When Ryan Reaves was acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline in 2018, he brought to the new Vegas Golden Knights something they lacked at the time, toughness. Registering at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, the Winnipeg native is a wrecking ball on the ice, hitting anything that moves and sticking up for his teammates.
However, the NHL is seeing the game grow with faster, more skilled players as they wean off the physical, bruising side of the game. Players like Reaves are not being employed anymore, but he has adapted and pivoted his style of play. He set career highs in his first full season in Las Vegas and was on the same trajectory before the regular season came to a stop.
The 33-year-old was set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer but signed a two-year extension in June to keep him in the steel gray and gold. When he came over from the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was also set to become a free agent, but the Golden Knights experienced unprecedented success in their first season and he signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract right before hitting the open market.
The fan-favorite has made a special life for himself in Vegas, opening up his own brewery, 7Five Brewing, showing up on Jon Taffer’s Bar Rescue TV show, and participating in many community events. Reaves loves the city and given the fact that Nevada does not have an income tax, he was able to take a hometown discount to stay with the Golden Knights, giving management some wiggle room to re-sign other players.
Time In Vegas
When the Golden Knights acquired Reaves, he played an important role in their run to the Stanley Cup Final. The last two rounds are when his value skyrocketed. He skated in 10 games and only scored two goals, but they were big ones. His first one was the game-winning goal in Game 5 to clinch the series and win the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy to send them to the Final. The second tied Game 1 early in the third period in the only game Vegas would win in that series.
In his first full season with the Golden Knights, he set career highs in every offensive category with nine goals and 11 assists. He kept his pace up this season, posting another 15 points in the shortened campaign, his second-best statistical season.
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With the unfortunate events of COVID-19 and the state of the economy, the NHL has ruled that the salary cap will remain flat for the next two seasons, the duration of Reaves’ new contract. While the Golden Knights are pretty strapped for cap space already, his new $1.75 million AAV isn’t a burden.
With the NHL and NHLPA ratifying a new CBA agreement to return to play this summer and award a Stanley Cup, part of the extension includes the rise of minimum salaries over the next six years.
Reaves’ experience and physicality make him deserving of more than the league minimum. You know the type of game you will get from him when he steps on the ice; a winger with bite, who lives rent-free in his opponent’s head, and someone who will protect his teammates.
Value to the Kids
The Golden Knights had their first entry draft in the summer of 2017 and are finally starting to see some of their young talent make the jump to the pro game. Adding youth to the lineup will help management navigate through the flat cap as prospects like Lucas Elvenes and Jack Dugan come in on their entry-level contracts, providing talent at a cheap cost.
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Having a player like Reaves in the lineup will give the young players more freedom to develop and try new moves. Opponents know not to pick on the opposing team’s developing players while the “Muffin Man” is waiting to hop over the boards.
Whether he is sticking up for his teammates or scaring them, Reaves is a player you would much rather have on your team than have to play against. Having him signed for another two seasons is not only great for the team, but also for the fans. He has adapted to the new NHL style of play while still having a flare to his game and he’s always available for a good sound bite with the media. He will be worth every penny.