Unlike their first season in the NHL, the sophomore campaign for the Vegas Golden Knights has been more of a rollercoaster than a smooth ride. Where the Golden Knights jumped out to a division lead early and held strong for most of 2017-18, the 2018-19 season has had some real lows. In fact, at the 20-game mark, it looked like the young franchise would be sellers at their second trade deadline after being buyers in 2018.
After a slow start, though, the Golden Knights righted the ship, stringing together winning streaks while locking down third place in the Pacific Division. With roughly 30 games left in the season, Vegas should their find their way back to the playoffs, a monumental feat.
With all this in mind, the Golden Knights will be buyers at the 2019 trade deadline. With cap space to spare and a number of future assets available, everything is in place for general manager George McPhee to make a splash once again. However, this begs the question: even if Vegas can make a big trade at the deadline… should they?
Golden Knights Know Deadline Trades Can Fail
The Golden Knights don’t have to look far to find a trade that they regret. At last season’s deadline, they sent their 2018 first, 2019 second and 2021 third-round draft picks to the Detroit Red Wings for winger Tomas Tatar. If this trade had been successful, Tatar would have added valuable depth and playoff experience to an already strong forward group. Instead, he struggled to find a role with the franchise and was a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs.
This deadline miss shines a light on an overlooked aspect of mid-season trades: they are often expensive and unsuccessful. As teams fight for that perfect last piece to their puzzle, they become blind to how much they are giving up for a player who may not work in their line-up. Unless you are replacing someone who is out for the rest of the season with an injury, the player brought in has to knock a starting player out of their normal spot. This can break up a season’s worth of chemistry and have unintended consequences.
Also, trying to learn a new system 60-plus games into the season can be difficult, if not near impossible, for even the most talented players in the NHL. This can make a deadline rental seem mediocre, even if they were having a strong season before the trade.
Golden Knights Already Have a Winning Roster
Besides the risk and cost involved in making a big trade at the 2019 deadline, the Golden Knights already have a roster full of talent that took them to the Stanley Cup Final. While stars like William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault haven’t been able to replicate their regular season magic from last season, they are both the type of player who can flip a switch and become dominant once the postseason starts. This, along with the acquisition of playoff veterans Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny in the offseason gives Vegas a forward core that has the high-end talent and depth necessary to be lethal in the playoffs.
In fact, if Erik Haula can return from the knee injury he suffered early this season, the Golden Knights would be adding a player back to their roster who should have a bigger impact than any trade McPhee could make. While he may not be the same 55-point player that he was a season ago, he still has the offensive upside and power play potential that you would expect from a deadline trade.
Quiet Deadline Can Be a Good Deadline for Golden Knights
If Haula is unable to return this season, though, then you can make the argument that the Golden Knights should add a depth forward at the deadline. Perhaps a bottom-pairing veteran who wouldn’t be too expensive to acquire. Like how the Nashville Predators brought in Brian Boyle to add some scoring and defensive depth along with a strong locker room presence that every team needs in the postseason.
However, this doesn’t mean that Vegas should give up their 2019 first-round draft pick just to add some depth. As they learned last season, sometimes the best thing you can do at the trade deadline is stand pat instead of trying to fix something that isn’t broken, and right now, the Golden Knights’ roster is far from broken. They are a team that could threaten for a Stanley Cup as is, and they still have room to improve using their current players.
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.