In what seems like it was decades ago when the Vegas Golden Knights cleared house to land Alex Pietrangelo in free agency, hockey season must be back because Vegas is going full-speed ahead on the trade market again, and it could be a doozy.
The Golden Knights have “doubled down” in their efforts to move leading goal scorer Max Pacioretty before the proposed Jan. 13 start date for the 2021 season, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported Tuesday.
Pacioretty, the former Montreal Canadiens captain acquired by Vegas in September 2018, has three years and $21 million total left on his four-year extension he signed with Vegas after being traded.
After battling injuries the past two seasons, Pacioretty was named an All-Star for the first time this past season and led the Golden Knights with 32 goals; his 66 points were one shy of a career-high.
But the fun doesn’t end at Pacioretty. The Golden Knights have looked at moving a number of names, according to multiple reports; starting with kicking the tires once again on moving goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and his $7 million cap hit. Defenseman Alec Martinez and his expiring $4 million cap hit has surfaced, as well, according to The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta.
Going back to return-to-play in the summer, two names came up often via sources to watch in trades: Paul Stastny and Jonathan Marchessault. The Golden Knights moved Stastny to Winnipeg at the start of free agency to clear cap space, but Vegas also moved on from defenseman Nate Schmidt — his $5.9 million cap hit, and a roster spot — to pry Pietrangelo away from the St. Louis Blues. Talks involving Marchessault simmered after the Golden Knights lured in their big fish, but with being slightly less than $1 million over the cap and the new season likely starting in a little more than a month, the talks again are gaining traction.
Marchessault, as has been noted by others since the Pacioretty news dropped, remains a trade chip the Golden Knights want to utilize and, from my understanding, would rather offload Marchessault than have to move on from Pacioretty, Fleury or Martinez.
After Vegas traded Schmidt, nothing should be a surprise at this point.
But with the Golden Knights trying to move one more big contract off the books, that surfaces the question of what do they plan to do with this newfound cap space? Seravalli noted if Vegas moves on from Pacioretty — which one would have to assume is a straight salary dump (much like Schmidt’s move to Vancouver) for a draft pick or two — that would clear money to sign one of the top free agents remaining on the market — 30-goal scorer Mike Hoffman, or a potential Vegas reunion with Erik Haula.
If this was a deal to just normally comply with getting under the cap, a minor move would make sense — Exhibit A, trading Haula and Colin Miller in 2019 to clear room for William Karlsson’s long-term deal. But with the Golden Knights going all-in for what seems like moving a key and vital piece to a roster that just played in the Western Conference Final last season, this is a dangerous place for Vegas with no winning scenario in sight.
Move on from Pacioretty, you lose a top goal scorer; move on from Fleury, you’re trusting Oscar Dansk to back up Robin Lehner; move on from Marchessault, can you still get Haula or Hoffman to be a key second-line contributor? And if you move on from Martinez, is Vegas ready for a full-on youth movement on defense next season?
There is an absurd amount of pressure for the Golden Knights to win, but right now, the name of the game looks like throwing things at the wall and hoping it sticks. And if the puck does indeed drop in 36 days, taking a big piece of the locker room away is one surefire way to spice things up.