Golden Knights clear important offseason hurdle with signing William Karlsson

The fact Vegas got this done now makes every decision this summer a bit easier.

That gust of wind you felt Sunday morning was the city of Las Vegas breathing a collective sigh of relief. It probably didn’t help that a wind was blowing in 100-degree heat in late June, but alas, the Vegas Golden Knights have cleared the most important hurdle to a crucial offseason with center William Karlsson signing an eight-year deal with the club that plucked him from the expansion draft two years ago.

The Athletic was the first to report that Karlsson will sign the max deal worth an average annual value of $5.9 million. The Golden Knights made it official Monday.

Normally do you not find such deals that favor the player and club. For Karlsson, as I noted on Sunday soon after the news broke, he’s always wanted a long-term deal. Such desires were noted days after linemate Jonathan Marchessault signed a six-year, $30 million extension in January 2018. Couple that with fellow linemate Reilly Smith’s already-secured long-term deal from when he came from the Florida Panthers with Marchessault in the expansion draft, there was obvious frustration from Karlsson’s side in him wanting that security.

Those frustrations carried into last summer, when Karlsson and the Golden Knights were seemingly headed for arbitration. Karlsson was seeking a deal of $6.5 million, while Vegas countered with $3.5 million. The two ultimately settled on $5.25 million last August on a prove-it deal. Going from 43 goals to 24 may have warranted some concern, but Karlsson was still second on the team with 56 points (not counting Mark Stone’s total of 73) trailing Marchessault. His 200-foot game was, and has been, impeccable on the Golden Knights from day one.

So when the numbers were unveiled that Karlsson was going for less than $6 million AAV — less than respective deals Brock Nelson and Kevin Hayes signed in the past couple months — there had to have been jaws dropped somewhere. Not only does Karlsson get his long-term relief until age 34, but the Golden Knights somehow came away with relief in their pursuit of getting under the $81.5 million salary cap set for this season.

The number leading up to the NHL Draft for Karlsson was $6.5 million with the possibility of going up to as high as $7 million. Hypothetically, if Karlsson got his $7 million, that would have put the Golden Knights at over $90 million in salary. That would have put Vegas over the allotted 10 percent they’re allowed to go over during the offseason. That $1.1 million less Karlsson is getting puts the Golden Knights in a much more enviable spot to clear more cap space with the understanding that their star center, and fan favorite, is in for the long haul.

The Golden Knights were able to accomplish two things this weekend — get the commitment from Karlsson before he could even speak to other teams as a restricted free agent, and not make a panic move to trade in the first round and take a player they really wanted. Whether or not Peyton Krebs skates with a Golden Knights sweater at some point this offseason, Vegas felt comfortable standing pat at 17 to select him fresh off a partially torn Achilles. Instead, they will scour the market in the coming weeks to make separate deals that could benefit the future.

My understanding is that the Golden Knights were monitoring the early part of the first round with the hope of attaching Colin Miller in a deal to trade up to the top 10. But as names like Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte and, of course, Krebs, started to fall, the Golden Knights didn’t feel the need to move up with the possibility of having to give up more draft capital, along with a player, to clear room.

The top names remain Miller and Cody Eakin as the likely two to be dealt at some point this summer.

But for now, the Golden Knights have checked off the most important item on their summer laundry list. Not many teams can lay claim to two Selke candidates in their top six. The Golden Knights will have two with Karlsson and Stone for the next eight years. What was once shaping up to be an offseason full of dread is turning out to be a successful one for Vegas.