Vegas Golden Knights: Nick Cousins becomes first cap casualty

Nick Cousins #21 of the Vegas Golden Knights stretches prior to warm-ups and the game against the Dallas Stars. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Nick Cousins #21 of the Vegas Golden Knights stretches prior to warm-ups and the game against the Dallas Stars. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Nick Cousins has fallen victim to the Vegas Golden Knights’ cap crunch.

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported that Cousins won’t be qualified by the Vegas Golden Knights, meaning he will become an Unrestricted Free Agent on Friday.

NHL teams had until 2:00 p.m. PT today to extend Qualifying Offers to Restricted Free Agents, with the Golden Knights agreeing terms on a four-year, $11 million extension with forward Chandler Stephenson.

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Jesse Granger of The Athletic has also reported that the Golden Knights have extended Qualifying Offers to both defenseman Jimmy Schuldt and forward Gage Quinney.

However, Cousins will now be allowed to hit Free Agency on Friday with the forward becoming the first cap casualty.

After signing goalie Robin Lehner to a five-year, $25 million contract over the weekend and then extending Stephenson today, the Golden Knights are now $2.089 million over the $81.5 million salary cap.

Teams are allowed to go over the cap by 10 percent during the off-season but, wanting to go big-game hunting in Free Agency on Friday, the Knights need to clear some cap space and fast.

They are shopping Marc-Andre Fleury, Nate Schmidt, Jonathan Marchessault and Paul Stastny according to reports, and Cousins will be allowed to walk because of that cap jam.

Every dollar will count for the Golden Knights this off-season as they chase a star in Alex Pietrangelo or Torey Krug, while they still need to work out what to do with pending UFA’s Deryk Engelland, Jon Merrill and Tomas Nosek, although all three will likely be allowed to hit the open market.

As a result, the Golden Knights have clearly decided that Cousins was a luxury they couldn’t afford for the 2020-21 season.

Vegas Golden Knights center Nick Cousins (21).
Vegas Golden Knights center Nick Cousins (21) skates during the warmup period. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

It is somewhat surprising given that the Knights gave up a 2021 Fourth Round pick at the Trade Deadline for Cousins, who made a positive impact on a Stanley Cup contender.

He had three points (1 G, 2 A) in seven games down the stretch, but played a key bottom-six role for the Golden Knights.

Cousins also had five points (5 A) in 17 postseason games for the Knights, but he was somewhat expendable.

After all, Nicolas Roy emerged as a real key role player in his rookie year with 10 points (5 G, 5 A) in 28 games with Vegas while prospects Cody Glass, Peyton Krebs and Jack Dugan could all be in line for much bigger roles in 2020-21.

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This is just the start of what should be a busy week with Nick Cousins just the first cap casualty as the Vegas Golden Knights race to clear the cap space they need to make a huge splash in Free Agency on Friday.