Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s 2022 summer series, exploring the best and worst free agent signings for each NHL team of the post-lockout, salary cap era. With this past offseason seeing some big splashes (and potential gambles) like Johnny Gaudreau, Claude Giroux, John Klingberg, and others, it’s time to take a look at how teams have boosted and stunted their progress in recent history. Today, we take a look at the Vegas Golden Knights free agent signings history.
Vegas Golden Knights Free Agent Hits and Misses
This current off-season, and the accompanying free-agent frenzy that was baked into it, marked only the sixth of which in the young Vegas Golden Knight’s history. Despite their relative youth in the league, the Golden Knights haven’t been shy in terms of making big moves and free agency is no exception.
The Golden Knights have faired pretty well in free agency through their first few years. Most importantly, they’ve avoided albatross contracts, which is impressive considering how aggressive this franchise has been in terms of making bold moves. Although some of their trades have come back to bite them, free agency has been a lot kinder. In fact, as you’ll see below, their biggest free agent signing has likely been their best.
Best Signing: Alex Pietrangelo
When Alex Pietraneglo, 32, inked a seven-year, $61.6 million contract with the Golden Knights in 2020, he was unquestionably the best defenseman on the market. To that point in Vegas’ history, they had been desperate for a true, number one blue-liner. The team was fresh off a loss in the Conference finals, after having lost a gruelling game seven in the opening round the year prior, and an even more depressing loss in the Stanley Cup Final the year before that. The Golden Knights were missing something. That something, to several observers, was a true, number one defenceman.
Enter Alex Pietrangelo.
Since then, Pietrangelo has suited up in 121 games for Vegas over two seasons. He’s put up 67 points, averaged around 24.5 minutes per game, and has come out ahead in terms of possession in each season. He’s performed close to par with his peak seasons a few years ago, with only a slight dip in performance.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 21, 2021
The only real issue with this contract so far is that the Golden Knights haven’t taken that next step since Pietrangelo’s arrival. Still, that hardship isn’t on Pietrangelo’s shoulders and is more so the result of management being a bit too bold in their other maneuvers.
At the time, the $8.8 million average turned a lot of heads and had people questioning if he was worth the price. Since then, however, we’ve seen the likes of Seth Jones and Darnell Nurse sign even bigger contracts. Relatively speaking, Pietrangelo’s deal is more appetizing now than it was before.
There’s a chance this contract looks a lot different in a couple of years’ time, but for now, Pietrangelo has lived up to the billing.
Worst Signing: Vadim Shipachyov
Vadim Shipachyov‘s contract with the Golden Knights isn’t the worst in the typical fashion. It didn’t result in a difficult buyout, nor did it cost assets to get rid of. Instead, it was really more embarrassing than anything.
Vegas signed the KHL star to a two-year, $9 million contract ahead of their inaugural season. Even for an expansion franchise, it was a hefty price to pay for a relatively unknown player.
How did it work out? Not good. Shipachyov played in only three NHL games. He average just over 10 minutes of ice time, mustered a single goal, and seemed to be unable to keep up with the North American game. Then, when Vegas wanted to send the player to the AHL for some refinement, Shipachyov failed to report. After which, both the team and player mutually agreed to part ways and terminate the contract.
The ordeal was bad enough for Shipachyov to refer to it as a “terrible dream”. The entire situation was a bit of a wake-up call for the Golden Knights as they entered the NHL. It was a cautionary tale on how to spend money, and thankfully, it didn’t bite them too badly in the end.
In terms of production compared to the original dollar value, however, it’s hard to find a worse contract than Shipachyov’s.
Congrats to Alex Pietrangelo on playing his 800th NHL game tonight!!! 💯💯💯💯💯💯💯💯 pic.twitter.com/bP3WHOnN87
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) October 13, 2021