KOI Mailbag: Golden Knights’ interesting offseason, Robin Lehner, and Alex Pietrangelo

It’s been a while since we’ve checked the mail. Thanks for sending in your questions.

It’s been a minute since we’ve checked the mail. No better time than to make the trek to the mailbox than an offseason that’s going to be pretty interesting for the Golden Knights.

Thanks to those who sent your questions in via Twitter dot com. If you’d like to participate in next time’s mailbag, feel free to do so.

Let’s jump right into it.

@ryanrosensteel: What’s the top positional focus for the offseason? What specific players might be available via FA or trade at that position?

Any moves the Golden Knights make between now and when free agency opens Oct. 9 are going to be difficult based on the flat cap of $81.5 million. Per CapFriendly, the Golden Knights have about $4.9 million in space. Vegas would need to get creative and probably send some players off in the process.

There are two areas of need the Golden Knights need to address this offseason: someone who can score, and a net-front presence.

In free agency, two names fit the bill for the net-front presence. Carl Soderberg at 34 years old could be had on the cheap as a third-line center that can get in front of the net. The other is Wayne Simmonds, but to say Simmonds’ best days are behind him might be an understatement.

Goal scoring is also barren in free agency if the Golden Knights were hoping to be frugal there. Maybe there’s a flier for Evgeni Dadonov if the Florida Panthers don’t re-sign him, but not likely.

It might need to be the trade route Vegas goes. Teams are going to need to unload players in deals in order to re-sign guys to long-term deals, i.e. Robin Lehner.

This is primarily for those with restricted free agents that need new deals. The Columbus Blue Jackets, for example, have $7.025 million in cap space and need to pay Pierre-Luc Dubois to his first big contract, along with young defensemen Gabriel Carlsson and Vladislav Gavrikov. Veteran centerman Riley Nash could be had with an expiring $2.75 million cap hit. A pie-in-the-sky scenario might be Boone Jenner and the $3.75 million remaining on his deal.

The New York Islanders could be another team looking to deal as they need to clear space for new deals for Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock, but they don’t have players Vegas could take back without the Golden Knights sending back a player of their own, offsetting the whole idea.

In order for the Golden Knights to accomplish this, they’re going to need to unload some contracts themselves regardless.

@_lorenzo_vald: Do you think Robin Lehner stays?

I think we’ve come too far now to believe that Lehner will not sign a long-term deal with the Golden Knights on or before Oct. 9. If it doesn’t happen, then we’re in for a fun surprise.

The Golden Knights like to do things in one conglomerate when announcing transactions. If a deal for Lehner is coming, I’d expect the Golden Knights to announce whatever it is they’re doing with Marc-Andre Fleury; whether it be trading him or just buying out the remainder of his contract.

There’s still the chance, although minute as the days go by, that the Golden Knights find a way to find the space for both Lehner and Fleury on the roster next season, but it doesn’t seem likely. Pete DeBoer has made it clear that he wants to go with the goalie that gives him the best chance to win. For 16 out of 20 playoff games, DeBoer has made it clear that Lehner is the one that gives him the better chance to win, and I strongly suspect DeBoer to have a huge hand in how the Golden Knights operate this offseason.

@modernflooooooo: Odds we find a way to sign Pietrangelo and Lehner? Maybe trade Stastny/McNabb/Fleury for cap and general roster space?

It’s going to have to take some serious cap maneuvering for the Golden Knights to want their cake and eat it, too.

Part of me wants to be shocked that the St. Louis Blues have not come to an agreement with Alex Pietrangelo on a new deal. The other part of me isn’t because many teams will have to do some shuffling with this flat cap, the Golden Knights included.

The Blues are no exception with about $5.13 million in cap space and Pietrangelo expected to command north of $8 million per year. Reports suggest the Golden Knights are on Pietrangelo’s short list of destinations, and if that’s the case — with the Golden Knights understanding where there Cup window is at — they should absolutely throw their hat in the ring. If Vegas can clear the cap space, they’d be in good shape to make something happen. As for if they can get him and Lehner, that’s going to require a big move or two and I’m not sure the Knights have time for that.

As for who goes, that’s where it gets tricky. If Vegas can unload Fleury as a cap dump, that’s an ideal scenario, but there’s no way Fleury doesn’t go in a deal without the Golden Knights bringing back salary. The team I keep throwing around is Carolina; a deal involving Fleury and a late draft pick for one of James Reimer or Petr Mrazek would be the way I go.

Brayden McNabb did not do himself any favors with his performance this offseason, and it might entice the Golden Knights to go after a more well-rounded lockdown defenseman. I don’t know if Pietrangelo fills that mold by moving on from McNabb, but I think he’s a name that will be considered for a potential move.

Stastny is the wild card. Moving him comes down to whether the Golden Knights feel Cody Glass is progressing the right way. If the organization can fully believe with 100 percent certainty to be the case and if Glass is, in fact, progressing well, moving Stastny should be a top priority. It comes down to which team wants to take on a soon-to-be 35-year-old center on a $6.5 million cap hit, and there aren’t many teams in the position that could do that straight up.

@SierraM422: Predictions on who won’t be a Knight next season?

The safest bet would be Fleury but I’ll expand a bit.

As for current UFAs: Barring unforeseen circumstances, I don’t expect Tomas Nosek back. The center depth is too crowded and with the emergence of Nicolas Roy and likely re-signing of Chandler Stephenson — not to mention Glass — Nosek won’t be back unless he’s on a really small deal; less than $1 million he signed for last year. Said depth also doesn’t react kindly to the likes of Jon Merrill and Deryk Engelland on the blue line.

For those still under contract: I can’t help but think Jonathan Marchessault has played his way out of Vegas. The Golden Knights need goal scoring, and Marchessault didn’t help his case by going cold in the final two rounds. And as mentioned above, McNabb might be a name that gets moved to either clear room for Pietrangelo, or make room for a young guy — Nic Hauge, Dylan Coghlan, Jimmy Schuldt — to make a run at a third-pairing spot.

@NElefantis: Is there anything within the organization/front office that should change going into next season?

I doubt there will be any changes structurally as we know it. Kelly McCrimmon and George McPhee will remain intact while DeBoer remains coach.

That being said, the Golden Knights are entering Cup-or-bust territory after three playoff appearances and two conference final trips in three seasons. It’s time for the Golden Knights to win soon. It’s one thing to go many years without even sniffing the playoffs; it’s another to come close so often without getting any results.

McCrimmon and McPhee made the bold move to get DeBoer because he pushes the right buttons come playoff time. He’ll need to push the right ones next year.

@VegasNHLKnights: Will we be getting a 3rd Jersey next year and a captain as well?

There will be a captain next year, and all signs continue to it being Mark Stone.

As for the third jersey, it’s all but certain that there will be a new sweater next season and I continue to hear it’ll be primarily gold. Still have no idea how it’ll look aesthetically but I’m intrigued.