While there has been plenty of trade speculation with Wednesday’s roster freeze fast approaching, don’t expect the Golden Knights to be making any moves in the immediate future. In an interview with David Schoen of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, GM George McPhee indicated that they’re not actively pursuing deals and are hoping that internal growth helps propel them as they look to hold onto a playoff spot in the West:
“We like our team as is. When we’re healthy, we’re a good team. So, it’s not as if we’re actively looking for anything. We’d like to have all of our growth come internally. Whether it’s a Tuch or a Lindberg or whoever – some of the young defensemen – you’d like to see growth in their play, and that’s where we hope it comes from.”
It’s understandable that McPhee feels that way. The core from their run to the Stanley Cup Final last season is largely intact and between injuries and an early-season suspension to defenseman Nate Schmidt, they’ve yet to have their full lineup intact once. They also now have center Paul Stastny back which should give them a nice boost to an attack that sits in the middle of the league in terms of goals per game. Patience is certainly warranted here.
However, if McPhee has a change of heart between now and the February 25th trade deadline, he will likely be restricted to adding players on expiring contracts. Although they have considerable cap space for this season (they project to finish roughly $4.4MM below the Upper Limit, per CapFriendly), that won’t be the case next year. The Golden Knights handed out expensive long-term extensions to wingers Max Pacioretty and Alex Tuch as well as Schmidt in recent months and as a result, they have $72.2MM committed for next season already (which includes David Clarkson’s $5.25MM deal who can be placed on LTIR if need be). That doesn’t give them a lot of flexibility to work with to fill out their roster so if Vegas jumps into the trade market over the next couple of months, it will likely need to be for a rental player.