The Vegas Golden Knights currently have two major rivals, The San Jose Sharks and cap space.
The Golden Knights salary problem
The Golden Knights have had a history of performing gymnastics with their cap space. It was during the most recent NHL season that saw them face some serious cap struggles. The Knights often played down a man throughout the season as a result of their cap struggles.
Management backed themselves into a corner this offseason which led to some difficult decisions. The most notable moves being when they traded away fan favorite Marc-Andre Fleury. While fiscally seen as moves that needed to happen, how these deals went down left many Vegas fans perturbed.
With this, questions have arisen about the decisions the Knights have made with the money from their recent offseason deals. Scrutiny is in high supply this offseason for the Vegas Golden Knights fanbase.
Post the Marc-Andre Fleury trade
With how close Vegas already was to the cap, many speculated that several players were going to free agency. So when the Golden Knights re-signed both Alec Martinez and Mattias Janmark it came back as a surprise to many.
Due to these players returning, Vegas went back to dealing with cap struggles almost immediately. The combined cap hit of both players’ new contracts is $7.25 million dollars per year. Using up the space created by trading away the $7 million dollar contract of Marc-Andre Fleury.
While both Martinez and Janmark are quality players, there are those within the fan-base who value Fleury more. Martinez was in inspired form throughout the season and was arguably the most consistent defenseman on the team. Where as, the Knights acquired Janmark as a rental piece in order to bolster the bottom six forward core. He showed hints of his great upside but was not consistent enough for fans to expect his return.
But for Marc-Andre Fleury, at 36 years old, he had the best season of his career. He had just won both the Vezina and the Jennings alongside his partner Robin Lehner. He had endeared himself to the VGK fanbase for the past four seasons. The manner in which the trade was conducted left many in the fanbase questioning the teams sense of loyalty.
The fans attachment to Fleury and the way the trade was handled led many to criticize the direction the team appeared to be heading.
Not fixing the problem
After the Fleury trade and re-signings, the Golden Knights went out and acquired 32-year-old Winger, Evgenii Dadonov. With an annual cap hit of $5 million dollars, Dadonov had just come off of a lackluster 2020-2021 campaign. Since the Knights already has a strong core of wingers, the Dadonov trade has been a source of much discussion.
When the team announced that Alex Tuch had received shoulder surgery it gave some explanation for the Dadonov trade. However, the explanation was not enough to negate the criticism towards the teams management.
With how many quality wingers the team already had, Tuch was already being forced to play on the third line. Since Tuch went on long term injury reserve, the team decided to use the money on Dadonov as a replacement. Not only are the Knights playing cap gymnastics again, they have also created problems for themselves later on. The team will eventually need to trade a player when Tuch returns in order to stay under the cap limit.
Tuch is a winger with top six quality and a cap hit of $4.75 million until the 2025-2026 season. With Tuch being on LTIR, management could have used his spot to test out young players within the organization.
Team management could’ve utilized Tuch’s vacant spot by giving young players within the organization a chance at the NHL level. Instead, they decided to go with Dadonov. Not that Dadonov is a bad player by any means. The decision just doesn’t make sense in terms of what the Golden Knights need vs. what they have.
One struggling young player for another
Another deal made by management was the trade that saw Cody Glass leave for Unsigned RFA Nolan Patrick. This was an interesting deal by the Golden Knights, as both players are very similar in pedigree and style of play. Glass was the first ever draft pick for the Vegas Golden Knights having been selected sixth overall by them back in 2017. Patrick had been selected second overall in that same draft by the Philadelphia Flyers.
For Glass, it appeared that VGK management did not believe he was going to develop to where they wanted him to. His departure marked the Golden Knights having officially traded away all three of their first round picks from the 2017 draft. For Patrick he gets a chance to succeed with another team and have a chance to live up to his potential in another teams system. It is yet to be seen if he is capable of doing so.
As of right now, the Knights have yet to sign Patrick to a contract. Being a restricted free agent however, means he’ll likely have a deal done before the beginning of the next season.
This upcoming season is crucial for the Golden Knights, not just in terms of their aging core or their success within the league, but also in public opinion. Trading away Marc-Andre Fleury was never going to sit well with the Golden Knights fanbase, but with how the trade went down, it made an unfortunate situation worse. It was important for the Knights to re-sign Martinez and the team is better as a whole with him on it. But in large, the fanbase will always value what Fleury was for the team above all else.
Signing Evgenii Dadonov to replace the injured Alex Tuch may end up being the correct decision. But obtaining Dadonov’s services have put the Golden Knights into a situation similar to the one they were in last season. And if Dadonov ends up flopping in Vegas, it will make an already questionable decision look even worse.
If a change in scenery is what Patrick needs to help him reach his potential, this deal could look like an absolute robbery for the Knights. It all depends on how he can deal with the pressure of being in a new city and if he is capable of developing further. He has an opportunity in Vegas to earn a top six spot in the lineup if he can be the missing piece to the Golden Knights centerman puzzle.
It will take time to see how these deals end up for the Knights and whether the decisions they made were for the betterment of the team or not.