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A way too early look at Golden Knights’ potential trade deadline targets

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With about six weeks before the deadline, here’s who the Vegas Golden Knights should target, and who they should avoid.

Ottawa Senators v Toronto Maple Leafs

The Vegas Golden Knights are once again in position to be buyers at the NHL trade deadline. With the deadline about six weeks away, the Golden Knights are one of the best teams in the Pacific Division and should be preparing for another playoff run. Before that, though, Vegas may look to add a player or two to help them try and get back to the Stanley Cup Final (and win it this time).

There is a decent crop of potential targets available this season with a good number of teams looking to move pieces. Here’s who Vegas should target and who they should avoid.

Target

Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson

When rumors about the St. Louis Blues shopping all of their players began, people immediately thought about Vladimir Tarasenko and Colton Parayko — both high-end targets with a lot to offer. One of the names that was less thought about, though, was Joel Edmundson, perhaps St. Louis’ best defensive defenseman.

Objectively, Deryk Engelland just isn’t suited for a top-four role anymore, as Dalton’s article proves. That’s where Edmundson comes in. Not only is he a reliable top-four defenseman who can be used heavily in defensive situations, but he’s also ranked 30th amongst defensemen with more than 600 minutes played in primary points per 60 this season, ahead of players like Rasmus Ristolainen and Matt Niskanen.

Edmundson has faced the toughest competition of the Blues’ defense and has allowed the fewest expected goals against of St. Louis’ top five defenders (Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Vince Dunn, Parayko and Edmundson) who all have more than 500 minutes.

Even with relatively lackluster numbers (he has just a 49.66 percent shot share this season), Edmundson is a target who could come at a reasonable price and immediately make an impact on the Knights’ roster. He’s able to be signed long-term (he’s a restricted free agent after this season) and, at 25, he would be Vegas’ second-youngest defenseman. Edmundson is an ideal pairing for a player like Shea Theodore, as he can cover mistakes and still provide more offensive help than Engelland is capable.

Islanders forward Josh Ho-Sang

With a loaded top six in terms of wings, it’s not as if Vegas needs to target flankers at this year’s deadline. But there is one that draws the eye and could come at a more reasonable price than a Mark Stone or Tarasenko.

Josh Ho-Sang is a talented young forward who just hasn’t been able to make much of an impact with the New York Islanders. He’s someone who’s expected to score, and through the initial stages of his career, the goals haven’t been there. He has just 24 points in 53 games in his career, with two points in 10 games this season.

The problem is, Ho-Sang doesn’t shoot as often as he should. He averages less than a shot per game so far in his NHL career. The Golden Knights, however, have no problems generating shots, and a system like Vegas’ could do Ho-Sang well.

He has incredible possession numbers (60.75 percent shot share on a 37.5 percent zone-start rate) and is averaging nearly a full primary point per 60 this season. Alongside players like Brandon Pirri and Cody Eakin on the third line, the Golden Knights could have three complete scoring lines before the playoffs.

Head coach Gerard Gallant may be able to get the most out of a player like Ho-Sang. He’s done similar work this season with forwards William Carrier and Ryan Reaves. Ho-Sang has a ton of talent that hasn’t been fully taken advantage of with the Islanders, and if Vegas somehow convinces the Islanders to sell low on the prospect, it could do miracles for the team in the future.

Wild forward Nino Niederreiter

Nino Niederreiter is an incredibly talented two-way forward who’s having a down season, which lowers the potential cost at the deadline. He is on a $5.25 million contract, which makes him the most expensive player on the target list, but there’s a very good reason for that.

Niederreiter has been one of the best defensive forces on the Wild roster for the past few years and plays excellent hockey on the third line. He’s averaged 14:17 over the course of his career and has hit 20 goals three times. Last season Niederreiter netted 18 goals in 63 games.

A player like Niederreiter has tons of value. He would add more depth to the Golden Knights’ scoring and can even play on the penalty kill. He would need to come at an appropriate cost, however, which might include Minnesota taking a contract back — a hard ask.

Maybe

Blues forward Brayden Schenn

There are a few reasons Schenn isn’t a slam dunk. Let’s start with the negatives.

The Golden Knights have solid center depth. They have William Karlsson and Paul Stastny in the top six, both of whom have been excellent. Karlsson has 30 points in 49 games and should likely pick up the pace as the season closes out, and Paul Stastny has 14 points in 19 games. Weigh that against Schenn’s 24 points in 41 games, and it’s easy to choose Karlsson and Stastny.

In addition, the bottom-six centers both serve a purpose — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has been one of Vegas’ best penalty killers throughout his tenure and Cody Eakin could be on his way to a career-high season while playing a great two-way game. Erik Haula could also be on his way back at the end of the season for the playoffs, and he should be slotted into the lineup if he does.

But that’s the maybe — Haula’s health. It’s possible, growing more possible with every passing day that, that we won’t see Haula until next season. If that happens, the Golden Knights need more on their third line.

To put it simply, an Oscar Lindberg-Eakin-Ryan Carpenter line may not be able to get it done in the playoffs. Schenn could fit in there, if he comes at the right price.

Avoid

Senators forward Mark Stone

Stone could wind up being a valuable prize, but Vegas should stay away.

First of all, Vegas doesn’t have the cap space. William Karlsson, Brandon Pirri, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Malcolm Subban and Tomas Nosek will all be free agents this offseason, and Vegas will need some wiggle room to accommodate those potential contracts. They could re-sign Deryk Engelland and Brad Hunt, but that doesn’t seem quite as likely. They have, if the cap goes to a reasonable $83 million, about $10 million of space to work with — likely not enough room to keep Stone and all of the core players.

Second, the Golden Knights’ top six is chock full of wingers already. Plugging Stone or a player like Reilly Smith into the bottom six just doesn’t make sense if you want to get the most out of those players.

Senators forward Matt Duchene

Yeah, that whole thing about Stone applies for Duchene, who could be a short-term rental coming at too high a price for a position the Golden Knights already have filled. There’s no reason for Vegas to trade for Duchene unless the absolute worst happens and one of Stastny/Karlsson is hurt for the season.

Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky

Marc-Andre Fleury has put together a Vezina-worthy campaign. Why would the Golden Knights ever trade for another goaltender?

Simple. They wouldn’t.

Unless something insane happens late in the season and the Knights are suddenly in need of a goalie, there’s no conceivable way a trade for Bobrovsky is in the cards.