What The Vegas Golden Knights Future May Hold

Vegas Golden Knights future
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After a disappointing end to their 2020-21 season, the Vegas Golden Knights’ future is a hot topic. Still, in their four years of existence in the NHL, they have done pretty well. They went to the Stanley Cup Final in their first year of play. Then they have gone to the Conference Finals twice and lost in the first round the other time. Not bad at all for a relatively new team. Yet, there’s always room for improvement and this season’s elimination to the upstart Montreal Canadiens might have hit a nerve.

The Vegas Golden Knights Have Some Decisions to Make Going Forward

From the upcoming decision on whether to keep Alec Martinez¬†or the goaltending situation where you just can’t afford two number-one goalies, the Golden Knights have some decisions to make. On Martinez, Jesse Granger of the Athletic (subscription required) mentioned that the Vegas club would love to have Martinez back, but finding the cap space may be more than difficult.

Martinez, who will turn 34 in July had 72 blocks in the playoffs, 20 more than any other contender. His coach Peter DeBoer said of him, “I can’t (over)state the importance of him to our group in the time he’s been here with me. There’s a reason he’s a multiple Stanley Cup winner. There’s a reason you can count on him that the most important time of the year. It’s not an accident that he scored that goal the other night. He rises to the occasion at the tough moments, and you can never have enough guys like that.”

Martinez had a $4 million cap hit and he could be looking for a raise to that value, and deservedly so. Yet, as most teams have had to cut their salary aspirations for players due to the pandemic, the Golden Knights may need to let him go. With his inspired play in the playoffs, other teams may be able to offer a longer-term deal than the Vegas club. It will sort itself out, but look for what happens to Martinez going forward. He’s a tough guy to lose, but hockey is still a business and things must be done within a tight budget.

What About the Goaltending Decision?

Looking at the goaltending situation in Vegas is intriguing. What NHL team wouldn’t want Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner as their guys protecting the net? Yet, with a combined cap hit of $12 million between the two of them, something’s got to give. Do you give up on Fleury who just took home his first Vezina Trophy, or hope that Lehner earns his $5 million AAV deal through the 2024-25 season? While the pair was quite effective, again that pesky salary cap issue is biting at the Vegas franchise’s core. There have been rumours that if Fleury leaves he’d love to go back to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now wouldn’t that be special?

Lehner seems solid and yet losing Fleury would be a bummer. He had a classic season with a 26-10 record including a sparkling 1.98 goals-against-average and a .928 save percentage. That included six shutouts and clutch wins when the teams needed them. Mark Madden of Triblive.com thinks that the Penguins should go after Fleury whose contract expires after next season. He thinks Fleury may be open to going back to Pittsburgh and the Pens should only need to give up a third-round pick for him. Of course, for that to happen the Golden Knights will need to retain up to half of Fleury’s contract. That may not happen. Without Fleury, what would the Vegas Golden Knights future look like?

The Golden Knights Could Really Use Jack Eichel

Of course, the circus atmosphere on where the talented centre will end up playing is still happening. What is interesting is that the Vegas club has a need for a number-one centre (guess it’s not Mark Stone anymore?) and he would fit in nicely, to say the least. So, what kind of deal would be attractive to the Buffalo Sabres for Eichel? Tom Callahan of Vegashockeynow.com projects this trade package.

The Sabres want a couple of low-level draft picks and Vegas has their number-one pick #30, and then #36 overall in the second round. Then, Callahan thinks that the Golden Knights would need to give up centre Alex Tuch, right-wing Reilly Smith, centres Chandler Stephenson and Cody Glass to even get Buffalo interested. That’s a huge haul, but then again if Jack Eichel comes back healthy, he’s an impact star player who could almost guarantee the Vegas franchise the Cup they narrowly missed in their inaugural year.

The only way the Golden Knights could work the magic needed to acquire Eichel is if they don’t re-sign Martinez. It just can’t be done considering Eichel’s huge $10 million cap hit.

Final Analysis For Vegas Golden Knights Future

Look, the Vegas Golden Knights are a very talented team. They have been right there to take it all and it seems with a few tweaks here and there, they can be the championship team they yearn to be. Losing Fleury and Martinez may sting, but adding someone like Eichel is a chance they need to take. After all, it’s a good bet in a town known for gambling. Remember, the Golden Knights did not have problems preventing goals, they had issues scoring them. That is an area they need to address in order to get back to the Stanley Cup Final.

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