After Vegas transferred winger Reilly Smith to LTIR on Friday night, it felt like there was a corresponding roster move coming. That move comes on their back end as ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reports (Twitter link) that the Golden Knights have activated defenseman Alec Martinez off LTIR.
The 34-year-old has been out since mid-November due to a facial injury and nerve damage and wound up missing a lot more time than initially expected, a total of 53 games overall. Martinez was expected to resume skating after the holiday break but landed in COVID protocol for three weeks, postponing his return to the ice until the end of January. From there, it has taken seven weeks for Martinez to be cleared to return and for Vegas to free up the cap space to activate him off LTIR. With Smith’s $5MM heading to LTIR yesterday, they opened up enough space for Martinez’s $5.25MM to come back.
Martinez’s return will be a big one for a Vegas back end that has undoubtedly missed his reliability in the defensive end. He has averaged just under 20 minutes a game this season (a number that’s somewhat skewed from the game he was injured) in the 11 contests he has been able to play in and should slide back into their top four quickly as they look to get back into the playoff picture; they’re one point out of the last Wild Card spot heading into play today.
Vegas still has two regulars on LTIR – Smith and winger Mark Stone. At this point in time, they don’t have enough cap room to activate either of them when they’ll be ready to return so even with the trade deadline now having passed, their cap situation will still be something to keep an eye on over the final few weeks of the season.