If there were any last thoughts that the Vegas Golden Knights – who are on pace to be the best expansion team in sports history – would be sellers at the NHL Trade Deadline, they went out the window with the team’s convincing 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. Tampa, who sits atop the league standings with 65 points, is now just two points ahead of Vegas, with the Knights holding a game in hand. Not only is Vegas playoff-bound in their first season, but they have a legitimate chance at the President’s Trophy. Unbelievably, they have a chance at a Stanley Cup title in their inaugural season as well.
For that reason, the idea of the team selling off their impending unrestricted free agents like James Neal, David Perron, or Luca Sbisa has become unthinkable. Despite the long-term benefits that trading away those players for picks and prospects may have on the young franchise, GM George McPhee is surely unwilling at this point to take the wind out of his team’s sails when they truly feel they can win it all in 2018. There is some evidence already that this team is happy with it’s current roster and more interested in extensions than blockbusters. Deryk Engelland and Jonathon Merrill recently signed new deals and the team is reportedly focused on an extension for Neal. The current Golden Knights roster is unlikely to change this season.
That just may include additions as well. For the same reason some are holding out that the Knights will be sellers is the same reason they are extremely unlikely to be buyers too. In just their first year existence, Vegas is in no position to be dealing away picks and prospects. While most teams are already stocked with prospects, Vegas has just their 2017 selections and a few free agent signings to build off. Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Jake Leschyshyn, Erik Brannstrom, and Nicolas Hague are nothing to laugh at, but the team needs to focus on quantity just as much as quality among their junior-level prospects. Their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, has been a middling team this season (currently 18th in the league), and that’s with a veteran free agent signing leading the team in scoring in Brandon Pirri and another team’s goalie as their starter in Kasimir Kaskisuo. Tomas Hyka may be the only prospect on the Chicago roster to ever make a noticeable difference in Vegas. The Stanley Cup is the toughest championship in sports to win and even a number one seed only gives the Knights the same shot that 15 other teams get, not a guaranteed trip to the final. In short, Vegas cannot afford to give up talented top prospects, nor can they give up the draft picks needed to keep filling out the system, for a greater chance at a a difficult title to claim.
The Vegas Golden Knights are rolling right now, playing far better in 2017-18 than anyone could have ever possibly imagined. There is no way they are sellers at the deadline but, due to the constraints of being an expansion franchise, they are unlikely to be sellers either. Like the old saying goes though, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Vegas is no less threatening this season or moving forward if they do indeed stand pat this season.