On Sunday, Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon got busy with a trio of contract extensions. He locked up defenseman Brayden McNabb for three more years and rewarded depth forward Michael Amadio and Henderson Silver Knights starting goaltender Logan Thompson with new contracts of their own for two and three years, respectively.
In doing so, McCrimmon continues a pattern of securing talent now and worrying about salary cap implications later. The club already has 21 contracts on the books for next season, offering plenty of stability and control but also assuring that belt-tightening decisions will be necessary for the short- and long-term.
We won’t know the full cost of these signings for some time in terms of how cap space will need to be created. So for now, we can look at these deals through a player-focused lens – what they mean for the Golden Knights’ lineup and for each signee moving forward.
Brayden McNabb – Three Years, $8.55 Million Total
One of just four expansion selections that remain in Vegas (William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and William Carrier are the others), McNabb ranks near the top of the league in blocked shots. That responsibility on the back end is a testament to his value as part of the Golden Knights’ top-four, complementing more offensive-minded teammates on the blue line, including usual partner Alex Pietrangelo.
At $2.85 million in each of the next three years, a slight increase from the $2.5 million he’s been earning, the 31-year-old can continue to focus on the defensive zone without a contract that pressures him to try and do more. Interestingly, it remains to be seen how the extension impacts Zach Whitecloud, a fellow right-side defenseman who appeared poised to replace the pending free agent in the top-four upon signing an extension of his own in October.
With McNabb under contract, the Vegas blue line looks remarkably stable. Even if you take away the entry-level deals for fringe roster candidates Kaedan Korczak and Layton Ahac, six of the team’s rearguards are under contract beyond this season (McNabb, Pietrangelo, Whitecloud, Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez and Dylan Coghlan), and four will remain signed through the whole duration of McNabb’s deal.
Michael Amadio – Two Years, $1.525 Million Total
On the surface, Amadio may seem to be more of the useful, albeit expendable, depth type that you can always find available in free agency or on the waiver wire. Still, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native’s first 25 games as a Golden Knight (four goals and three assists while averaging under 11 minutes of ice time), have clearly impressed the club enough to provide some financial security.
To be clear, though, Amadio now has a guaranteed contract for the next two years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the 25-year-old will be in the desert the whole time. The annual cap hit remains near the league minimum, rendering the contract easy to move if need be. All told, it’s a low-risk move for an organization that could reap the rewards if Amadio forces his way into a bigger role.
Logan Thompson – Three Years, $2.3 Million
We still don’t know if Thompson is an NHL-caliber goalie, but we’re going to learn a lot about the 24-year-old over the next three years.
At worst, Thompson is a pretty good AHL goalie. While his numbers this season with the Silver Knights (12-7-3, .927% save percentage, 2.63 goals-against average) aren’t quite as sparkling as they were a year ago (16-6-1, .943%, 1.96), the Calgary-born netminder still ranks among the league’s best and has Henderson in playoff position.
Less clear is Thompson’s viability in the NHL, seeing as how two career appearances and just one start don’t exactly make for a meaningful sample size. If he can develop into a trustworthy option between the pipes for Vegas, the benefits would be monumental. After all, he will earn less over the lifespan of the contract than current Golden Knights backup Laurent Brossoit makes this season ($2.325 million).
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Granted, there are bigger questions for McCrimmon that these signings don’t address, like what the future holds for pending UFAs Reilly Smith and Mattias Janmark, plus a handful of RFAs and, most pressing, how they can balance the cap sheet once Jack Eichel is ready. This, however, was a tidy bit of business for an organization that, through injuries, has learned the value of depth.
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.