Monday Morning Mailbag: Talking trade deadline and the importance of mental strength

Answering your questions on this fantastic Monday morning.

The Vegas Golden Knights finally ended their home losing streak Saturday night. The 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators, at least in my eyes, was one of the Knights’ more complete games of the season.

Of course, the Knights still have their fair share of issues that need to be addressed. And with the trade deadline quickly approaching, it’s fair to wonder if George McPhee has any big plans to get this team ready for another run.

The Monday Morning Mailbag has returned. And today, we focus primarily on would could unfold at the trade deadline.

The possibilities are endless. If George McPhee decides to get really spicy, perhaps Artemi Panarin could be an option. The 27-year-old is an elite point-per-game player and likely will not return to the Blue Jackets next season. If the Knights are confident he’d sign long-term, it would be unjust not to kick the tires.

However, a trade for Panarin doesn’t seem realistic. What is realistic, however, is a trade for a middle-six scoring winger — Wayne Simmonds seems to fit the bill. Simmonds, 30, is in the final year of a shockingly team-friendly contract and appears to be an ideal fit on a team like the Knights. Vegas’ power play has left much to be desired this season, and Simmonds is an elite producer on the man advantage. For the sixth straight season, Simmonds is on pace to hit the 20-goal mark. And for a team in need of depth scoring, it’s hard to find a better fit than the long-time Flyer.

If the Knights can’t land Simmonds, though, Mats Zuccarello may be another solid candidate. Like Simmonds, Zuccarello will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but his 35 points in 43 games speaks for itself. If the Knights can get confirmation that he’d remain in Vegas beyond just this season, he could be a fantastic addition.

After touching on who the Knights may be targeting, let’s review who Vegas definitely will not be pursuing.

It seems pretty fair to assume the Knights will have no part in the Sergei Bobrovsky sweepstakes. Though Bobrovsky is a two-time Vezina winner, the 30-year-old has seen much better days (2.88 GAA, .904 SV% this season). With Marc-Andre Fleury fully entrenched as the face of the franchise, bringing Bobrovsky in just wouldn’t make much sense. The Knights may need to add another goaltender over the summer, but certainly not now.

You may also want to cross Mark Stone off of your wishlist. The Golden Knights have reportedly expressed heavy interest in acquiring Stone, but it now appears that the Senators have shifted their focus to moving Matt Duchene and are working on a possible extension for Stone, per Elliotte Friedman. Perhaps Vegas will kick the tires on Duchene, who averages over a point per game this season.

People talk so much about hockey players’ physical traits, but the mental part of the game is just as important (if not even more important). For example, mental strength is essentially mandatory for NHL goalies. If they give up a goal, they need to be able to refocus quickly and get back into their zone. We’ve seen repeatedly what can happen if a goalie loses their confidence — just look at what’s happened to John Gibson this season (prior to getting injured).

Lack of confidence can have a major impact on all players, though. Especially goal-scorers. Several Knights players — Brandon Pirri, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault, to name a few — are known snipers. And when they’re not finding twine, that can have a negative effect on their entire game. Luckily, Pirri seems to be heating up again, but Marchessault, for example, hasn’t been quite as lucky. Just last night we saw a bizarre play from Marchessault where, instead of attempting a shot through Juuse Saros’ five-hole, he chose not to shoot at all, resulting in a lost scoring opportunity.

When Max Pacioretty was in the midst of a slump earlier in the season, I asked him what had to change in order to get his scoring touch back. But instead of changing his game, Pacioretty basically told me the best thing to do during a cold streak is to not change. Sometimes you just have to keep shooting, and eventually luck will be on your side again. “It really is that simple,” he said.

Hopefully the other Knights forwards follow suit.

Danny and I were joking the other night about what it would take to trade for Connor McDavid (never happening, obviously). Both of us agreed that if the Knights included a roster player in the deal, that player would be William Karlsson.

In reality, though, I don’t see a scenario where the Knights trade Karlsson (unless it’s for a franchise-changing player). Yes, Karlsson has had a hard time living up to expectations after scoring 43 goals last season, but who wouldn’t? Karlsson is still going to score over 20 goals, and his 200-foot game is not easy to replace. Karlsson isn’t going anywhere.