As the Vegas Golden Knights approach their second ever trade deadline, they find themselves in a similar position as they were in their first. Despite having a slow start to the season, the Golden Knights have fought their way back into a playoff spot, currently sitting third in the Pacific Division, close to 10 points clear of fourth place.
Given this buffer for a playoff position and their recent strong play, one can safely assume that Vegas will be buying at this season’s deadline. However, with the number of teams still in the playoff hunt, the pool of available talent at the deadline may not be as deep as most seasons. With this in mind, will Golden Knights general manager George McPhee approach this deadline purely as a buyer, or should he be looking at options to sell some assets while the market is high?
What Are the Golden Knights Buying?
With their forward corps largely composed of players who helped carry the team to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, the Golden Knights already have a solid core of talent that could compete on its own right in the 2019 Playoffs. While offseason additions Paul Statsny and Max Pacioretty haven’t paid dividends for the franchise as hoped, both players bring invaluable playoff experience that will further aid the team as the postseason approaches.
Due to this, it seems unlikely that McPhee will need to pay the big price it will cost to bring in a marque forward at the trade deadline. While an elite rental like Artemi Panarin or Mark Stone would immediately improve this roster, we still don’t know if either will be traded, meaning that Vegas might have to overpay to pry them away from their respective teams. So, while a smaller deal to bring in a little extra depth is never a bad idea, the Golden Knights should avoid making a big splash like they did last season.
Defensively, the Golden Knights are in a similar position as well. With a solid defensive corps and few names available at the deadline, there aren’t many trade options for McPhee to explore. The only name that really stands out is Ben Lovejoy from the New Jersey Devils, who is a proven veteran with playoff experience on an expiring contract. This would be a bit of a luxury addition, but having an extra veteran defenseman like Lovejoy is never a bad move, even if he is just a rental.
Goaltending, however, is a different story for Vegas. To make a long story short, Marc-Andre Fleury is an excellent starter, but he has been overworked this season, starting 48 of 56 games. With the inconsistent play of Malcolm Subban and Maxime Legace, the Golden Knights could use a veteran backup goaltender to help ease some of Fleury’s workload. Out of all the available goaltenders, Jimmy Howard from the Detroit Red Wings seems the best fit, as he is a playoff veteran who has managed surprisingly solid numbers this season while playing on a bad Red Wings team.
Even if Howard would be a good fit with Vegas, he will likely be an expensive add at the deadline. With multiple playoff contenders looking to shore up their goaltending, the Golden Knights could find themselves in a bidding war for the veteran goaltender. If this is the case, it would be best for McPhee to just walk away from the table instead of overpaying for his services.
Who Are the Golden Knights Selling?
Assuming that the Golden Knights do bring in a veteran backup goaltender, that would immediately make Subban available on the trade market. While his numbers haven’t been particularly impressive this season, he still is a young goaltender that could draw attention from a team needing to replace a traded starter or a franchise that is looking at all options in net this season. If they could find the right buyer, Vegas could get a decent return for a player who has struggled to find a role with the franchise this season.
Outside of Subban, there really isn’t a player that should be moved by the Golden Knights. While a big name 2019 restricted-free-agent like William Karlsson would draw a ton of attention from the league, there’s no reason for McPhee to consider trading him, even if he was unsure about signing Karlsson to a long-term contract in the offseason.
The rest of the Golden Knights’ 2019 free agents are role players who would likely garner little interest from the league. Besides, this is a roster that already has strong chemistry, so taking a chance by breaking it up for a minor upgrade or futures would be an unforced error that could derail a potential push back to the Stanley Cup Final.
Golden Knights Should Expect an Active Deadline
Even if they ultimately don’t end up making a big trade at the deadline, expect McPhee to be active on the market. He will be looking at all options to make the Golden Knights better ahead of the playoffs, which will involve a lot of scouting and rumors tying them to just about every major available player in the league.
This is par for the course for a team in the Stanley Cup hunt like Vegas. They are a talented squad as is, and they will have to soon decide if they will make the plunge and become big buyers at the deadline. There is one thing for certain, though. For the second straight season, the Golden Knights won’t be selling, which is a remarkable feat in its own right.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.