Everything Else

While I sit here and still try and wrap my head around the Olli Maatta trade and failing terrible and falling deeper into my own ennui, a Justin Bruan trade didn’t help today. He’s at least twice as good as Maatta, didn’t cost any players, and is only signed for one season so if it didn’t work you can all part ways after the year, or if you have young players ready to ascend. He actually does what the Hawks must think Maatta does but doesn’t, and he wouldn’t have cost any players.

Be that as it may, and this isn’t only a Hawks problem, but if you want to solve any problem your team might have, why aren’t teams coming, and I mean sprinting, to pick the bones off the Golden Knights’ cap problems. We’ve gone over this before, but let’s review: George McPhee needed only two seasons to completely bork a completely blank cap situation.

The Knights are capped out. Not like, just sort of capped out. They literally have no space under a $83M salary cap, and it very well might turn into an $82M one. They have not re-signed William Karlsson. They have not re-signed, Nikita Gusev. They have not re-signed Tomas Nosek. They don’t have a backup goalie. And that’s before July 1st.

Sure, they could go over the cap by 10% until Opening night, which will help a little bit. Except Karlsson is going to gobble most of that up. And they could use David Clarkson’s LTIR. But as we learned with Hossa, using that in the offseason really bones you during the season where basically no one can get hurt. And you can’t make any trades.

No matter what here, the Knights have to move some people out. And they can’t take any players back. There can’t be a team more interested in taking only picks and prospects back in a trade, because they simply can’t cram in anyone else onto the roster. You should be dangling everything in front of them.

So why not call and see what Colin Miller would cost? Hell, aim higher and see if Shea Theodore can be pried loose. Someone’s gotta go. Find out who it is.

Or hell, let’s get nuts. Offer sheet Wild Bill. I don’t even know if he fits on the Hawks, but you can find a place for him on the top six. Go with your “3+1″model with Kampf as the 1. Offer him $6M a year because right now the Knights literally can’t match it. They have no space. Maybe Eakin or Haula are gettable to replace what you just lost in Kahun for a season. Who fucking cares? Get him over that barrel.

This isn’t even a Hawks complaint, because all the sharks should be circling around the Knights right now. If they’re such the darlings of the NHL and are so ahead of the curve, it stands to reason everyone wants their players. And they can’t keep all their players. Is there some rule I missed that the Knights can just spend whatever they want so everyone gets their comped rooms in the spring? It’s still hilarious that with a blank slate the Knights are in this spot. You would think it would have been near impossible. But McPhee made it look so easy.

Whatever, the Hawks made their move. I guess I’d better just be resigned to it. Ennui, here I come.

Everything Else

Perhaps it’s just sour grapes, and lord knows our vineyard is awash with those. But we were kind of surprised that the Vegas Golden Knights, in less than two years of existence, have become a cap-team. And hey, we guess you can’t argue with the results. A Cup final and what looks to be a chance at another deep run this spring. That’s what a cap team should do. Even if most of it is on the back of a resurgent Marc-Andre Fleury. Still, looking at some of these deals, and what else he might hand out soon, you can’t help but wonder if George McPhee didn’t cock this up royally. And if he doesn’t hamstring the Knights going forward from here.

Some of these contracts are a bit bewildering. Nate Schmidt will see his extension kick in next year at a cap-hit of $5.9M. And ok, fair, he’s 27 and in his prime. He’s also never bettered last year’s 38 points. He’s scoring at a higher pace this year, though won’t get to that thanks to his ridiculous suspension. But for $6 million a year? That’ll give him a higher cap-hit than Matt Niskanen, who has bettered Schmidt’s career-high in points twice and the Caps thought was more worth keeping than Schmidt was. And then promptly beat the Knights in the Final. It’s the same as Matt Dumba, who scored 50 points last year and was well on his way to doing so again before getting hurt this year. It’s more than Dougie Hamilton. Schmidt’s a nice player to have, but at that rate?

So ok, traded for Max Pacioretty. Fine, Knights needed a second line after last year’s foray. Signed him for four more years at the age of 30, and Patches has 12 goals. Sure, Paul Stastny has been hurt most of the year, but Pacioretty has scored without a center in Montreal before. And he only put up 17 goals last year (in 64 games). Was maybe taking a half of a season before committing the worst idea?

Shea Theodore is getting $5.2M for the next seven years. And yes, he’s only 23. Maybe a couple years in this looks a steal. Except he was coming out of his entry-level deal, and hasn’t shown to be that dynamic of a force out from the back yet. He’s good. Is he worth quite this?

Some of this is just matter of degrees. You want players like Schmidt and Theodore on your team. Pacioretty seemed a pretty decent risk given his track record. Stastny has always been injury-prone, but maybe you take that chance, even if he’s never really changed any team he’s been on drastically.

And yet with a completely blank slate, the Knights will only have about $11M in space after the season. And a good portion of that will have to go to William Karlsson. That should make for a fascinating negotiation. Karlsson is only on pace for about 25 goals or so, which is what he probably is long-term. But his 43-goal season of last year will still be prominent in the memory of his agent. He’s restricted, so will McPhee hold the line and try to keep him as close to the $5M per year he gets now? Or will he push that closer to $8 or $9M? Will that force out meaningful depth players like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare who is unrestricted and certainly looking for better than $1.4M? Oscar Lindberg? Good thing they’ll lose that David Clarkson money the summer after next season.

