Vegas Golden Knights fans are waking up to the fact that the franchises most popular player has been dealt. The Vegas Golden Knights trade Marc Andre Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks for 23 year old Finnish center prospect Mikael Hakkerainen. What this move does is free up Fleury’s 7 million dollar cap hit and frankly the team didn’t have a choice.
Their window of contention is wide open at the moment. They will be back in the Pacific division, where they will be co-favorites along with the Connor McDavid led Edmonton Oilers to win the division. There is enough talent on the team to accomplish this but the ultimate goal is the Stanley Cup and in order to compete with the rest of the leagues contenders they have to add a top line centre, add a second centre for depth purposes, re-sign Alec Martinez or add another similar defenseman and find a suitable backup for starting goaltender Robin Lehner.
Trading Fleury will certainly upset the die hard fans who have followed the team since year 1 and appreciated both Fleury’s on ice performance and off ice community spirit. He cemented himself during his 4 years as the teams most popular player and having to watch him be moved out to serve the teams purposes on the business side is very disappointing. Unfortunately due to the leagues salary cap, projected to be flat for several seasons, this is a move that had to be made.
Vegas now has 13 million dollars available in cap space. My guess is that if they could move out another contract like they did Fleury (Reilly Smith?) they will. This money should be enough to go out and get what they need.
Free Agent Centres Available:
Boston veteran centre David Krejci is aging (35) but still has something left in the tank as his 44 points in 51 games and 9 points in 11 playoff games from last season attest to that fact. Krejci’s future in Boston is unclear. The Bruins admit losing him to free agency would leave a hole but they are more focused on retaining Taylor Hall at the moment. Could this provide Vegas with the opportunity to grab Krejci a decent short term deal?
Both Mikael Granlund (Nashville Predators) and Alex Wennberg (Florida Panthers) are also viable options. Both are in their late twenties and considered to be in the primes of their careers. Either would be capable of fitting in between captain Mark Stone and sniper Max Pacioretty and help form a potent number one line.
Another playoff tested and Stanley Cup winning experienced option is Blake Coleman. He is a smart two way player that could be a valuable option on a Cup contending team.
Reports indicate that defenceman Alex Martinez is close to inking a 3 year contract at around 5 million per season. That would keep a strong D core in tact going into next season.
If the Golden Knights go shopping then there are several options available to them. Veterans Ryan Suter, Keith Yandle, Alex Edler and Alex Goligoski may come on a 1 year deal and add a veteran presence. Offensive defenseman Tyson Barrie could come in and quarterback a power play that certainly let the team down in the Montreal series. David Savard, Ryan Murray and Brandon Montour would all be capable replacements if Martinez wasn’t re-signed. Surely the Golden Knights could find a suitable top 4 defenseman in that 5 million per year or less price range that the rumoured Martinez deal may be worth.
There are many experienced Unrestricted Free Agent goaltenders. All have starting experience and would form a strong tandem with starter Robin Lehner. Phillip Grubauer, Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta, James Reimer, Petr Mrazek, Jonathan Bernier, David Rittich and Linus Ulmark are all available on the open market. This many suitable options would mean that one should come in at a decent price point.
NHL free agency starts tomorrow. Let the Vegas management shopping spree begin…
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