The Vegas Golden Knights made their first trade deadline acquisition as part of a three-way transaction Friday, retaining part of Derick Brassard's salary and trading prospect Tobias Lindberg to get a fourth-round pick and Ryan Reaves. For a proper breakdown, here's our own Ryan Quigley’s take on the trade.
Here’s the deal: Reaves shouldn't be playing for the Knights, especially over talented young wingers like Tomas Hyka and Brendan Leipsic who are already having enough trouble cracking the lineup.
But there can be positives, as well as the potential motivations behind it, and why Reaves might, despite the evidence to the contrary, play a somewhat significant role in Vegas.
Let's start with the simple stuff. Reaves has eight points in 58 games this season, including four goals. Two of his four assists have been primary. He’s also registered three points in February.
While that sounds well and good, that's while averaging just 6:45 of ice time. His shooting percentage, 11.8, is above his career average and is due for a decline. He has never recorded more than 13 points in a season and averages 7:51 of ice time throughout his career.
He’s also never played more than one minute on the penalty kill in a single season. This year, he has no time on ice, exactly zero seconds, on the penalty kill.
The Knights' fourth line? They're penalty killers. And Reaves does not fit that profile.
Reaves finishes his brief tenure in Pittsburgh toward the bottom of the roster in terms of 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage (48.01 percent), the second-lowest of anybody who’s played more than 40 games for the Penguins this season.
Similarly, his shot share was in the bottom five of those above 40 games (50.28 percent) and his on-ice save percentage was just .876, which, again, is dead last among players with over 40 games this season. In other words, Pittsburgh's goaltenders had a harder time making saves with Reaves on the ice than when he was on the bench.
Per minute, the goals against Reaves is the worst of anyone who's played more than 40 games for the Penguins this season.
It’s hard to look at Reaves as someone who can fit the mold for why the Golden Knights acquired him in the first place.
Leipsic and Hyka
Leipsic's sample size is larger, so let's start with him. In 44 games, Leipsic has a 49.24 Corsi For percentage at even strength, which is two percentage points better than Reaves’. Leipsic also has a 49.71 shot share, but makes up for it with a 50 percent goal share. Leipsic's on-ice save percentage is also much better than Reaves' at .927.
Leipsic has scored just two goals this season, but has added 11 assists (seven of which are primary). In terms of sheer productivity, that blows Reaves out of the water. Leipsic also has 1.55 points per 60 versus Reaves’ 1.24.
In his brief stay with Vegas, Hyka scored a goal (and should have been awarded a primary assist) through three games. He also has a 49.12 Corsi For percentage at even strength with a 50 percent shot share. And, again, tiny sample size, but the Golden Knights didn’t allow a single goal with Hyka on the ice, so there’s that.
In essence, Reaves just doesn't fit the speed and possession style that the Knights play quite like Leipsic and Hyka do, which could negatively impact his linemates (and also force the better players to play more minutes).
That said, though, not everything about Reaves’ arrival is bad. Let's try and look at the positive, shall we?
Reaves is a little bit like Jamal Mayers. He was a part of the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks and was a player who always had far more penalty minutes than points like Reaves does (though Mayers actually got over 10 goals twice in his career).
Mayers played a large role for Chicago as a locker room figure — somebody who held the team together and stood up for his teammates. He only played 19 games in the 2012-13 season, collecting two points, both assists, and 16 penalty minutes. In the 6:58 he averaged for the Blackhawks, though, he was useful in the faceoff circle while also collecting hits and making responsible decisions with the puck.
He didn't play any games in the Blackhawks’ 2013 Stanley Cup run, but Mayerss continued to be a key team personality — so much so that captain Jonathan Toews asked that Mayers' name be put on the Cup, even if that meant Toews didn't get the "captain" inscription next to his own name.
If that's Reaves' role on the Golden Knights, then this trade may turn out great for Vegas. But with Leipsic not having played since Feb. 17 and Hyka being sent down to the Chicago Wolves, it seems Reaves is destined for a larger role.
To quote the song "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne; "Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated? I see the way you're acting like somebody else gets me frustrated."
That’s what this trade feels like. General manager George McPhee is acting like Vegas is a team it isn’t. They're on top of the standings, they're one of, if not the best team in the league. But McPhee is more concerned about adding grit to the team, even though Vegas' quick-twitch style of play is what has put them on top.
The Golden Knights certainly aren’t perfect, but they have given themselves a potential weak spot in an area they didn’t necessarily have one before.
Gerard Gallant is a hell of a coach and will probably win the Jack Adams this year. But nobody — not Ken Hitchcock, not Mike Sullivan and not even Gallant — can turn Reaves into a dynamic, game-changing player. Especially not one who should get playing time over players like Hyka and Leipsic.