Banged up for most of the year and with a postseason spot far from a guarantee, the Golden Knights are going to have some pretty big decisions to make.
Are they going to be buyers? Will they make a big trade? Will they decide to stand pat and hope everyone comes back healthy down the stretch? Or, will they opt to shock the hockey world by becoming sellers?
The latter seems very unlikely given how committed ownership and the front office is to winning and bringing a championship to Vegas, but standing pat could be the logical choice given that the Golden Knights will be more than $10 million over the cap once everyone comes back healthy.
However, it would be no fun to abandon the speculation that makes the Trade Deadline what it is. So, on that note, let’s dive into some potential options for Vegas today under the presumption that they will be buyers.
If the Golden Knights are active today, then adding between the pipes seems to be the most likely direction they will head in.
After all, Robin Lehner is on injured reserve with a knee injury and his status remains unknown, so there is a real need in the goaltending department.
They won’t be going after Marc-Andre Fleury, who was traded to the Minnesota Wild Monday morning.
Of course, Logan Thompson’s recent play may convince general manager Kelly McCrimmon to keep things as they are and hope Lehner is back in time for the playoffs, with Thompson making a combined 71 saves in the Golden Knights’ two big wins over the Florida Panthers and the Los Angeles Kings.
However, there are some intriguing options out there if Vegas does decide to make a trade.
For instance, New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev has been linked with the Golden Knights before, and he’s currently in the shadow of Igor Shesterkin, who is putting together a Vezina Trophy-caliber season at Madison Square Garden.
As such, Georgiev could be expendable and could give Vegas a more legit tandem in the short-term as well as provide good competition as part of a tandem with Lehner moving forward.
With a cap hit of $2.425 million this season, the Golden Knights could make a deal work with the Rangers, and Georgiev has the ability to provide more stable goaltending down the stretch while Lehner remains out.
Other potential options in play include Semyon Varlamov (New York Islanders), James Reimer (San Jose), Jaroslav Halak (Vancouver) and Joonas Korpisalo (Columbus).
With Alec Martinez on long-term injured reserve and Brayden McNabb also on the shelf, could the Golden Knights look to add an insurance policy on the back end?
If they do, then maybe a veteran in the form of Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Justin Braun could be a good fit. The Flyers are very much sellers at the deadline, and Braun is being shopped.
Pending the official trade call, but Rangers get Justin Braun from the Flyers in exchange for a 3rd RD pick in '23.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 21, 2022
No salary retention.
A right-shot defenseman with a wealth of experience in the NHL and a superior knowledge of the Pacific Division going back to his days with the San Jose Sharks, Braun would bring a solid presence to the back end. He can still be depended on to log big minutes and can play in all situations too.
With a $1.8 million cap hit on an expiring contract, the 35-year-old could be a nice piece down the stretch and would also provide invaluable depth in the postseason because, let’s face it, defense wins championships after all.
Another name to watch is Carson Soucy, as the Seattle Kraken continue to sell off pieces at a crazy pace. Seattle traded defensemen Jeremy Lauzon and Mark Giordano on Sunday. Seattle general manager Ron Francis is clearly trying to stockpile as much draft capital as he can, and Soucy is a nice piece for a contender that needs depth on the blue line.
A big-bodied defenseman, Soucy has 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists) in 45 games with Seattle this season with a plus-nine rating, and he’s similar to Braun in that he can play in all situations, eat big minutes and provide a solid and physical presence on the back end.
This is an interesting one. It goes without saying that, when healthy, the Golden Knights boast one of the most talented and deepest forward departments in the NHL.
However, they’ve been unable to stay healthy this year and with Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and Reilly Smith all on the shelf, Vegas could be tempted to add some forward depth to ensure they do secure a playoff spot.
Evgenii Dadonov has scored five goals in seven games in the build-up to the deadline, so it’s possible the front office feels Vegas has enough firepower until the big guns return.
If, however, the Golden Knights decide that they do need another weapon in order to load up for the postseason, then there are plenty of cost-effective options out there that could be a fit for Vegas.
One such player is Artturi Lehkonen, who scored the series-clinching goal against Vegas that sent Montreal to the Stanley Cup Final last year. However, he could provide middle-six scoring and can play up and down the lineup.
Other players believed to be available include Andrew Copp (Winnipeg), Max Domi (Columbus), Phil Kessel (Arizona), Pavel Zacha (New Jersey), Jack Roslovic (Columbus), Zach Sanford (Ottawa) and Tyler Motte (Vancouver).
The wildcard option
If there’s one thing the Golden Knights have proven since entering the NHL in 2017, it is that they aren’t afraid to make the big move. Just look at the roster right now: Stone, Pacioretty, Jack Eichel, Alex Pietrangelo and Lehner are all players that Vegas went after hard in order to win now, no matter the cost to the future.
The Knights have consistently been aggressive via the trade market in order to keep their window to win wide open, and it would not be a surprise if they swung for the fences today.
Is a blockbuster move likely? No, because the front office got their big fish when they traded for Eichel earlier in the season. But, again, you can’t rule anything out with this franchise.
While several big moves have already taken place, there are some notable names still out there, including the likes of Anaheim Ducks forward Rickard Rakell, Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun, Boston Bruins wing Jake DeBrusk (who signed a two-year, $4 million extension with Boston on Monday but could still be moved) and Dallas Stars blueliner John Klingberg.
Nothing can be ruled out when it comes to the Golden Knights because of their commitment to winning, though top players like J.T. Miller, Filip Forsberg and Brock Boeser seem unlikely, even if the Golden Knights have shown time and time again that they are willing to do whatever it takes to win the Stanley Cup (even if that upsets the fanbase or those in the locker room).
With just three hours until the deadline, the shape of the current roster could change. It may not, but don’t be surprised if the Golden Knights end up being active today, even if trade calls don’t come through until after the deadline has passed.