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From throw-in to mainstay, Nicolas Roy earns new contract with Golden Knights

Where could Nicolas Roy go with all those frequent flyer miles he accumulated?

Once this COVID-19 scare is over, Roy should get on a plane and go somewhere nice. Hawaii might be good, maybe even the Caribbean.

But wherever he goes, he’ll be able to do it for leisure, not business, because that won’t be a worry for him anymore after Roy signed a two-year extension (average annual value $750,000) with the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.

“When I was traded here my goal was to earn another contract.” Roy told the Golden Knights’ website Wednesday. “I want to try and help this team and I think I can. It’s a great organization and we have a lot of great players. This is a big day for me.”

To say Roy’s journey to get to this point was turbulent would be an understatement. The forward was involved in the Golden Knights’ transaction report a whopping 30 times until March 9. There are only so many times one can stare out a window on a flight to Rosemont, Illinois without wondering what is the purpose for the boomerang-type life of a fringe NHL player.

But talking to Roy, he’s someone who wouldn’t seem to mind making all those trips to Rosemont. When the Golden Knights traded Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes last summer, Vegas was more relieved to move on from cap space, let alone believe they were getting a valuable asset in return. If you believed the conditional fifth-round pick Vegas also received in the deal was considered more valuable than Roy, you wouldn’t have been laughed at at the time.

Sometimes, when talking about a player on the cusp of making a roster, it takes opportunity. From the moment Roy made his Golden Knights debut Oct. 27, each decision to send Roy to AHL Chicago was a headscratcher. Understanding the cap implications of the moves were one thing, but it became difficult to comprehend why he wasn’t a mainstay on the roster.

When your first NHL goal is this kind of stick work, the potential is staggering.

It’s not like this was expected every night from Roy, but there had to be some reason behind Vegas pressing for Carolina to include him in the trade for Haula. That belief was backed up even in AHL Chicago, when Roy scored 22 points in 27 games with the Wolves. No matter where he was, Roy produced.

It’s that kind of production that made him challenge Tomas Nosek for the fourth-line center spot back in training camp. It’s his high-IQ play that has made him interchangeable up and down the lineup while the Golden Knights were figuring out their myriad of injuries throughout the season.

A look at Nicolas Roy, the Golden Knights’ newest prospect

That’s why coach Peter DeBoer has put such trust in Roy to play on the top six. Roy filled in admirably in relief of Mark Stone before the league’s pause, playing second-line right wing with Max Pacioretty and William Karlsson. Playing with those two could make anyone look good. Roy’s ability to be a net-front presence while possessing soft hands in the offensive zone makes him a dynamic player.

To get him on an amazing contract, and it being a one-way deal, is a win for both sides. It’s also another restricted free agent the Golden Knights have taken cared of before free agency begins. Per CapFriendly, the Golden Knights have 16 contracts locked up for next year; Chandler Stephenson and Nick Cousins are the lone RFAs left for Vegas to wrap up, while Ryan Reaves and Nosek are in the UFA market on the forward side. Ken Boehlke of SinBin reported the Golden Knights and Reaves are closing in on a two-year deal that would take the fan favorite off the market.

Defensively, it’s almost a certain that Deryk Engelland and Jon Merrill are not brought back. And in goal, the panda in the room remains Robin Lehner and his impending UFA status.

But for Roy, this is a well-earned deal for him, and it gives the Golden Knights a player that can be used in any part of the lineup. It’s those kinds of players that have made the Golden Knights successful to this point.

Now he can put those frequent flyer miles to good use.