Scoring goals hasn’t been an issue for Vegas this season as they sit in the top ten in the league in that regard. However, after being one of the better teams in the league last year at keeping pucks out, that hasn’t been the case this season as they’re in the bottom half in total goals allowed despite being tied for the lead in the Pacific Division in points. Their goals allowed per game has gone up by roughly a quarter goal per night and as a result, the Golden Knights are on the lookout for defensive help, reports Jesse Granger of The Athletic (subscription required).
However, one of the challenges that GM Kelly McCrimmon faces is the salary cap. Recent injuries have forced them to carry a max-sized roster which has stopped them from banking much cap space. As a result, they project to have less than $600K in full-season cap space at next month’s trade deadline, per CapFriendly. Considering that the league minimum salary is $700K, that doesn’t leave them much wiggle room to work with.
With that in mind, McCrimmon could try to use that to his advantage. Knowing that he’s going to have to make a player-for-player trade with similar salaries, Vegas isn’t in a spot where they have to wait until closer to the deadline to accrue cap space like some other contending teams are. As long as they can find a financially-balanced trade, they can do it at any time.
As for what players they could be looking to move, Granger suggests center Cody Eakin, winger Ryan Reaves, and defenseman Nick Holden as potential options; all three players are pending unrestricted free agents. Eakin has dealt with injuries this season and hasn’t been overly productive when he has played and at $3.85MM, he’s not living up to his contract. Reaves is providing what they expected from him but a $2.775MM price tag is high for a full-time fourth liner while Holden ($2.2MM) has been serviceable but is someone that could stand to be upgraded on.
While Vegas certainly won’t be adding an impact player if those are the players they decide to try to move, they could at least upgrade their depth to give them some extra insurance in case injuries arise down the stretch. At this stage though, most of the blueliners available are rentals which is something that McCrimmon and former GM (now President of Hockey Operations) George McPhee haven’t shown much interest in acquiring in the past. If that continues to be the case, it will likely take a while to find the right fit to bring in.