NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, three important questions facing the Vegas Golden Knights.
1. What’s the next move?
Vegas has made major additions via trade and free agency since joining the NHL in 2017-18: goalie Robin Lehner; defensemen Alec Martinez and Alex Pietrangelo; and forwards Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone.
But that means making major subtractions. Stastny and defenseman Nate Schmidt were the latest to go when Stastny was traded to the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 9 and Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks on Oct. 12.
The Golden Knights needed to make room for Pietrangelo, who signed a seven-year contract as a free agent Oct. 12, but still have work to do. Owner Bill Foley told KLAS-TV that, contrary to reports, they were not shopping Pacioretty but said, “We do have [NHL salary] cap issues, and so some of those things have to be resolved as we go forward and we start getting into the season.”
2. What will happen with the goalies?
General manager Kelly McCrimmon said the Golden Knights will enter the season with Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury as their goalies.
Coach Peter DeBoer has said he will start the goalie who gives them the best chance to win.
That should give Vegas a huge advantage, especially if there is a compressed schedule. On the other hand, having two No. 1 goalies takes up a lot of cap space and sometimes leads to controversy.
When Lehner took over the starting job during the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, tweeted an image of a sword stabbing Fleury in the back with the name of DeBoer on it. Fleury asked Walsh to take it down.
How does DeBoer handle playing time? Does Vegas make a trade?
3. How does DeBoer adjust offensively?
Vegas went 10-2-0 while scoring 45 goals in its first 12 postseason games last season, then 2-6 while scoring 12 goals in its last eight despite outshooting the opposition 293-172.
McCrimmon and DeBoer said they didn’t want to overreact. The Golden Knights ran into two hot goalies: Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks and Anton Khudobin of the Dallas Stars.
That said, they spent too much time on the outside, and they believe players already on the roster can make changes.
“You’re not just developing young players,” said DeBoer, who took over Jan. 15 and is putting his stamp on the team. “I believe you can develop veteran guys too to add layers to their game in order to win, and there’s guys there that I’m excited about conversations going forward on what they learned in getting as far as we did and losing and what they’re prepared to do to add layers to their game to get us over the hump.”