That’s what McPhee appears to be aiming for. In the summer of 2020, the Knights will have some $30M in space or more once Clarkson’s insurance policy goes away, and Nick Holden, Erik Haula, Cody Eakin, and Ryan Reaves come off the books. Maybe they’ll run at Taylor Hall to make up for the decaying Pacioretty at that point.

That’s the thing about the Knights. They’re not terribly young. Only Theodore and Alex Tuch look poised to be built around long-term. Marchessault is 28. Smith is 27. And if you think that lasts forever, just look at Pacioretty, who had a bigger resume than them before turning 30.

But hey, they made their splash. It was a much bigger one than anyone could have anticipated. Still, when you have no payroll whatsoever 18 months ago, and now this, one wonders how much longer the magic will last.

 

Game #47 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Ken Boehlke is one-half of sinbin.vegas. Follow them @SinBinVegas.

We know the Knights benefitted last year from insane goaltending along  with their more than solid even-strength play. But having among the worst save-percentage and shooting-percentage this season seems a violent market correction. Is there something systemic here more than just rotten luck?

What it really comes down to is Grade-A scoring chances and the subsequent execution of them. Early in the season the Golden Knights were having a hard time creating anything in the dangerous areas (in the house, if you know that term) but what was worse than their inability to create the chances was a consistency in not finishing those chances when they did arise. Luckily, as tends to be the case in hockey, that has turned recently, especially since they’ve begun to play more
Pacific division teams.

How big is the injury to Paul Stastny?

To be completely honest, it hasn’t had a major impact to this point. It’s the loss of Haula that seems to be more of a detriment to the team. Stastny certainly would have been, and hopefully will eventually be, a nice center for the 2nd line, but Eakin has stepped in incredibly well and appears to be thriving with goal-scorers on his line again. The loss of Haula however has definitely taken an level of speed away from the team and at times they don’t look like the quick, ferocious, probably considered annoying team that won the Western Conference. They’ve been searching for anyone to make the 3rd line go since Haula’s gruesome injury, but it hasn’t really happened yet. Would they be better with Stastny back? Of course, but if you gave me one or the other right now, I’d rather have Haula.

And the suspension to Nate Schmidt? While he’s unquestionably a good player is he really a top pairing d-man that a team would miss so heavily?

I’ll be completely honest in saying I heavily underestimated the impact Schmidt would have in the lineup upon his return. When a guy is out for the first 20 games of the season and the last memories of him are the Cup Final when not a single defenseman was any good, there certainly has to be a level of skepticism about how good the player really is, especially a player who has only a one year track record of being a top pair defenseman. But this guy is everything and more on the ice that made the hockey world realize that he’a a top 20 defenseman in the league and maybe even better. He’s kind of been this a stabilizing force to the defense in that they aren’t allowing an odd-man rush a period anymore, but it’s added an element of transition back into Vegas’ game and most importantly, it’s meant the return of Colin Miller and Shea Theodore to more familiar, less defensively responsible, roles. All of that was a long way to say, YES, Nate Schmidt is that good.

Max Pacioretty started slow, there was concern, and now he’s bagged six goals in four games. Was this just a product of all scorers going through hot and cold streaks?

I don’t think it was simply a cold streak that a scorer tends to go through. We’ve all seen those cold streaks and they tend to mean lots of great saves against, post hits, miraculous backchecking, and the likes. That’s not what this was for Pacioretty. He was just not good. He wasn’t creating much by means of scoring chances and he was uncharacteristically a liability defensively. When I say he was bad, I mean, he was legitimately one of the worst forwards on the team. However, he’s definitely not that anymore, and it’s not because he’s scored a bunch of goals recently. It seems to have much more to do with
his linemates. Playing with Alex Tuch isn’t as simple as it would seem. He’s so much faster than he looks and he plays with a power that’s not horribly common in the NHL. Pacioretty seemed to always been a half  second behind Tuch, likely because he didn’t expect Alex to be able to pull off some of the stuff that he does. Now, Pacioretty expects Tuch to win every puck, to undress guys at the blue line, and to fire passes through people every shift. Pacioretty is starting to find himself in much better positions when Tuch and Eakin create turnovers, and the three of them are starting to look dangerous every single time out as a unit rather than individually. Pacioretty told me about two weeks ago that he thought he was thinking too much and it was slowing him down. That’s a huge problem when you play with Tuch. That appears to be over
and the flood gates might just be open.

 

Game #25 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Oh hey look! It’s the new kid! The mouthy, over-hyped new kid, but because he has the nicest house and the latest video games and the best weed everyone’s going to go over there after school anyway. Yes, this Vegas team hasn’t really shut up since well before they expansion draft, but you’re going to get constant updates about their ticket sales and Twitter and FB are going to be filled with your fellow fans making the trip out to Vegas when their team is there. At least a group of sweaty hockey fans aren’t the worst group of people you can find yourself surrounded by in Vegas, but it’s close. Anyway, the chatter will do everything it can to distract you from the fact this team is something you’d dig out of the bathroom drain. And it’s probably going to be that way for a few years. Which it should.

Oh right… we can’t do previous year’s stats, because they didn’t exist. So we’ll just hop right into it.