Although the 2022-23 regular season is right around the corner, negotiations between Nicolas Hague and the Vegas Golden Knights have not resulted in a new contract. Vince Sapienza also reported that if a new contract is not finalized before training camp, he will not attend and instead train elsewhere.
Hague is in Vegas, ready for the start of training camp on Sep. 21st, but his camp is “getting concerned with the lack of communication.”— Vince Sapienza (@VinceSapienza) September 10, 2022
It’s my understanding if there is no deal reached by then, he will not report to VGK camp and train elsewhere#VegasBorn (2/2)@FOX5Vegas
When things like this are reported, it’s understandable to be concerned. Sapienza noting that there’s a “lack of communication” between the two parties only adds more fuel to the fire. Therefore, if things do not resolve themselves, it certainly doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that the Golden Knights could trade Hague. There reportedly was interest in the defenseman earlier this offseason, after all. Let’s look at three potential landing spots for the young defenseman if Vegas elects to go down this route.
The Winnipeg Jets are looking to get back into the playoffs in 2022-23. Yet, they have had an immensely quiet offseason when it comes to roster moves, as they have only added Sam Gagner, Kevin Stenlund, David Rittich, and Kyle Capobianco. Although it’s wise that general manager (GM) Kevin Cheveldayoff added to the team’s depth, they have yet to make a notable splash. Acquiring Hague before the start of the season could be a way to change that.
The Jets have received plenty of criticism for their defensive group over the years, but adding Hague to the mix could help remedy the situation. When looking at their current roster, he would be a solid fit on either the second or third-pairing due to his strong defensive game. He could work quite well paired with the offensively-minded Nate Schmidt, as it would allow the latter to take more risks offensively. With that, Hague would be a guarantee to play on their penalty kill as well.
The Jets have money to work with, so they wouldn’t have trouble signing Hague to his next contract. Yet, with the Golden Knights looking to win the Stanley Cup in 2022-23, it’s likely that they would want NHL-caliber talent back in a potential move. Maybe Logan Stanley could be a player worth sending the other way. With that, they would need to add a third-round pick at the very least.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders may have acquired Alexander Romanov from the Montreal Canadiens earlier this offseason, but the left side of their defense is still questionable. Heading into the season, they currently have Robin Salo and Sebastian Aho competing for a spot on the bottom pairing. If neither player appears to be ready for a full-time NHL role, they would be wise to go after a proven NHL-caliber defenseman like Hague.
Having a left side of Hague, Romanov, and Adam Pelech would be extremely strong for the Islanders and could be exactly what allows them to get back into the playoffs this season. The beauty of having such an impressive trio like that is that they each could fit virtually anywhere in the lineup. With that, Hague would provide them with more defensive reliability to go along with some added toughness. Overall, all of this makes him seem like an excellent fit for the Islanders.
In terms of a potential trade, I wonder if the Islanders could start this transaction by sending Aho the other way. The 26-year-old quietly had a decent 12-point season in 36 games with the NHL squad last season, so that could be enough for Vegas to be interested in him. Yet, the Islanders would also need to add at least a second-round pick for this move to have any chance of coming to fruition.
The Anaheim Ducks were surprisingly quite active this offseason, as they added players like John Klingberg, Ryan Strome, Frank Vatrano, and Dmitry Kulikov. Although it’s hard to argue that this will be enough for them to make the playoffs this year, it’s clear that GM Pat Verbeek is aiming for them to be more competitive. When noting that they still have over $16 million of cap space, they can make plenty more moves before the start of the season. Thus, why shouldn’t they call the Golden Knights about Hague?
The Ducks’ left side is not the strongest, so Hague could easily cement himself a spot on their second-pairing. Adding him would also allow Anaheim to place either Kulikov or Urho Vaakanainen on the bottom pairing, which is a more acceptable role for each player. He would also be a perfect partner for Jamie Drysdale to play with, as it would allow the 2020 first-round pick to take more chances offensively. With that, he would be the team’s top shutdown defenseman, so he of course would also play on their penalty kill.
The Ducks could potentially send a depth defenseman like Josh Mahura the other way to Vegas in this move. Yet, that would not be enough to finalize a trade. A second-round pick and mid-tier prospect would also need to be added to the trading package. Overall, this move is one that the Ducks would be very wise to make, as Hague would help solidify their defensive group.
Nevertheless, it will be intriguing to see if the Golden Knights end up trading Hague. Ideally, they would love to keep the 6-foot-6 defenseman around, but that certainly isn’t a guarantee with how poorly their negotiations are currently going. If he’s officially made available, these three teams would be perfect locations for him.