On paper, the heart of the Golden Knights is sealed with Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore under contract. But a team with a competing writer in the Stanley Cup failed to make the playoffs as a whole. VGK has a lot of questions to address in the off-season.
This will be the first in a two-part series. Because there is a lot this team needs to deal with this summer.
1- What is Peter Debor’s future?
Let’s start with which I think the Golden Knights have the most discussion right now. During the cleanup day, Technical Director Peter DeBoyer addressed the media about his future with the organization.
He stated that he will meet with General Manager Kelly McCremon and senior management within a week to review what his future looks like with the team. No updates have been provided since then.
“I want to come back. I want to coach this team again. We’ve never had a chance to do what we can do. We are excited about this group. This type of season should give you energy for next year,” Debor said.
DeBoer has one year left on his contract with the Golden Knights. He’s had a tough season for the coach considering the challenges he’s faced with over 500 men’s games he’s lost through injury. It is 160-98-50 in Vegas.
The training circuit has already been run on this off-season as Barry Trotz has been shockingly fired by the New Yorkers. Likewise, the islanders had a disappointing season having reached the conference finals in back-to-back seasons, but failed to make the playoffs in 2022.
With this in mind, DeBoer could be next on the chopping block, just to give the Golden Knights a new voice in the locker room.
2- Who are the stars for this team?
To say Robin Lehner struggled in his first season as the real start of the Vegas Golden Knights would be an understatement. It seems that Lehner throughout the season has struggled with two main things 1) staying healthy and 2) staying consistent.
He wasn’t able to give the Golden Knights the goalkeeping performance that good teams need to make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup.
Laurent Prosuite was not the best reserve player either because he also struggled with stability and injuries. Both Lehner and Brossoit will undergo off-season surgeries and could recover again in 2022-23. But one of them, if not both, may have been stolen by the third goalkeeper of VGK.
Late in the season, Henderson Silver Knights call-up Logan Thompson grabbed heads in 19 games with VGK. He was calm and had 10 wins, 0.914 sv% and 2.68 GAA. “Is it okay.”
With yet another controversy surrounding Las Vegas goalkeepers, who will be the tandem of the Golden Knights in 2022-23? Lehner and Thompson? Thompson and Proswett? Lenner and Prosuite? Thompson as a free agent?
I heard there is a very good goalkeeper available at free agency.
3- How will Kelly McCremon free up cover space?
Offseason is just getting started, but the Vegas Golden Knights are already facing a salary cap, despite having several players off the books due to the free agency. The Jack Eichel acquisition puts GM McCrimmon in check when it comes to maneuvering around the salary cap.
On the 2022 NHL trade deadline, we all know what happened with Evgenii Dadonov’s canceled trade to Anaheim.
As it currently stands, the Golden Knights have just under $3 million in the max space for 16 player resignations (and that number remains with both Brossoit and Patrick on LTIR).
Reilly Smith, Mattias Janmark, Jake Bischoff, Sven Baertschi and Gage Quinney are the UFAs. Then Nicholas Roy, Keegan Colsar, Nicholas Haig, Brett Houdin, Jonas Rundberg, Jake Lischen, Ben Jones, Daniel Miromanoff, Brayden Patchal, Jack Duggan and Dylan Ferguson.
The cover space has to be found somewhere and it will be interesting to see what McCremon is forced to do. Is he trying to trade Dadonov again? Are you Martinez? Robin Lehner? William Carlson? How many players can this team sacrifice for max purposes before they lose their identity?
4- Has Riley Smith gone?
Perhaps the biggest name the Golden Knights are in danger of losing this season is Riley Smith. The original misfit is nearing the end of his $5 million five-year contract that he signed with the Florida Panthers. He had a strong season with 38 points in 56 games, but was suspended due to a knee injury in March.
If he wanted a raise, which he probably does, he wouldn’t get a big raise in Vegas. The only thing the Golden Knights strive for in terms of keeping Smith is player loyalty. Smith spent every season of the Golden Knight’s presence with VGK and formed the biggest streak in franchise history with the Misfit Line of Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault.
5- What can Jacques Eichel do in an entire season?
That question will not technically be answered in the off-season, but there is still plenty of riding on him next season in 2022-23. The Golden Knights not only paid a heavy price to get Jacques Eichel in early November with the players and their selection they gave up, they also made a huge commitment in terms of a team changeover.
The franchisor often doesn’t come into the trade and disrupts the team’s identity for better and for worse. We’ve already looked at how much Eichel’s chaos and his $10 million contract could have put the Golden Knight salary cap on.
But it could all be worth it if Eshel can emerge as the player we all know he could have seen in Buffalo. Eshel has been solid on his comeback from injury/first half season with the Golden Knights. He scored 25 points in 34 games but played through another injury, this time with his finger.
We still need to see what Eshel can do in an entire season with Mark Stone, Max Pasuritti and others playing second fiddle in front of him. Personally, I’m excited to see what Eichel and VGK can do after a longer than expected period of rest.
Stay tuned for the second part of this series on Sunday’s Golden Knight Quests.
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