After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2020-21 regular season, which is targeted to start Jan. 1. Today, the Vegas Golden Knights:
The Vegas Golden Knights continued their aggressive pursuit of the Stanley Cup this offseason, adding Alex Pietrangelo and re-signing Robin Lehner while parting with Nate Schmidt and Paul Stastny.
Pietrangelo was the biggest unrestricted free agent available. The defenseman signed a seven-year contract Oct. 12 after playing his first 12 NHL seasons for the St. Louis Blues and winning the Stanley Cup as their captain in 2019.
The Golden Knights have become known for big moves. They signed Lehner to a five-year contract Oct. 3, keeping the goalie from becoming an unrestricted free agent. He was traded to Vegas by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 24 (after Toronto acquired him from the Chicago Blackhawks earlier in the day). He replaced Marc-Andre Fleury as the No. 1 goalie in the postseason, with the Golden Knights advancing to the Western Conference Final before losing to the Dallas Stars.
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General manager Kelly McCrimmon said Oct. 12 that Lehner and Fleury would enter this season as Vegas’ goalies.
To clear room under the NHL salary cap for Pietrangelo, the Golden Knights traded Stastny, a center, to the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 9 and Schmidt, a defenseman, to the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 12.
“When we looked at free agency, when we looked at opportunities to improve our team, we had what we believed was an incredibly rare opportunity to add a defenseman, an elite player like Alex, to our team,” McCrimmon said. “At the end of that process, we asked ourselves, ‘Does this make us a better team? Does this improve our chances of winning?’ We believe quite strongly that it does.”
Here is what the Golden Knights look like today:
Alex Pietrangelo, D: The 30-year-old has never been a finalist for the Norris Trophy but finished fourth in voting by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association twice (2012, 2020) and fifth once (2014). His 16 goals and 0.74 points per game last season each set an NHL career high even though he played 70 games. … Carl Dahlstrom, D: Acquired from the Jets on Oct. 9. The 25-year-old had one assist in 15 games last season. He had nine assists in 49 games over two seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks from 2017-19.
Paul Stastny, C: Scored 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists) in 71 games last season. … Nate Schmidt, D: Ranked second to Shea Theodore among Vegas defensemen in goals (seven), assists (24), points (31) and average ice time (21:41) last season. … Jon Merrill, F: Agreed to a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 9 after scoring seven points (two goals, five assists) in 49 games last season. … Deryk Engelland, D: Remains an unrestricted free agent after scoring six points (one goal, five assists) in 49 games last season.
On the cusp
Cody Glass, C: The 21-year-old became the first amateur draft pick in Golden Knights history when the expansion team selected him No. 6 in the 2017 NHL Draft. After scoring 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 39 games for Vegas last season, he is positioned to play a larger role. … Nicolas Hague, D: The 21-year-old split last season between Vegas and Chicago of the American Hockey League, scoring 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 38 games for Vegas and 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 21 games for Chicago. … Peyton Krebs, C: The 19-year-old, the No. 17 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, scored 60 points (12 goals, 48 assists) in 38 games for Winnipeg of the Western Hockey League last season.
What they still need
Perhaps an upgrade at center. The hope is that Glass replaces Stastny in the middle six and develops into a star with his skill and hockey sense. It might be difficult to upgrade, especially under the salary cap, but Vegas has pulled off acquisition after acquisition via trade and free agency. Pietrangelo is the latest example.
Lehner and Fleury form the valuable fantasy stack at the position to target in fantasy drafts, especially after Vegas signed Pietrangelo in free agency, but drafting Lehner and then handcuffing Fleury would likely account for two of a team’s first six picks in a standard draft. With the fantasy insurance policy outweighing the risk of this strategy, Lehner is fourth and Fleury 11th in NHL.com’s fantasy goalie rankings. — Pete Jensen
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty — Cody Glass — Mark Stone
Nicolas Roy — Chandler Stephenson — Alex Tuch
William Carrier — Tomas Nosek — Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb — Alex Pietrangelo
Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore
Nick Holden — Zach Whitecloud