Nate Schmidt‘s days with the Vegas Golden Knights appear numbered.
According to Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest, the Vegas Golden Knights were working on a trade with the Florida Panthers that will include Schmidt as the main piece.
This comes as reports have suggested that the Golden Knights are on the cusp of coming to an agreement with elite defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
Now, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic Tweeted later on Sunday night that the Panthers are not in on Schmidt, but it does appear that the defenseman is very much in play.
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It was always clear that the Golden Knights would have to clear salary in order to sign Pietrangelo, who is expected to get a seven-year deal with an AAV in the region of $8.5 million.
And now it appears as though Schmidt could be traded soon as the Golden Knights prepare to sign, seal and then deliver Pietrangelo.
By dealing Schmidt the Golden Knights will be getting rid of the defenseman’s $35,700,000 contract which runs through the 2024-25 season with an AAV of $5,950,000, providing they don’t retain any salary of course.
According to Jesse Granger of The Athletic, if no salary is retained and they don’t get an NHL player back in the deal, the Golden Knights will be committed to spending $72.82 million for the 2020-21 season.
That would leave them with $8.68 million in cap space, with Pietrangelo likely to eat most of that when he does sign.
Vegas would be cap compliant even after signing Pietrangelo if they can trade Schmidt without retaining salary, although teams can go over the cap by 10 percent during the off-season.
However, should the Golden Knights wish to add more depth to their lineup with center now an area of need, they would have to make another trade with Fleury the likely candidate.
There are a lot of moving parts right now and everything should become a lot clearer over the next couple of days.
Number crunching aside for a minute, by trading Schmidt the Golden Knights are losing a part of their core and another member from the original Golden Misfits.
Although he clearly regressed in 2019-20 with 31 points (7 G, 24 A) and 39 Giveaways in 59 regular season games with a 4.5 Goals Above Replacement (via Evolving Wild), Schmidt is still a valuable top four defenseman.
He recorded 97 points (21 G, 76 A) in 196 career regular season games with the Golden Knights, in addition to five goals and 15 assists for 20 points in 47 career Stanley Cup Playoffs games for the franchise.
But, this is the price of doing business in a hard cap sport and the Golden Knights will have to shed salary and make some tough decisions in order to land the prize of Free Agency in Alex Pietrangelo.
Maybe Schmidt’s rough postseason inside The Bubble where he committed a number of big mistakes, including coughing up 30 Giveaways in 20 games, contributed to this decision but it is more likely that the defenseman’s big cap hit will be the driving force behind his departure if this is how it shakes out.
It will also be a move that proves that the Golden Knights are all in to win now with no room for sentimental feelings, given that they will be down to nine original Golden Misfits that were selected at the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, eight if Marc-Andre Fleury is traded too.
Given that he has had a weekend to weigh up his options, we should hear something concrete on Alex Pietrangelo at some point today and, if he does indeed choose the Golden Knights as his destination, then don’t be surprised if a trade involving Nate Schmidt and maybe another piece of this core follows soon after.