Vegas Golden Knights’ Trade Deadline History

There are a few pearls of wisdom that Vegas Golden Knights fans have picked up in their half-decade of following the club:

1) Winning the Stanley Cup isn’t as easy as it might sometimes seem.
2) When T-Mobile Arena is rocking, it can be a game-changer (maybe not this season, mind you).
3) Injuries suck, and the salary cap is a complicated thing.
4) George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon love the NHL trade deadline.

That last pearl is looming large right now, as we are ten days away from the March 21 deadline. The bad news is that the Golden Knights are capped out and stuck in a holding pattern as they wait to see when Mark Stone and Alec Martinez will come off of long-term injured reserve (LTIR), as their salaries again count against the cap. The good news? Obstacles have never stopped McCrimmon and the team’s front office.

Before we look ahead to the deadline and what Vegas might have up their sleeve to address a struggling, injury-marred roster, here’s a look back at the franchise’s short but extremely active deadline history (note: for this exercise, we’re counting any moves within a week of the official deadline):

2018 Trade Deadline

Ryan ReavesDerick Brassard Ian Cole
2018 4th Round PickTobias LindbergFilip Gustavsson
Vincent Dunn2018 1st Round Pick
2018 3rd Round Pick2019 3rd Round Pick

Remember when the Golden Knights could rent out their cap space to other teams for draft pick compensation? Good times. This three-team deal three days ahead of the 2018 deadline was built around Derick Brassard landing with the Pittsburgh Penguins after Vegas absorbed some of his cap hit, but it’s Ryan Reaves who will bring a smile to Golden Knights fans.

Ryan Reaves Vegas Golden Knights
Ryan Reaves, formerly of the Vegas Golden Knights (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Reaves and the fourth-rounder, which became collegiate defenseman Slava Demin, who was later dealt away in the Robin Lehner trade, were the reward for assuming $2 million of Brassard’s cap hit, while Vegas only lost journeyman Tobias Lindberg. For Reaves, a fan favorite and locker room leader, the price was right.

Philip HolmBrendan Leipsic

There wasn’t much to this trade of failed expansion draftee Brendan Leipsic for defenseman Philip Holm, who had played his first and only NHL game days earlier against the Golden Knights. The Vancouver Canucks seem to emerge as the obvious winner here given Leipsic’s 31 games compared to Holm’s zero in Vegas, but you won’t find many people pining over the loss of a forward who became toxic in the dressing room.

Tomáš Tatar2019 2nd Round Pick
2018 1st Round Pick
2021 3rd Round Pick

We’ve seen countless players thrive in Vegas, but that doesn’t apply to everyone. Tomáš Tatar simply didn’t fit in over a short, rocky stint after coming over from the Detroit Red Wings, managing just four goals and two assists along with a minus-11 in 20 games. Come playoff time, the Czech winger was only in the lineup for eight of 20 games.

Tatar’s disappointing performance post-trade was underscored by the cost: a collection of three picks that probably was going to look like an overpay anyway. None have really burned the Golden Knights yet, although Joe Veleno (taken with the 2018 first-rounder) is quietly having a solid rookie season in Detroit and Robert Mastrosimone (the 2019 second) is an NCAA standout with Boston University.

2019 Trade Deadline

Mark StoneErik Brännström
Tobias LindbergOscar Lindberg
2020 2nd Round Pick

Well, this one turned out okay, didn’t it? Stone’s bad back and current LTIR status don’t change the fact that he is the captain and the fulcrum for the Golden Knights’ offense and defense. Armed with a long-term contract and still shy of his 30th birthday, he should be a foundational presence for the club for a long time to come.

Vegas Golden Knights Mark Stone
Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Furthermore, the cost to acquire a star-caliber forward who had already established himself as a perennial 20-goal 60-point producer was quite reasonable. Erik Brännström, the prize of the return package, has not panned out as hoped to date, still struggling to earn blue line minutes on a weak Ottawa Senators roster. Meanwhile, Oscar Lindberg signed in Switzerland after 20 games in Ottawa, and the second-rounder became Egor Sokolov, who is still trying to earn regular NHL duty.

