Even after acquiring the No. 2 pick of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft for the No. 6 pick, bringing back Alec Martinez on a three-year deal and parting ways with face of the franchise Marc-Andre Fleury, the Vegas Golden Knights weren’t prepared to miss out on the fun of the busy onset of free agency. With minimal cap space at his disposal, general manager (GM) Kelly McCrimmon still addressed the backup role behind firmly entrenched starting goalie Robin Lehner, solidified the bottom-six forward corps and parted ways with a long-time fan favorite.
Let’s break down some of the moves:
Laurent Brossoit – 2 Years, $4.6 Million
So, which Laurent Brossoit are the Golden Knights going to get? The one that held the fort behind Connor Hellebuyck in the Winnipeg Jets’ net last season with a .918 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.42 goals-against average (GAA)? Or the one that stumbled to a .895 SV% and 3.28 GAA one year prior?
In signing Brossoit to a two-year, $4.6 million contract, Vegas is obviously hoping for the former, but also banking on the help that the club’s elite blue line can provide the 28-year-old. Retaining Martinez means that an imposing unit that also features Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Zach Whitecloud and Nicolas Hague will return in 2021-22. It’s a clear improvement on the Jets’ back ends that he played behind in recent years.
Amidst a busy backup goalie market, Brossoit’s $2.325 million annual cap hit slots in right around the middle ground value-wise. It’s not the bargain that Antti Raanta (Carolina Hurricanes), Martin Jones (Philadelphia Flyers) and Braden Holtby (Dallas Stars) — all earning $2 million — could be if they play to potential, but it’s also not the same level of risk being assumed by the Toronto Maple Leafs (Petr Mrazek, $3.8 per year), Seattle Kraken (Chris Driedger, $3.5 million) and Vancouver Canucks (Jaroslav Halak, $3 million).
Acquire Evgenii Dadonov from Ottawa for Nick Holden, 2022 Third-Round Pick
The cost/benefit analysis on McCrimmon’s trade of Holden and a 2022 third-rounder for Ottawa Senators veteran forward Evgenii Dadonov is hard to argue against. In exchange for a depth defenseman who got into just 17 games with Vegas this season and a draft pick outside the top 64, the Golden Knights landed a forward who scored 81 goals between 2017 and 2020.
Given the minimal cost involved, it’s hard to foresee the club coming to regret this trade. However, that’s not to say there’s no risk involved. Dadonov will earn $5 million this season. While some of that cap hit was offset by moving out the $1.7 million owed to Holden, it’s not insignificant for a franchise expected to once again push the cap ceiling even without Fleury.
The concern for Dadonov is two-fold. For one thing, the 32-year-old is coming off a down year, scoring just 13 goals for the lowly Senators. The Russian’s disappointing year could be chalked up to playing for Ottawa, but it could just as easily represent a sign of age-related decline. Secondly, even if he can return to form, it’s fair to wonder whether allocating more cap to another scoring winger is the best use of resources for Vegas.
Mattias Janmark – 1 Year, $2 Million
The Golden Knights were clearly happy with the returns on their trade deadline pickup of Janmark, as they brought him back into the fold on a $2 million deal for the upcoming season. While the 28-year-old Swede scored just once in 15 regular-season games after coming over from Chicago, he contributed four goals and four assists in 16 playoff games.
During his brief time with the club last season, Janmark fit the Golden Knights’ culture as a responsible, tough-to-play-against two-way forward. While he’s likely slated for fourth-line duty initially, he has the versatility to move up and down the lineup.
Trade Ryan Reaves to Rangers for 2022 Third-Round Pick
McCrimmon recouped a third-rounder next year after shedding their own in the Dadonov trade, but that’s clearly secondary to parting ways with popular tough guy Ryan Reaves. While some fans will be sad to see him go, the organization couldn’t justify a $1.75 million cap hit for a 34-year-old who averaged less than 10 minutes of ice time last season.
Yet again, McCrimmon was able to remove sentimentality from sensible business decisions. Not only does Reaves’ departure help ease the cap situation, but it also partially lessens the logjam created within the club’s forward corps. Now, Keegan Kolesar — a younger and arguably better gritty forward who assumes less than half of Reaves’ cap hit — has the chance to build on a solid rookie campaign with an increase in minutes.
Vegas may still not be quite done yet, with more forwards than they need and a new contract owed to newcomer Nolan Patrick. But with one big move (Fleury) and a series of more minor, logical transactions in recent days, their front office has cleaned things up and maintained a competitive roster while craftily evading (for now) further cap headaches.
I may be a Leafs fan at heart (I’ve witnessed their highs and lows first-hand as a Scotiabank Arena employee), but I’m also a veteran freelance sportswriter who loves a good story. And there’s been no better story in hockey over the past few years than the Vegas Golden Knights. I’m excited to be covering the NHL again on the Golden Knights’ beat.