After signing forward William Karlsson to an eight-year contract extension worth $5.9 million annually, the Vegas Golden Knights needed to find away to get below the NHL’s $81.5 million salary cap. According to a report from The Athletic Wednesday evening, they made the first of what one could be a number of moves to fix their cap situation, sending Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for prospect Nicolas Roy and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2021.
Vegas receives the pick if Haula re-signs with Carolina next season or if the Hurricanes trade him during. There is no pick back to the Golden Knights if Haula leaves via free agency.
Haula had an excellent 2017-18 season with the Golden Knights, logging career highs in goals (29), assists (26) and points (55) and playing a huge role on special teams. After Haula’s big breakout campaign, many were hoping to see him keep up the momentum in 2018-19. Unfortunately, his season was cut short after he suffered a season-ending injury against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 6. We still don’t know the details of his injury. Do note, though, that Haula was not far away from making a return to action in the postseason.
“The hardest thing for a manager in our sport, or a manager in any sport, is trading a player that you really like personally. It’s a hard thing to go through,” said Golden Knights president of hockey operations George McPhee on Thursday. “Erik took it like a pro as we expected he would, but it was not easy for any of us. But it always comes back to what you think is best for the organization. While it helped us on the cap, we made a good hockey trade.”
The decision to move Haula isn’t all that surprising. After all, it wasn’t long ago that he was in a bit of a predicament regarding what position he’d play in 2018-19. Haula made it obvious last summer that he preferred playing the center position as opposed to wing. Unfortunately, Vegas currently has a logjam down the middle, and Haula apparently was the odd man out.
In return for Haula, the Knights are getting 22-year-old forward Nicolas Roy, who tallied 36 points in 69 very nice games for the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers last season. He also scored six goals and 15 points for the Checkers in the playoffs. Back in 2016-17, Roy served as captain of the QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens, scoring 36 goals and 80 points in just 53 games.
Roy is a bigger forward, standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing 207 pounds. He has yet to find his footing in the NHL, but perhaps a change of scenery could be enough to kickstart his career.
“At training camp, we’ll decide if he’s ready to play here, and if so where,” McPhee said. “There will be lots of competition, which is what you want, but we just thought to get a 22-year-old player with this kind of upside that sort of rounds out our center ice.”
Roy was a dominant force in the Calder Cup Final, which was ironically against Vegas’ AHL squad, the Chicago Wolves. Charlotte won the series in five games, and Roy had four points (three goals, one assist) in that stretch.
“He stood out. We really didn’t have an answer for him,” McPhee said. “He’s a big man. I talked to some of our players that were in that series about him, and it seemed like every time they dropped the puck, he won the faceoff and we were chasing him. He was a big man that went hard to the net. He just stood out to us.”
By moving Haula, the Golden Knights clear up $2.75 million in cap space, which, according to CapFriendly, puts Vegas at a $86,274,999 cap hit. This means they are still still $4,774,999 over the cap ceiling.
More moves are coming. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
KOI manager Danny Webster contributed to this report.