All poker references aside, the Vegas Golden Knights have gotten themselves off to a stellar 16-4-1 start to the season. Even more impressive than having the best record in the Honda West Division is the fact that they sit atop the divisional standings while missing games due to a COVID outbreak within the team. Saint Louis trails them by two points; however, they have also played 25 games, while the Golden Knights have only played 21. This is a team that is poised to make a deep run in the playoffs.
The Prospect Pool Is Deep
While the team is already likely to be a Stanley Cup contender, should the Golden Knights explore making some trades to deepen their already extremely deep roster? They should be very careful making trades, as they have a very solid prospect pool soon to be ready to step into the big leagues. Peyton Krebs, Pavel Dorofeyev, and even young players taking on NHL roles already, such as Cody Glass, are players that any team in the league would love to have, so they must consider the risk involved in a trade.
However, trading away anyone from the prospect pool is a huge gamble. The Golden Knights will probably make the playoffs this season, but will trading away a Jack Dugan or a Lucas Elvenes sting in the future if/when they develop into future NHL players? The Golden Knights definitely need to do some strong analysis and scouting of the prospect pool before making any trades. Otherwise, they might trade away another Nick Suzuki.
With all this depth, though, the team can afford to take a few gambles. Krebs is definitely untouchable, but some other prospects could be in play, perhaps with a contract such as Ryan Reaves in order to make a package for some additional depth. The team’s rookies and prospects have consistently performed well at the NHL level, and to trade one might mean having to deal a productive NHL player in the future. But if it leads to a Stanley Cup, then it might just be worth it to win now.
What Do the Golden Knights Need?
The Golden Knights need more scoring from their depth lines. As of right now, the fourth line of William Carrier, Reaves, and Tomas Nosek have combined for only one goal and four assists this season. While fourth-line players usually contribute in other ways besides scoring, the league is shifting towards less physicality and more scoring punch on fourth lines. In contrast, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who currently boast the best record in the league, have been able to generate offense from all of their lines by using their depth to their advantage.
In order to emulate what a team such as the Maple Leafs have done, one might need to look at a selling team like the Nashville Predators. When Robin Lehner gets activated off of long-term injured reserve, the team will be up against the salary cap ceiling. Therefore, they’ll only be able to acquire and trade depth assets unless a team is willing to match contracts. Someone like Reaves, who brings an important level of grit and leadership to the team, may need to be traded away in order to try and get a fourth-line scorer to keep up with the offensive powerhouses in the lead in the other divisions.
Another player who could get moved to fix the scoring depth at forward could be Nick Holden. In his case, a trade probably would not need to involve a prospect if the team is getting someone of around equal value but at the forward position. Holden has one year remaining on his $1.75 million deal and might be a valuable trade piece for a team with extra forwards who need a solid depth defenseman. The beauty of trading Holden is it would open up a roster spot for the team to perhaps call up someone like Ryan Murphy, who has had a solid start to the season for the Henderson Silver Knights.
Is This Version of the Golden Knights Good Enough to Win a Stanley Cup?
While the team boasts the best record in the NHL’s Honda West Division, some would argue that this division is the weakest division. The main criticism so far has been that there are some excellent teams in the division, and the remaining teams are considered to be weaker than average. Anyone who says this can easily have it be used against them because the Golden Knights have consistently been beating those other contenders in their division.
This season, the Golden Knights have a 4-2-1 record against other teams in playoff positions (second, third, and fourth places) in the division, giving nine out of a possible 14 points that they could have obtained. This shows that they are not only getting easier wins against the lower ranked teams, but they are also producing a winning record against the strong teams as well. The Blues and the Colorado Avalanche are definitely not pushovers, either, as the Blues just won the Stanley Cup in 2019, and the Avalanche, led by Nathan Mackinnon, have consistently been one of the better teams in the league for the past few seasons.
The Golden Knights are in a prime position to compete right now. Not only do they have an excellent roster at the moment, and a deep prospect cupboard with players who are almost ready for the NHL, but they seem to be prepared for the next few years as well, with the core of the team (aside from Marc-Andre Fleury) being within their primes. While the team has time left on the clock to compete, they should consider trading assets now to ensure a Stanley Cup victory while Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, who was recently named the NHL’s First Star of the Week, and Alex Pietrangelo are still in their primes.
With the career year that Fleury is having, the team should try to capitalize on his Vezina Trophy-worthy play. The Golden Knights are definitely ready, and perhaps by only making minor tweaks to the roster or by trading away a prospect or two for immediate depth, they will be able to hoist the Stanley Cup over their heads this spring.