There is substantial pressure on the Vegas Golden Knights to win now.
Get ready for high expectations, Seattle Kraken, because the Vegas Golden Knights have completely rewritten the blueprint for expansion teams.
In fact, the Golden Knights tore up the old blueprint, tossed it in the trash can and then went about crafting a new roadmap for newly created teams.
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So, it shouldn’t be a surprise then that the franchise that took Sin City by storm is playing high stakes poker heading into the 2020-21 season having pushed all of their chips into the middle of the table this off-season.
Having already developed quite the reputation for making bold, gusty moves in order to win now, like dealing high-end prospects in order to acquire ready-made stars in Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, the Golden Knights raised the bar a little higher this year.
From pulling the trigger on a stunning trade to acquire elite goalie Robin Lehner as a pure rental at the Trade Deadline, to then signing the 2018-19 Vezina Trophy finalist to a five-year deal this off-season, the Knights were prepared to upset their face of the franchise Marc-Andre Fleury in order to push them a step closer to their ultimate goal.
Then, after falling short in the postseason following a disappointing loss in five games in the Western Conference Final to the Dallas Stars, the front office played their biggest hand yet.
Opting to deal veteran center Paul Stastny and hugely-popular defenseman Nate Schmidt in order to clear cap space, General Manager Kelly McCrimmon then weaponized that extra cash to go and snag the biggest prize available in Free Agency.
Yes, the Golden Knights went from having a very good roster to boasting an elite one following the signing of elite defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to a seven-year, $61.6 million contract.
But, after ruthlessly shopping members of this team’s core in order to go out and sign Pietrangelo, coupled with their handling of the Fleury situation, the front office opened up a few can of worms on the way.
According to multiple reports, more than a few players were unhappy that their names had cropped up in trade talks during the first few days of Free Agency, including the likes of Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault who both have a few years remaining on their current deals.
As a result, the pressure will only increase on this Golden Knights team as they enter the 2020-21 NHL season as one of the hot favorites to lift the Stanley Cup, along with the Colorado Avalanche.
Given the long list of blockbuster moves the front office have made, culminating in the capture of Pietrangelo, there will be little margin for error.
That in itself sounds a crazy statement to make given that we are talking about a team that didn’t exist five years ago, coupled with the fact that few believed an NHL franchise could ever really work in Vegas, let alone flourish as the Golden Knights have done.
As such, every little failure will be magnified and made a lot bigger given the abundance of riches on this roster, and those reports of certain players being unhappy may get more and more frequent if the good times don’t roll.
In saying that, winning is the ultimate deodorant in sports and, if the Golden Knights live up to their potential, conquer all before them, light it up behind their shiny new toy in Alex Pietrangelo and then go on to win the greatest trophy in all of sports, all of the other stuff won’t matter.
And that’s precisely why, despite being the youngest team in the National Hockey League until Seattle enters the scene in 2021, the Vegas Golden Knights will have the most pressure to win and to win big next season.
Because, if they don’t and they fall short of expectations, more heads could roll and things could get ugly quickly in the desert.