, Nicolas Roy, Chandler Stephenson and Nick Cousins, that would leave the Golden Knights with just over $3 million to spend.
Part of that would need to go on a backup goalie if Lehner doesn’t return, while keeping four of their eight free agents would give them 19 players on the roster.
As a result, they would still need to fill out the remainder of the roster and that could be done by calling up forward Cody Glass and defenseman Nic Hague, who are both on their entry-level deals and carry cap hits less than $1 million.
Peyton Krebs, the 17th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft by the Golden Knights, could be a dark horse to make the NHL roster out of training camp and battle for a role on the lineup.
So, before we move on, let’s take a look at what the roster could look like next year keeping in mind everything we have covered above.
Line 1: Pacioretty-Karlsson-Stone
Line 2: Marchessault-Stastny-Smith
Line 3: Cousins-Glass-Tuch
Line 4: Carrier-Stephenson-Reaves
Scratches: Nicolas Roy, Peyton Krebs
Pairing 1: McNabb-Schmidt
Pairing 2: Martinez-Theodore
Pairing 3: Holden-Whitecloud
Scratches: Nic Hague, Dylan Coghlan
Starter: Marc-Andre Fleury
As you can see, the roster will largely remain intact from this year with the Golden Knights relying on Cody Glass to stay healthy and make progress in his second year in the NHL, while they would also need Alex Tuch to remain on the ice too.
Peyton Krebs could be on the outside looking in should he enjoy a strong Training Camp, and the same could be said for prospect forward Jack Dugan once he signs his entry-level contract.
Plus, if they bring back all three of Nicolas Roy, Chandler Stephenson and Nick Cousins, then that does give them some depth in the bottom-six of the lineup.
The defense would remain the same with the likes of Nic Hague and Dylan Coghlan battling it out for the seventh D role, while Vegas would need to bring in a backup goalie should Robin Lehner prove too expensive to keep as I predict right now.
Whatever way you paint it, though, the Golden Knights look set to be right up against the cap yet again in 2020-21, and that will have some big implications…