KOI Mailbag: Next steps for the Golden Knights, free agency, draft, and more

We’ve got mail. Let’s answer some.

Welcome back to our mailbag, where you have some burning questions about the Golden Knights and we attempt to answer them politely and not as begrudgingly.

But seriously, thank you as always for your questions. We got some good ones off the heels of the NHL Draft. If you didn’t get a question in this time, make sure to get one in next time. We’ll announce the next one later.

Let’s get into it.

With the team over the cap, someone(s) has to go. Who’s it going to be? Speculate on a return. - @LedgerSko

Well, the answer now is Erik Haula after the Golden Knights traded the center to Carolina for a prospect (Nicolas Roy) and a 2021 fifth-round pick.

We should note these questions were asked well in advance, so we’ll base it as, “Who will the Golden Knights trade next?”

This is the $1 million question. With the Golden Knights signing WIlliam Karlsson to his eight-year deal, they’re hovering close to $87 million in salary after the Haula trade. They obviously have to move a couple of players to get under the cap by the time puck drops for the season opener Oct. 2, but the Golden Knights cleared the most important hurdle they’re going to face this offseason and that’s signing their Selke-caliber center to a contract that takes him to age 34.

No matter who you talk to, whether it be George McPhee or Kelly McCrimmon, the narrative is the same: the Golden Knights don’t appear to be in as much cap hell as one may think, and right now, that’s essentially true, but it comes with good and bad news. The good news is the Golden Knights don’t have to sweat over who to trade and when. The bad news is the Golden Knights aren’t going to get as great of a return as they would’ve gotten prior to, or during, the NHL Draft. Trading Colin Miller right now isn’t going to get you the value that might have come with Miller, the No. 17 pick and one of your other mid-round picks for a top-10 selection. The market is going to be relatively dry in the coming weeks for whichever players Vegas wants to ship off.

The top two players I still see being moved at some point are Miller and Cody Eakin. I’ve seen the rumors circulating about Max Pacioretty, but while $7 million is a lofty number for someone turning 31 next season, I can’t see them breaking up the Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone line. Eakin is in the final year of his contract at $3.875 million, but I think Vegas’ willingness to move him will be based on the view of Cody Glass this summer and if he makes the jump to the main roster. Eakin’s coming off a career-high 41 points last season, so the market for a veteran making that much and just now set his career-high is dry. Maybe a mid-round pick or two at best, much like Haula. But don’t be surprised if it’s just a salary dump like Haula.

Assuming we sign him (fingers crossed), what do you think Nikita Gusev’s contract will look like? - @lvzookeeper

I, too, am on the bandwagon that hopes Gusev is signed this summer and Vegas doesn’t use him as a bargaining chip or to get some good value in return. I think he’s that good and will make a major difference next season.

His contract value is hard to say because of multiple reasons: he’s an RFA, he hasn’t played a game in the NHL, but his tape shows he’s skilled as all hell and has an offensive game that can translate well to the NHL. But as is the talk with all player who come from the KHL, they have to adjust to the pace of the game and the size of the rink. How much do you value a player that hasn’t grabbed those traits yet?

Maybe we should ask the Golden Knights themselves. They signed Vadim Shipachyov to a two-year, $10 million contract before Vegas even played a single game. Of course, that was well before the Golden Knights were the NHL darlings of 2017-18, well before they even had a roster. But he was the top player from Russia available at the time but didn’t adjust well enough to make an opening day spot.

I see this going two ways:

The Golden Knights sign Gusev to a one-year, prove-it deal, much like they did with Karlsson last year. This one would be around $2 million. See what he can do on an NHL roster and evaluate him for a long-term deal next season. The problem is Gusev, who turns 27 in July, becomes an unrestricted free agent the following season. Vegas will be tight with the cap once again and may not be prepared to shell out a big-time offer if Gusev sets the world on fire.

Or, the Golden Knights play it safe and offer him a three-year deal worth $3.5 million or close to $4 million. The Golden Knights would like to avoid a William Nylander situation and drag something like this into December, but Vegas wouldn’t need to be in an immediate rush to get him signed. Once they clear enough cap hurdles, they’ll find a decent number to work with. I think that’s the starting point for either deal.

I will say this: The likelihood of a deal getting done for Gusev seems much more plausible now that Haula has been traded.

So I left to go to the bathroom right after my Avalanche picked right before the Golden Knights, and by the time I got to the stairs, the Golden Knights picked the guy that I had a loudly audible curse word response to (because it was a really good pick). How does that make you feel about Pavel Dorofeyev? I also loved Peyton Krebs. How excited were you to see him drop to Vegas? - @MacWinnon

Gotta love those timely bathroom breaks.

I love the Krebs pick. I think he has the potential to be another 200-foot star for the Golden Knights when healthy. The fact that he dropped so far did not prompt the Golden Knights into a panic-mode type of deal into the top 10, which is a huge win for them.

Dorofeyev is a wild card. He looks so sound offensively, and I’ve read some rankings that had him as high as 15-20. The fact that he dropped to the third round is a bit concerning. He plays a perimeter-heavy game, so you wonder if he’ll ever adjust to the point of being a more well-rounded offensive player, but there is talent to be had and Vegas could use some more shooters in the prospect pool.

VGK can sell out scrimmages in June. I’m convinced they could run an ECHL team in Orleans Arena without affecting attendance for the big boys.  Has Foley looked at bringing a minor team in house? - @NakedRegis

I would love to see the Wranglers come back in some capacity. If there was ever a time to capitalize on bringing the ECHL back to Las Vegas, now would be the time. Money would not be an issue to play there, instead of proposing the Wranglers to play on A DAMN ROOF, but I digress. If the Golden Knights play an Outdoor Series game, maybe they can play on the roof, I don’t know.

As for if owner Bill Foley has thought about that, I’m not entirely sure that’s on his bucket list at the moment. His main focus appears to be on trying to get a Stanley Cup and bringing a Major League Soccer franchise to the city. Knowing Foley, he’d love to have more hockey here. With the practice facility in Henderson coming, hockey is about to hit everywhere. If something comes of it, maybe years down the road.

Will Deryk Engelland play next season? - Tammy Hampton

Will he play? I think so. For the Golden Knights? That is still up in the air.

Maybe he can be the coach of his former team, the Wranglers, if Foley ever brings them back!