Vegas Golden Knights: Big week ahead for McCrimmon and McPhee

This is a potentially defining week ahead for the Vegas Golden Knights.

It all starts on Tuesday with the First Round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, with the Vegas Golden Knights in possession of the 29th overall pick.

Rounds two through seven will then take place on Wednesday, before NHL Free Agency opens on Friday.

All in all, this is shaping up to be a huge week for the Golden Knights as they continue to try and maximise their Stanley Cup window.

It is a particularly significant week for Vegas General Manager Kelly McCrimmon and President of Hockey Operations George McPhee, who have both taken some heat after a few questionable decisions over the past year.

From firing popular Head Coach Gerard Gallant to mishandling a messy situation with face of the franchise Marc-Andre Fleury, the honeymoon period is officially over for the Golden Knights front office.

And the heat could only intensify depending on how the next few days unfolds for this organization.

It starts tomorrow with the First Round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, where the Golden Knights hold the No. 29 overall pick.

Given how deep and loaded in rich talent this year’s Draft is, the Knights will be able to select a high-end talent at the end of the First Round.

Vegas will be idle for a while on Day Two on Wednesday given that they don’t have a Second Round pick, nor do they have selections in the Fourth or Fifth Rounds, but that could all change with a trade.

In total, the Golden Knights currently have five picks at their disposal heading into the 2020 Draft, and they should be able to add some serious talent to their pipeline.

However, all the talk this week will revolve around possible trades with the future of Marc-Andre Fleury currently up in the air.

After the front office signed elite goalie Robin Lehner to a five-year, $25 million extension over the weekend, they paved the way for a likely divorce with their face of the franchise.

This once perfect relationship is already strained in the wake of the controversy inside The Bubble in Edmonton, which saw Fleury’s longtime agent Allan Walsh Tweet out a rather graphic picture of his agent literally being stabbed in the back.

It was clear then that Fleury’s camp were unhappy with how the front office and the coaching staff handled things in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with Lehner emerging as the undisputed starter for Head Coach Pete DeBoer.

Lehner clearly gives Vegas the best possible chance to win in the eyes of DeBoer and the front office, and that has now been backed up by his new extension.

Where that leaves Fleury remains to be seen but spending $12 million on two goalies in a hard cap sport isn’t conducive to success, especially at a time where teams will be dealing with a flat cap for the foreseeable future.

Currently $59,876 over the $81.5 million salary cap, the Golden Knights still have five pending free agents to re-sign including restricted forward Chandler Stephenson, who recorded 22 points (8 G, 14 A) in 41 regular season games for Vegas.

Therefore, the front office will need to clear some salary in order to handle their business and get cap compliant in time for the start of the 2020-21 season, whenever that may be, and it seems feasible that Fleury could be on the way out sooner rather than later given everything that has happened.

According to Frank Seravalli of TSN, the Golden Knights have kicked the tyres on moving Fleury in a trade, which would include sending a Second Round pick in a package with Fleury in order to get it done.

However, Vegas would likely have to retain salary in order to persuade a team to take on the future Hall of Famer, a factor that is proving a sticking point right now.

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It will be a compelling storyline to keep an eye on over the coming days and, should Fleury get traded, then both McCrimmon and McPhee will likely face plenty of backlash from their fanbase.

Then there is the small matter of Free Agency which opens on Friday. The Golden Knights have made a habit of adding a big star in each of their three seasons in the NHL, and there is an opportunity to do so again this week.

It has been reported that St. Louis Blues Captain Alex Pietrangelo is now likely to hit the open market on Friday, with Vegas and the Toronto Maple Leafs his two favored destinations.

Now, as we have already mapped out, the Golden Knights aren’t exactly flush in cap space but there are ways around the salary cap, especially if they can move Fleury and perhaps a piece from their loaded top-six forward unit.

After all, teams are allowed to go over the cap by 10% during the off-season, so the Knights do have some room to make things happen should they wish to add another big-hitter.

Pietrangelo, and perhaps even Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, would certainly help to push the Golden Knights over the top and the signing of the former in particular would help to soften the blow of losing Fleury should that end up being the case.

Next: Full order of picks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft

Overall, this is a momentous week for the front office tandem of Kelly McCrimmon and George McPhee, and the various decisions they make this week across the Draft, Free Agency and the trade market will impact both the short-term and the long-term future of this franchise.