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Critical Storylines for the Golden Knights this Upcoming Season

This upcoming season has several storylines for the Vegas Golden Knights. The discussion about Vegas’ goal-tending situation will continue throughout the season. As will their cap struggles and the consequences caused by it. The effort being made by Vegas’ top prospect to make the lineup will be another storyline leading up to and throughout the season.

Cap space story-line

When the Golden Knights acquired Evgenii Dadonov and his $5 million contract, they placed themselves in a familiar situation. When Alex Tuch eventually returns to the Golden Knights roster, management will need to address their salary cap. Unless they play with an incomplete roster similar to what they did last season, they will need to make a trade. The only way a trade can be avoided is if another player, with a salary equal to or more than Tuch’s, goes on LTIR and stays there until the end of the regular season. However, this scenario is unlikely and unfortunate, as it relies on the chance of a player receiving a season-ending injury.

The storyline is that Tuch’s return will likely result in another trade taking place. Whether Vegas trades Tuch or some other player is yet to be clear.  Reilly Smith has been a common name in this conversation, due to his $5 million contract expiring after this season.  Most other players on the team with a contract north of $4.75 million have a modified no-movement clause, making it more difficult to trade them. However, that does not mean Vegas management won’t completely rule out trading them either.

The consequences of Vegas’ self-afflicted cap situation will likely reveal themselves at some point during the season.

Ongoing goaltending situation

This season, Robin Lehner will either prove his worth to the team or show that Vegas made a mistake in parting ways with Marc-Andre Fleury. Over his entire career, Lehner has had an average save percentage of .918 and has shown time and time again that he is a quality net minder. For his regular-season stats with Vegas, Lehner has a .917 save percentage and 2.20 goals against average. For his postseason stats with Vegas, he has a .911 save percentage and 2.25 goals against average. Despite this, many still view him as the usurper to Fleury’s position.  If he waivers at all this season, critics will not be as forgiving to Lehner as they were to Fleury. This season is for Lehner to prove doubters wrong and cement himself as the Golden Knights starting goaltender going forward.

A less talked about aspect of Vegas’ goaltending situation is Logan Thompson.  Especially after the 24-year old’s sensational 2020-2021 AHL campaign with the Henderson Silver Knights.  With a record of 16-6-2, a save percentage of .943 and 1.96 goals-against average, he’d be hard to ignore. It’s likely he’ll return as Henderson’s number one netminder to start the AHL campaign, but if he progresses and builds upon last year’s performance, there is a chance he could see his first NHL start this season.

The Peyton Krebs situation

Peyton Krebs during his short-stints in both the AHL and NHL last season showed a preview of his potential.  Had he not been injured, management would have probably considered placing Krebs on the taxi squad for the postseason. With how Vegas’ offense dried up in the semifinals, it’s very possible that he’d have been granted some playoff game-time.

To start the 2021-2022 preseason, Krebs had a bit of a slow start. However,  a standout performance during Vegas’ dominant win over the Colorado Avalanche showed promise. In that game, he had four points, which helped the Golden Knights win 7-4 against the Avalanche. If he proves to Peter DeBoer that he is capable of replicating this showing, there is a chance he starts the season with the Golden Knights. This storyline is likely to expand as the season progresses.

Closing thoughts

This season is critical for the Golden Knights in several aspects.  There are still many storylines that are likely to receive more attention as the season goes on. Only time will tell how they conclude, and if those conclusions will have long-term effects on the organization.

However this season plays out, it’ll likely determine how the Golden Knights franchise will proceed for years to come.

 

Featured image courtesy of The NHL

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