As a hockey writer in the middle of the off-season, I have to think deeply about what my next article’s topic will be. In the last week, I’ve been feeling like a mystic of sorts because I keep making predictions about the Golden Knights next season. Today, we are going to be projecting the three best, as well as the three worst, value contracts on this team for next season.
The Golden Knights are pretty much icing the same lineup as last season, so most of the contracts are pretty familiar to the fans (except, of course, the Evgenii Dadonov contract). With that in mind, let’s waste no time and check out who will have the best and worst contract value this upcoming Golden Knights season.
Best – Chandler Stephenson
This contract has to be the best contract in all of the league, let alone on the Golden Knights team. Stephenson has come into his own ever since being acquired from the Washington Capitals in 2019 and has grown into the first-line center of this Vegas team. His play relies on his lethal speed to the outside, as well as his ability to set up his linemates. He’s also no slouch when it comes to getting on the scoresheet.
In a combined 92 games over his first two seasons in a Vegas uniform, Stephenson has contributed 57 points, as well as a +41 plus/minus rating. Stephenson accomplished all this while locked up to a $2.75 million average annual value contract through the 2023-24 season. For a player logging first-line minutes and producing points, this contract is absolute larceny.
As long as Stephenson is producing, this will always be the best contract on the team. That is just a fact. The majority of first-line players in the NHL are making upwards of $6 million, so for him to come in at just under $3 million will forever be the biggest steal of the 2020s in my eyes.
Worst – Evgenii Dadonov
I completely understand the thought process behind wanting to bring in Dadonov, as he is being looked at to help out on the struggling power play, but at $5 million a year, I just don’t see it. Dadonov enjoyed fruitful campaigns with the Florida Panthers, where he posted seasons with point totals of 65 and 70. Last season, however, the Russian goal-scorer managed to only tally home 13 goals and seven assists for the Ottawa Senators.
I really do hope that he can be a catalyst in helping sort out our power play, and I really do believe he has the skill and talent to pot some goals home. In saying that, I also need to look at the facts. Dadonov is not that fast of a skater, as he mostly plays east-west, compared to the north-south game so prevalent in today’s NHL. The Golden Knights are perhaps the fastest team in the NHL, so I’m not really sure where he would fit in.
Also, the numbers don’t really lie, as his production has fallen off significantly over the past two years. At an even $5 million a year, I just don’t see this working out for the Golden Knights.
Best – Shea Theodore
Mark my words: this is the season Shea Theodore enters the Norris Trophy conversation. Over the past two seasons, his points per game, as well as his plus/minus, have only been getting better. Last season, Theodore finished with 42 points in 53 games, as well as a +28 plus/minus rating. For someone whose cap hit is just under $5.5 million dollars, these are insane production metrics.
In my opinion, Theodore is the most valuable Golden Knights defenseman, and this season, he will prove that once again. He was largely the best player on the ice last regular season for Vegas, as his blend of offensive prowess and defensive awareness provided a solid back end for the Golden Knights. With a cap hit of $5.2 million until the 2024-25 season, this contract is perhaps the second biggest steal on this Golden Knights team.
Worst – Reilly Smith
It’s no secret that the talented and versatile Smith struggled heavily last season. After having a solid 2019-20 campaign, in which he posted 54 points, his numbers fell significantly the next season, as he was only able to tally 25 points during the 2020-21 shortened season.
I know it may have been a one-off due to there being no fans in the building throughout the majority of the season, but these falling numbers are still troubling, and at $5 million a season, 25 points just doesn’t cut it. This season, with the emergence of some other star players, I think Smith loses his way in the lineup and ends up getting dealt at the trade deadline for some playoff depth. Although I don’t wish it on the man, as I am a fan of his playing style, his contract is not the most flattering one on the team.
Best – Nicolas Hague
Ever since emerging as the Golden Knights’ bottom-pairing defenseman this season, Hague has been one of my favorites to watch. From his large 6-foot-6 frame to his effortless skating and absolute bomb of a slapshot, he’s one of the most exciting Golden Knights players.
It also doesn’t hurt that he is still currently playing on an entry-level contract. Last season, Hague registered 17 points as a rookie, which isn’t too bad considering how much depth the Golden Knights had. If the young Kitchener, Ontario native, keeps this growth up, then this season, his contract will give the Golden Knights the most bang for their buck.
Worst – Take Your Pick
This team doesn’t really have any “bad” contracts. In terms of which ones will fare poorly next season, I don’t really think any will be absolutely horrible in terms of value except for Dadonov’s. Even writing about how Reilly Smith’s contract will be a “bad” one next season was kind of a stretch. To be honest, I don’t think anyone’s contract will be that bad next season, so that is why I leave it into your hands – the fans.
Who do you think will have a “bad” contract year next season? Do you think it’s William Karlsson, Alex Pietrangelo, or even Robin Lehner? Let your voice be heard, and let me know in the comments below!
Michael Vidakis is a Montreal native who writes for the Vegas Golden Knights team here at The Hockey Writers. In his spare time, he enjoys the finer things in life such as Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, staring aimlessly outside windows and tangerines.