The Vegas Golden Knights have been active this off-season. They have created cap space by trading away Vezina Trophy winner, Marc-Andre Fleury, to re-sign players like Mattias Janmark and Alec Martinez. However, the trade that might have the biggest effect on the Golden Knights revolves around Ryan Reaves. The fourth liner and fan favorite was traded to the New York Rangers for a 2022 third-round draft pick. This trade removes the most physical player on the Vegas roster and leaves a big void in their lineup and community.
What Reaves Brought to Vegas
Despite being a bottom-six player in the Golden Knights lineup, Reaves was an important player. He made an impact in every game with his physical presence and toughness. This style of play greatly benefited Vegas as he was a solid enough player in each zone and he was able to protect his teammates if need be. He, along with the fourth line, was also used in key situations by the coaching staff. There were multiple instances where the fourth line was seen on the ice in the last minute of close games.
Reaves had the ability to set the tone early in games. This is why head coach Peter DeBoer would actively use the fourth line to start games. By doing this, Vegas would start each game by beating down the opposition’s defense, thus creating more scoring chances for the skilled players. Although this strategy was implemented throughout the season, it was highlighted in the playoffs when games became faster and more physical.
The Void Being Left Behind
By trading Reaves, the Golden Knights have left a massive void in their lineup. “The Meat Grinders” line is now no more as William Carrier is the only member of it still in Vegas. This trio was one of the most reliable fourth lines in the league. This is due to their consistent play, point production, and physical presence. Most of this was lead by Reaves. In his time with the Golden Knights, he has played 209 games, produced 42 points, and had 158 penalty minutes. However, the most important stat revolves around hits.
Over the last four seasons, Reaves has been responsible for 998 hits. He also led the league in this category twice amongst forwards during his tenure with Vegas. When looking at this stat, it is quite clear that he was the most physical player on the ice. This physical presence is going to be hard for the Golden Knights to replace him. During the 2020-21 season, Reaves was responsible for the most hits on the team despite only playing 37 games with 141. The next two closest forwards in hit totals for Vegas were William Carrier (131 in 55GP) and Keegan Kolesar (107 hits in 44 GP).
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His move to the Rangers will not just affect the team but the community. Since becoming a Golden Knight, Reaves has made a serious impact on the community. He has been an advocate for youth hockey and bringing more diversity to the sport. During the 2020-21 season, he led an initiative to build a ball hockey arena for the James Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada. His work on this lead Bridgestone to donate $200,000 to help fund the completion of the project. He has also hosted different hockey camps around the state to help grow the game of hockey in Nevada.
Reaves was a valuable piece of the Golden Knights roster. On the ice, he was a physical player who was not afraid to get his hands dirty to help contribute to the team’s success. While off the ice, he was actively promoting the game of hockey and becoming a role model for the youth of Las Vegas. His presence will be missed in the Vegas lineup as they do not have any players that possess the same skill set as number 75.