NHL.com provides in-depth roster, outlook and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16 through Dec. 16. 16. Today, the Vegas Golden Knights.
In the last big move for an expansion team that made the Stanley Cup final in its inaugural season in 2017-18, returned to the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2018-19 and reached the final of the Western conference last season, Vegas landed a prized free agent by defenseman signing Alex Pietrangelo to a seven-year contract on October 12.
“The expectations are high which is a good thing,” said Pietrangelo, who has played his entire 12-season NHL career with the St. Louis Blues and won the Cup as captain in 2019. “ When you start out as well as the franchise has in the first couple of years, you expect a winning environment and you want to be part of that winning environment.
“We were successful in St. Louis most of the time I was there. It’s fun to be part of a winning environment because it pushes you to get better every year. I now think with the success the guys have had. , getting closer, I think it certainly makes guys feel hungrier. They are ready to do what they have to do. ”
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The Golden Knights have changed their roster significantly since their inaugural season, adding players like the goalie Robin Lehner, defender Alec Martinez and forward Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty while subtracting or demoting popular players.
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To make room for Pietrangelo, they swapped the defender Nate Schmidt at the Vancouver Canucks on October 12 and in the center Paul Stastny at the Winnipeg Jets on October 9. Schmidt had been with Vegas since the expansion NHL Draft in 2017; Stastny himself was a major free agency signatory on July 1, 2018.
Other movements could be to come. Owner Bill Foley told KLAS-TV the Golden Knights have NHL salary cap issues that need to be addressed.
General manager Kelly McCrimmon said Vegas would not have traded Schmidt without the opportunity to add Pietrangelo.
“We have a guy who is in the discussion for the Norris Trophy every year,” said McCrimmon of the award presented each year to the defenseman voted best in the NHL. “He’s one of the top four or five defensemen in the game. He is the first on the boards in all situations for his team. He had 52 points, including 16 goals last season, which would have placed him fourth in our team. He has been a captain for four years. He has an extremely high character, very determined to win, Stanley Cup champion, right shot. He is 6ft 3in tall and brings a big size to our blue line. ”
Vegas could afford to swap Stastny due to center development Cody Glass, selected 6th in the 2017 NHL Draft as the first amateur draft pick in Golden Knights history. Glass scored 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 39 games for Vegas last season.
“You can’t just sit there,” McCrimmon said. “There’s a balance between having a really strong core that gives you that chance to win, but there’s also the importance of having enough churn rates to give opportunities to new players, so we’re mindful of everything. that.
“We are not an organization that is all about winning next year. We’re trying to build a really strong organization with good depth throughout. ”
The Golden Knights start the season with two Grade 1 goalies.
Lehner, acquired in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 24 (after the Maple Leafs acquired him from the Chicago Blackhawks earlier in the day), returned to the starting position of the playoffs from Marc-André Fleury, the face of Vegas since the expansion project.
The Golden Knights signed Lehner to a five-year contract on October 3. Fleury has two seasons remaining on the three-year contract he made with Vegas on July 13, 2018.
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Coach Peter DeBoer, who replaced Gerard Gallant on January 15, said he would start the goalkeeper who gives the Golden Knights the best chance of winning.
“It’s just from the top with [owner Bill Foley] in terms of culture, in terms of what we stand for, in terms of what we believe in, and the players want to win, “said McCrimmon.” Good players expect you to try to improve your teams as much as you can, and I think the guys here know we’re trying to win a Stanley Cup.
“We’re not going to apologize for this. We will continue to work as hard as possible to be the best team possible. ”