The Vegas Golden Knights are going through a period of adjustment given the weirdness of last year. You can blame the season for injuries, COVID, underperforming players or just plain bad luck. But for the first time in franchise history, the Golden Knights missed the Stanley Cup playoffs.
On paper, the core Golden Knights are locked in with Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore under contract. But a team with a Stanley Cup Contender writer all over them failed to qualify for the playoffs overall. VGK has a lot of questions that need to be answered this offseason.
If you missed the first part, we discussed the future of Robin Lehner, Peter DeBoer and Reilly Smith. But the Golden Knights have even more questions ahead of them this offseason. Let’s pick up where we left off.
6- How will they add young people to the organization?
The Golden Knights are in a tricky position because their prospect pool is drier than Lake Mead. They traded top prospects such as Peyton Krebs, Cody Glass, Erik Brannstrom and Nick Suzuki to acquire the star players they have on their current roster.
It worked for both teams, but the Golden Knights now need an injection of youth to complete their NHL roster. They need cheap but effective young depth players in their roster. Watch the Tampa Bay Lightning with guys like Anthony Cirelli or Ross Colton.
In 2022-23, the VGK relied too heavily on calls from Henderson Silver Knights like Jake Leschyshyn and Jonas Rondjerg. Those AHL guys haven’t made an impact at the NHL level.
What the Golden Knights need is a handful of young, talented players who can come in and make an impact, similar to what Brett Howden did before he was injured against the Colorado Avalanche.
But with just six picks in this year’s draft and Brendan Brisson as the only NHL-ready prospect in the system, Kelly McCrimmon will struggle to add youngsters to the Golden Knights roster.
7- Who is Nolan Patrick?
The idea that young players bring depth leads me to Nolan Patrick, who once again had an injury prone season. Patrick was acquired by the Golden Knights in a one-for-one trade with the Nashville Predators for Cody Glass.
McCrimmon took a chance on adding a former Brandon Wheat King and so far things haven’t worked out. Patrick has played just 25 games in 2021-23 and has just seven points. It looked good in some stretches, but unfortunately we could be nearing a breaking point for the no. 2 overall picks in the NHL.
With a slightly higher-than-average salary cap of $1.2 million, Patrick could be in danger of being offloaded this offseason. Otherwise, he has one last chance to be a reliable young forward not just for the Golden Knights, but in the NHL in general.
8- Will this team ever be perfectly healthy?
That’s the biggest question I have for the Golden Knights.
We tend to underestimate how much injury can affect athletes in the modern age of sport. Since injuries are such a commodity, we expect athletes to get used to them over time and return to play when healthy without missing a beat.
If there’s anything we’ve learned this season from the Golden Knights, it’s that it doesn’t. Just ask Jack Eichel, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Nolan Patrick, Alec Martinez or any player on the list as they struggled to get back into the lineup after significant injuries.
With the offseason giving these players a long break from play, how healthy will this team be next season? Is Stone’s back okay? Will Pacioretty’s age dictate how he plays? How will Lehner and Brossoit’s off-season surgeries affect their game?
9- How will McCrimmon approach blocking on D?
On a more positive note, the Golden Knights have a good problem on defense. They have eight NHL defensemen on their roster and can only dress six. We saw head coach Peter DeBoer push the envelope and leave with 11 forwards and seven defensemen late in the season.
Nicolas Hague is an RFA, but apart from the giraffe, all other members of the Golden Knights defense corps are locked up for next season. Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore have had good seasons and will lead the charge. Brayden McNabb and Alec Martinez will provide closure
Then things start to get interesting with Hague, the emergence of Zach Whitecloud, strong free agent acquisition Ben Hutton and slap shot madman Dylan Coghlan.
All of these players have proven to be capable NHL D-men. With their salary cap situation, the Golden Knights may need to move from a defenseman to add depth in other areas of their roster.
Was 10- 2021-22 a fluke?
This one is pretty straightforward, and the biggest question to answer. Was the 2021-22 season a fluke for the Golden Knights? Was it like the 2017 Tampa Bay Lightning where they missed the playoffs? Will this team be back in the playoffs next season as Stanley Cup contenders? Or are they in a downward spiral?
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