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2020 Trade Deadline

Alec Martinez2020 2nd Round Pick
2021 2nd Round Pick

McCrimmon was promoted to GM a little over two months past the 2019 deadline, so 2020 marked his first as the primary deal-maker. Given the former Brandon Wheat Kings’ owner’s tendencies for wheeling and dealing, it’s no surprise that this represented the franchise’s busiest deadline to date. Getting started five days early, McCrimmon sent two second-round picks to the Los Angeles Kings to acquire physical, playoff-tested blueliner, Alec Martinez.

In doing so, McCrimmon somehow managed to land a top-four defenseman with term on a reasonable contract without surrendering a first-rounder. Though he’s now on LTIR and signed to a three-year extension that’s looking increasingly burdensome, Martinez has been a consistent mainstay on the Vegas blue line since he was acquired. Will Cuylle and Ben Roger may become valuable pieces for LA, but neither player, taken with the two second-rounders, is a blue-chipper yet.

2021 4th Round PickCody Eakin

Golden Knights fans will always carry a soft spot for the Vegas originals, so there was some sadness when Cody Eakin left. But the club also needed some flexibility, and Eakin’s $3.85 million cap hit proved to be an inefficient allocation of space, one that the Winnipeg Jets took on for his services.

The Jets fell short of the playoffs in the qualifying round that season and chose not to retain Eakin in the offseason; decisions that meant the returned draft pick would fall to the fourth round and not the third. The Golden Knights used the pick to move up and select 18-year-old Jakub Brabenec, who is enjoying a strong first season in the QMJHL with the Charlottetown Islanders.

Nick Cousins2021 4th Round Pick

Combining this move and the last trade essentially represented switching out the No. 3 center spot from one player (Eakin) to a cheaper option (Nick Cousins, who earned $2.85 million less at the time), while the fourth-rounder ended up working out favorably for the Golden Knights, as they landed the 114th selection after dealing away No. 126.

While the two deals represented a nice, tidy bit of business on the roster management side, we’ll never know how it would’ve played out on the ice. COVID forced the NHL to shutter operations with Cousins just seven games into his Vegas stint. That offseason, he joined the Nashville Predators on a two-year deal.

Robin LehnerMalcolm Subban2020 5th Round Pick
Martins DzierkalsStanislav Demin
2020 2nd Round Pick

There’s no disputing that Lehner’s tenure in Vegas has had some flaws, particularly over this disappointing, injury-marred 2021-22 season, his first as the clear No. 1 in net. Still, it’s hard not looking back on this trade as an outright win for McCrimmon and the Golden Knights. The club landed the Swede, who finished sixth in Vezina voting that year, for a lesser back-up goalie (Malcolm Subban), a low-end prospect (Demin), and a second-rounder (goalie prospect Drew Commesso).

Robin Lehner Vegas Golden Knights
Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

As quick as fans are to lament the lack of return on the Marc-André Fleury trade last summer, little is said about the Lehner deal, even as Vegas netted the goalie who backstopped them to the 2020 Western Conference Final for cheap. For now, though, the focus is understandably less on a trade retrospective and more on whether the 30-year-old can get healthy and return to form in time to help the Golden Knights make a playoff run.

2021 Trade Deadline

Mattias Janmark2021 2nd Round Pick2022 5th Round Pick
Nick DeSimone2022 3rd Round Pick
2022 5th Round Pick

The club’s most recent deadline deal (at least for the next week and a half or so, anyway) added forward depth in the form of Mattias Janmark, who would later sign a contract extension to remain in Vegas through this season. A second-, third- and fifth-round pick represents a fairly steep price to pay for a rental bottom-six winger, but the Golden Knights needed to entice the San Jose Sharks into covering half of Janmark’s cap hit.

Even in creatively finding a way to add depth while remaining cap compliant, the early returns on this trade aren’t particularly promising. Although Janmark offered enough in a respectable playoff showing (four goals and eight points in 16 games) to earn a new contract, he’s struggled with injuries and underperformed this season (seven goals in 47 games) at a time when the team could really use depth contributions. It remains to be seen what Colton Dach and the outstanding draft choices can produce for Chicago and San Jose.

The Golden Knights’ trade deadline history acknowledges the remarkable thing about the club in their infancy: they have never been trying to do anything other than win. Each of these moves were made ambitiously with the aim of adding a piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle or, at the very least, manage the roster in a way that allows for more productive assets to come on board. It’s not a perfect record, but it’s the record of an organization with one clear goal in mind.

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