Vegas Golden Knights prove their hunger to win with series of ruthless moves

Nate Schmidt #88 of the Vegas Golden Knights skates against the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Nate Schmidt #88 of the Vegas Golden Knights skates against the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

It really is win or bust for the Vegas Golden Knights.

Whatever you thought you knew about expansion teams, erase it from your memory because the Vegas Golden Knights have completely rewritten the blueprint.

Ever since making the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural year in 2017-18, the Golden Knights have established themselves as a legitimate win-now team.

They have traded some notable assets, including two high-end prospects in Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom in order to acquire ready-made pieces in Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, and they also gave up a boatload just to acquire Tomas Tatar in order to win in their debut season.

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And the moves made by the Golden Knights this off-season prove that they are hungrier than ever to bring a championship to Sin City.

While two trips to the Western Conference Final in three years would be a hell of a return for any expansion team, this is the Vegas Golden Knights we are talking about.

Despite proving emphatically that hockey in the desert can not only work but that it can flourish, the Knights won’t be happy until they’ve won a Stanley Cup. And soon.

That is the burning desire and ultimate wish of Owner Bill Foley, who has tasked President of Hockey Operations George McPhee and General Manager Kelly McCrimmon to construct a team capable of doing just that.

Therefore, after already committing big money to the likes of Pacioretty and Stone, acquiring a pure rental in goalie Robin Lehner and then signing him to a five-year, $25 million extension and upsetting face of the franchise Marc-Andre Fleury in the process, the Golden Knights threw all of their chips into the middle of the table this off-season.

They traded veteran center Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets, a player they signed to a three-year, $19,500,000 contract just two years ago, before dealing popular defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks for a Third-Round pick in 2022, with Schmidt having only just signed a six-year, $35,700,000 contract extension two years before.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27).
St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) clears the puck from Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88). Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Vegas pulled the trigger on those aggressive moves in order to clear the cap space needed to go and sign elite defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to a seven-year, $61.6 million deal, a player that quite clearly puts the Golden Knights over the top.

Then, as already mentioned, Fleury was left frustrated by how the goalie situation with Lehner was handled during the postseason, while a number of players were not happy that their names had cropped up in trade talks in the lead up to Free Agency.

But, coupled with the fact that the front office were given the green light to stick with a goalie tandem of Lehner and Fleury, a tandem that will cost $12 million in 2020-21, it is abundantly clear that this organization is hungrier and perhaps more desperate than ever to win.

It seems as though ownership and the front office can stomach discontent within the locker room, they can stomach paying through the nose on two goalies in a flat cap era and they can stomach the thought of developing a reputation as being ruthless and cutthroat as long as this team wins.

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All of the moves made this off-season, from getting rid of a glue guy in Schmidt, to damaging relationships with their face of the franchise to going all out to bring Pietrangelo to Vegas proves that the Golden Knights are desperate to win in 2020-21 and they will do whatever it takes in order to do so.

And expect that ruthless streak to continue once the puck eventually drops.