After a blistering start to begin the season, things have drastically cooled off for the Vegas Golden Knights. Following Saturday night’s loss to the Edmonton Oilers, the team clings to the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
The team’s mediocre start, in a season with high expectations, leaves the franchise searching for more and begs the question: does the team need to make a move?
Vegas is well constructed, but if there is one position that the Golden Knights could use an upgrade at, it’s on defense. In fact, other teams have taken notice, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
“Does Vegas feel the need to add mobility on the blue line? Opponents do think it is one of their few weaknesses,” Friedman noted in his 31 Thoughts column on Nov. 5.
With that, here are three potential defensemen the Golden Knights could target in a trade.
Tyson Barrie, Toronto Maple Leafs
The 2019-20 season has not panned out the way Tyson Barrie envisioned when he was first acquired by the Maple Leafs during the offseason. Following back-to-back seasons of 57 and 59 points respectively with the Colorado Avalanche, it seemed as though breaking the 60-point barrier would be a mere formality on such a highly skilled Leafs squad.
However, 24 games into the season, Barrie only recently scored his first two goals as a Maple Leaf and has accumulated eight assists. The slow start has had teams reaching out to the Maple Leafs to inquire about whether Barrie might be available in a trade, Friedman reported on last Saturday’s Headlines segment.
Despite the slow season, there is still no denying Barrie’s skill. He has great speed, he sees the ice incredibly well, he makes a great first pass, and he can quarterback a power-play (if given the opportunity). Not to mention his deployment from newly-appointed head coach Sheldon Keefe has seen him post two goals and an assist in two games.
The Golden Knights have just $1.26 million in cap space. So, the fact the Avalanche are still paying half of Barrie’s $5.5-million contract, makes him a lot more desirable financially.
With Keefe now at the helm of the Maple Leafs, Barrie is likely to see more opportunities, which could reignite Barrie’s offensive game. This might halt any chance of the Maple Leafs dealing away the skilled defenseman, but if they are indeed considering it, Vegas would be crazy not to be chomping at the bit.
Alec Martinez, Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings are looking to tear things down and they haven’t exactly been quiet about doing so.
Two weeks ago Ilya Kovalchuk made news after it was reported that the team informed the veteran forward that he would no longer dress in games for the club. This was following the scratching of Tyler Toffoli, who is also believed to be on the trade block.
If the Golden Knights want to pick away at the carcass that is the Kings, they might want to consider defenseman Alec Martinez.
The 32-year-old brings experience, including winning two Stanley Cup rings – one of which was the result of his Game 5 winner in double-overtime.
Through 23 games, Martinez has five assists and is one of just two Kings defenders to post a plus-minus of even or better on the season. Martinez also logs the second-most ice time per game on the Kings behind Drew Doughty, his 53 blocks lead the team, and he ranks third on the team in shorthanded time on ice.
Martinez can bring some stability to the Golden Knights’ back end and with another year left on his contract at a manageable $4-million cap hit, he would be more than just a rental.
Colin Miller, Buffalo Sabres
Re-acquiring Colin Miller from the Buffalo Sabres might not seem incredibly realistic, especially given the fact that the Golden Knights traded him to the Sabres this past offseason. However, as we speak the Sabres have an abundance of NHL-calibre defensemen and limited spots for all of them.
As Friedman noted in his latest 31 Thoughts column, the Sabres have been scratching Miller and Marco Scandella and would ideally like to make a move to acquire a top-six forward.
Now the Sabres won’t be able to acquire a top-six forward for Miller in a trade, at least straight up, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be moved in a separate trade.
As for the Golden Knights, bringing back Miller might not be the worst decision. In his two seasons with Vegas Miller tallied a combined 70 points in 147 games, the most of any Golden Knights defenseman. It could be weird bringing him back so soon after trading him away, but on the bright side, he would likely be familiar with much of the team and systems, making the transition seamless.
Miller brings a heavy shot from the point, which Vegas fans are surely well aware of, which would be a welcomed addition to an already strong power play.
The Golden Knights are a team that has been plagued with issues with consistency through the first 25 games of the season. Perhaps bringing in a reliable defenseman to aid their defense corps could help steer them in the right direction.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.