With the 2019 Trade Deadline mere days away, the Vegas Golden Knights find themselves in a precarious position. The good news is, they are safely in a playoff position, having largely locked down third place in the Pacific Division.
The bad news is, the playoff future does not look bright for Vegas. In a month when their division rivals have been dominating opponents, the Golden Knights have struggled to find success. Since the start of February, they have a 3-7-1 record, featuring long stretches where the team looks completely lost on offense. Most seasons, a month this poor would have backed them out of the playoffs, but in a weak Western Conference, they are still primed for the postseason.
Due to this, the Golden Knights are in desperate need of a deadline spark to help push them back to the forefront of Stanley Cup contention. So, despite having a poor experience in their first trade deadline, Vegas can’t be shy in making a move this season. With a number of high-skill forwards potentially on the market, they should look to bring in a rental to see if they can fix their anemic offense.
With this in mind, who are the top three trade targets for the Golden Knights as the trade deadline approaches?
Of all the players potentially available to the Golden Knights, none would be a better fit for the franchise than Mark Stone. He is the sort of offensively-gifted yet defensively-responsible player they need to right the ship and get back on track before the playoffs.
With 27 goals and 59 points, Stone would be the top scorer on the Golden Knights and would inject an immediate scoring touch to the top line.
The problem with acquiring Stone, though, is his price tag. Not only will the Senators expect a king’s ransom for their top player, but he is also going to be a highly sought after free agent in the summer. In order for Vegas to justify spending the futures necessary to pry him away from Ottawa, they would likely need to know that an extension can be reached with the 26-year-old winger.
If they can trade for and extend Stone, however, it would be a huge win for the fledgling franchise. It may not only be the exact move that helps them make a serious push for the Stanley Cup this season but it would set them up for seasons of success in the future.
If the Golden Knights are unable to strike a deal with the Senators, they will need to look at other forward options available at the deadline. This is where Mike Hoffman of the Florida Panthers could be a perfect fit for a slightly more affordable, but still viable scoring winger.
While he may not have the same scoring production as Stone, Hoffman is still a highly talented forward who could catch fire alongside Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson on the Golden Knights’ top line. Even if he didn’t stick on the top line, he still gives the team a great top-six forward who is a threat to score each and every night.
The problem with this trade, though, is not only would the Golden Knights have to part with a number of futures to acquire Hoffman, but they also have to be on Hoffman’s 10-team shortlist due to his modified no-trade clause. This means that there would need to be mutual interest from him to join Vegas and then they would need to strike out a deal to acquire a potential 30-goal scoring forward.
Due to this, the odds of the Golden Knights bringing in Hoffman are low, but he is a player they should seriously consider if he is available to them. He may not be as big of a target as Stone, but he offers a solid upside in his own right.
The Golden Knights’ final trade target should be Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers. Unlike their first two targets, Zuccarello isn’t in the midst of a career season, posting a solid 11 goals and 37 points. This puts him in line with the top scorers for Vegas, likely meaning he would be a little less costly than their first two targets.
Even though his scoring numbers may not be mind-blowing, Zuccarello could bring more than just offensive potential to Vegas. Since he has experienced multiple playoff runs while in New York, he would add a needed veteran presence to a fairly young forward core, similar to what James Neil brought to the franchise last season.
While there are still many questions surrounding the potential availability of Zuccarello, the Golden Knights should be on the phone looking to strike a deal. He may not be the sexiest pick on the market, but he is the sort of player that every team wants to have before they start on a long playoff run.
Golden Knights Have Many Trade Options
With so many high-talent free-agent targets available at this deadline, the Golden Knights find themselves with the rare opportunity to bring in the exact piece they need to fix their ailing offense in the short-term while getting a chance to work out a deal for the future, as well.
While that move may not be cheap, it could pay off not only this postseason but for seasons to come. This doesn’t mean that there is a guarantee of success in a trade, of course. It just means that the Golden Knights have every opportunity to control their future, whether that be standing pat and seeing where the cards fall, or going out and trying to shape their own playoff destiny.
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.