32 Teams In 31 Days NHL Team Recaps: Vegas Golden Knights

Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

32 Teams In 31 Days NHL Team Recaps: Vegas Golden Knights

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32 Teams In 31 Days NHL Team Recaps: Vegas Golden Knights

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Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images 

The Vegas Golden Knights had a very disappointing season in the eyes of many including themselves. While being fourth in the Pacific Division last season, they still managed to miss the playoffs. The team has been trying to cherry-pick their way to success to try and keep themselves in the highest order of contention. In sports, it’s funny when teams treat their franchise and manage their team like they’re in franchise mode of a video game. It’s the “screw it, let’s just always go big game hunting” mode that makes a team so captivating. Vegas fully sent it on their offers to acquire all such guys that fit the bill. Vegas went after Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo, Robin Lehner, and Jack Eichel in an effort to bolster the team’s elite core. In theory, it seemed like an excellent and savvy plan. Now it looks like they’ve done it all wrong as it slowly crumbles in front of them. High risk, high reward. But, there hasn’t been a real award since the inaugural season when they made it to the Stanley Cup Final. Now the team blew itself up to acquire Eichel and then missed the playoffs. 

It’s intriguing to see what comes next for this team heading into this upcoming season. When healthy the Golden Knights still possess one of the most talented rosters in hockey. Zero way to doubt that. But they lost a lot to try and keep this “Go Big or Go Home” mentality. Max Pacioretty was traded alongside Dylan Coghlan to the Carolina Hurricanes for future considerations to create space under the NHL salary cap. They gave up one of the better goal-scoring wings in the league and one of their few solid young players for quite literally nothing. Although Pacioretty’s health was questionable, his impact on the team when he played was not something to overlook. 

They lost more goal scoring by getting rid of Evgenii Dadonov. After the summer fiasco where he was supposed to go to the Anaheim Ducks failed, he was finally traded to the Montreal Canadiens on June 16 for defenseman Shea Weber. This is a major risk since his whole career could be over after not playing in 2021-22 because of a foot/ankle injury. If he’s healthy he adds a lot to the defense, but right now it feels like an ironic move. They sent players away to make cap space and got another player back that took it all away. Not to mention they fired their head coach back on May 16 after the Golden Knights missed the playoffs for the first time since joining the NHL in 2017-18. Vegas was 98-50-12 under Peter DeBoer, who was named the Dallas Stars coach on June 21. It somewhat feels like they are getting it all wrong for a team that’s trying to get it all right. 

A major thing for the Golden Knights now is the reality they must face themselves with. Unlike their expansion comparison, the Seattle Kraken, they bought into the idea that they could be a competitor right out the gate. And that shifted the franchise’s focus. They’re moving heaven and earth to be the best in the West when that may not be true at all. Plenty of other teams in the West got way stronger while the Golden Knights stayed the same. Vegas still needs to sign Keegan Kolesar and Nicholas Hague. That will fill out their depth but they still have major holes. They just acquired Adin Hill from the San Jose Sharks as news broke recently that starting goaltender Robin Lehner would miss the season due to double hip surgery. This roster question mark alongside the health of guys like Mark Stone, among others, could impact them in the standings big time. 

If there is one thing for sure, it’s that Vegas has a lot to decide upon. How much are they willing to commit to fighting for a chance at the Stanley Cup? How long is their window open? Is this all worth it? If things don’t fit right, is it time to follow Seattle’s lead and take the slow road? 

For now, they hold strong. A solid team that when healthy can shock the league in my opinion. Jack Eichel being freed from his shackles with the Buffalo Sabres and on a way more competitive team for a full season will be super exciting. Having Mark Stone back will be huge for the team. Ashe is one of, if not, the best two-way winger in the NHL. Alex Pietrangelo patrolling the back end and leading the charge for their defensive core is huge. Adding Phil Kessel on a short deal to a veteran forward core strikes some confidence for the cost he’s at. And with guys like William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault leading the charge since the beginning, there is still some hope. 

All in all, Vegas hasn’t lived up to the gargantuan standards they set out for themselves. It’s rare when new teams are successful, let alone Stanley Cup contenders. And when the first season like theirs set the tone, it shook them hard. A vision of false hope for being a top contender like the Tampa Bay Lightning or Colorado Avalanche. But rather a team that tried to almost buy their way to a championship with all the talent they have. It can still pan out, but it’s not that easy to win a championship in the NHL. Let alone by trading a bulk of the roster to acquire the highest-end talent. 

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