What could've been with Anthony Mantha

Anthony Mantha was the first trade made by the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline. Here's how it didn't pan out for the team.
Vegas Golden Knights v Edmonton Oilers
Vegas Golden Knights v Edmonton Oilers / Leila Devlin/GettyImages

When the Vegas Golden Knights acquired Anthony Mantha at the trade deadline, the goal was to bolster a quiet offense. There wasn't the same potent goal-scoring from a season prior, which won them the Stanley Cup. Therefore, Vegas swung a deal with the Washington Capitals, acquiring his services for a second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2026 NHL Draft.

And why wouldn't it work out? He was set to hit free agency at season's end, acting as a rental for Vegas. The former first-round pick was a big body, standing at 6'5" and weighing 230 lbs. He also had good scoring acumen and was reliable on the power play. During his heyday with the Detroit Red Wings, he scored 27 power play goals in six seasons.

Therefore, the acquisition made sense for the Golden Knights. They would make another playoff run and have an improved team offensively. Everything sounded great upon getting him from Washington, for he was the scoring talent they desperately needed.

Anthony Mantha didn't work out for the Vegas Golden Knights

But on March 7, a funny thing happened in his first game with the Vegas Golden Knights. Anthony Mantha wasn't the talent they were hoping for, having a horrible game against the Vancouver Canucks. That included a double-minor high-sticking penalty against Nils Hoglander. That would set the tone for a forgettable run, where he would eventually be healthy scratched during the playoffs.

Of course, inconsistency has marred the winger during his NHL career, where he'd have cold periods lasting months. He didn't score his first goal with the Golden Knights until a week later, where he'd go another week without getting another point after. It looked like the deal was a bust, with Vegas sending draft picks for a failed rental.

Granted, not every trade is meant to be successful. If that were the case, that would take the fun away from making swaps in sports. However, the former first-round pick isn't returning to Vegas next season, signaling an end to his short-lived tenure in Sin City as he hits free agency.

Why is Anthony Mantha not returning?

Currently, the Vegas Golden Knights are tight on cap space, with 52.2% of the salary cap going to the forward position. They have six outgoing players heading to free agency on July 1st, which includes Jonathan Marchessault. Every Golden Knights fan knows the story behind the Conn Smythe winner and his 42 goals this season, making him an essential signing.

While contract negotiations are ongoing with the "Golden Misfit," certain players had to be sacrificed. That meant Anthony Mantha, who only scored three goals in 18 games, was on the chopping block. Therefore, the winger isn't expected to return to the team next season.

Of course, the looming rumors between Vegas and Mitch Marner might also play a factor. Whether they work on a deal remains to be seen. But much of the offseason noise won't involve Mantha in any sense, leaving him to find a new home.

What could've been

If Anthony Mantha had been successful, he might've helped the Vegas Golden Knights move past the Dallas Stars in the first round. He looked like a great goal-scorer with a hard shot, making him a solid offensive piece. It was something Vegas desperately needed, for their offense would stall out at times.

Now? The other trade deadline acquisitions, Noah Hanifin and Tomas Hertl, are sticking around for the long term. Hanifin got a new eight-year deal and Vegas will take on Hertl's deal from San Jose. As for Mantha, he's walking into free agency, uncertain about life after the Golden Knights.