The Vegas Golden Knights season has come to an end at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. After reaching the Stanley Cup Semifinal, Vegas did not have enough left in the tank to finish the job. This, paired with the lack of offense, makes it seem like the Golden Knights will hit the ground running when free agency rolls around. However, this should not be the case.
Instead, the Golden Knights should focus on the great amount of youth talent they have. Focusing on who is already in the organization can help Vegas groom players into specific roles and help them save on an already tight salary cap window.
Filling in the Offense
As it stands, the Golden Knights have a balanced roster when it comes to speed, skill, and grit. However, the bottom six has been a jumbled mess over the last few years. It caused the team to look to trades to fill in the gap with no true line combinations or solutions. This led to the acquisition of Mattias Janmark to help produce offense on the power play and with Alex Tuch on the third line. However, this did not solve all the problems as Janmark could only produce one power-play point (including playoffs) in his time with the Golden Knights.
Similar to Janmark, Tomas Nosek is also going to be a free agent this summer. During the 2020-21 season, Nosek produced a career-high 18 points in just 38 games while serving as the primary fourth-line center. Despite this, the Golden Knights were able to find players to fill into his role with his time missed due to injury. Vegas has younger options that can slide into these roles if they were not re-signed by the organization.
Players such as Keegan Kolesar and Nicolas Roy have proved themselves during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In fact, these were two of the best players on the Golden Knights during the Semifinal series against the Canadiens. The two 24-year-old players were aggressive on the forecheck and were able to create offensive chances. If given a chance, these two can be everyday NHL players and impact the game no matter which line they play on.
This situation would also mean Cody Glass and Peyton Krebs would most likely be key pieces on the Vegas roster. Both of these young players have huge potential to impact the NHL. Glass has proven that he can score and play the game at the NHL level. He is a threat on the power play and can play both center and wing. This dual position ability can see him play on any line.
Krebs demonstrated he was ready for the NHL last season. Before getting called up to the Golden Knights, he led the Western Hockey League in points. Then, in his debut, he registered an assist against the Minnesota Wild. Although he only played four games with the Golden Knights, Krebs was noticeable when he had the puck and it was obvious that he was going to make his mark in the future.
Following this course of action, the Golden Knights’ bottom six would be much more menacing offensively. The third line would consist of Tuch and Krebs on the wings with Glass down the middle. Then the fourth line could see either Ryan Reaves or William Carrier paired with Kolesar and Roy at center. These combinations could produce more consistent scoring, especially on the third line. With the Golden Knights strategy of rotating all four lines, this new look third unit could provide a new challenge to opposing teams.
In addition to creating more scoring, inserting these players into the lineup will also help their development. Over the course of the season, these players will be able to get used to certain situations practice cannot teach. This, paired with the Golden Knights’ excellent player development track record, could see these players reach and exceed their expectations.
The Blue Line
Currently, the Golden Knights are pretty set on the defensive side of their roster. The only problem coming with Alec Martinez being a free agent and an important player to re-sign. With that being said, Vegas does not need to pursue any defenseman during Free Agency. Vegas has a strong, young defensive core with plenty of reserves. Players such as Nicolas Hague and Zach Whitecloud have been tremendous for Vegas in all situations.
In addition to these young defensemen, they also have Kaeden Korczak, their 2019 second-round draft pick (49th overall). He made his NHL debut for the Golden Knights during the 2020-21 season and was selected to be part of the Canadian World Junior team. He has the size and the physicality to be a good addition to the blue line if he were to be put in the seventh defenseman role.
Another player who made his mark on the Golden Knights during the 2020-21 season was Dylan Coghlan. The 23-year-old defenseman is also set to be a free agent this summer. Despite playing well for the Golden Knights, he mainly filled in for players when injuries occurred. However, he had the ability to adapt and help Vegas by filling in as a winger when the salary cap became a problem. He could be a safe option to re-sign as he is a quality young player who would not cause a dent in Vegas’ wallet.
All in all, the Golden Knights are still going to be one of the top teams in the league for the 2021-22 season. They have most of their core under contract for the foreseeable future. This offseason should be focused on prioritizing the development of the team’s future. Vegas has multiple high-valued prospects that can take the next step if they are given a chance. In addition to this, they also have quality younger players in their lineup already. Kolesar and Roy can easily take on any role and they have shown this during the playoffs.
Following this route would also considerably help them on the financial side. The front office of the Golden Knights has put together a powerhouse lineup in their short history as an organization. With more contracts scheduled to come off the books next season, having cap space now can make Vegas buyers when the time is right.
I am a former Jr. A hockey player that is currently attending school at San Diego State University. At SDSU, I study Journalism and Public Relations while also playing on the school’s rugby team. Hockey has been a big part of my life, as I have been playing since I was three years old. Other than hockey, I enjoy watching and playing all kinds of sports.