Much like fellow Pacific Division restricted free agent Nick Ritchie and the Anaheim Ducks, promising young defenseman Shea Theodore and the Vegas Golden Knights remain far from a resolution in contract talks. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun writes that the two sides are currently not close to a deal. While he adds that the status quo can change quickly, he does not presently see an end to the impasse. This comes in conflict with GM George McPhee’s recent statement that a deal would be completed soon.
With Golden Knights training camp opening up today, Theodore’s absence becomes much more apparent. The team, entering just its second season, will begin preparations for the regular season without a player that was likely slotted to begin the season on the top pair. Following the revelation of Nate Schmidt’s 20-game suspension, Theodore would presumably be the best candidate start on the left side for the first quarter of the season, ahead of the likes of Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill, Brad Hunt, and free agent addition Nick Holden. Until he is re-signed, one of that group will be forced into the top pair. Theodore’s continued absence also hurts Vegas’ blue line depth. Although they all remain unsigned, the team did lose considerable depth in the departures of Luca Sbisa, Jason Garrison, Clayton Stoner, and Philip Holm. With Schmidt on the sidelines and Theodore still unsigned, the team is slated to begin the year with just four defenseman who played in 50+ NHL games last season and only eight with any NHL experience at all.
As such, one would expect the team to do what it takes to get Theodore under contract before the puck drops on the new season. Theodore has not given the Golden Knights any reason to doubt his future effectiveness, as the 22-year-old scored 29 points in 61 games last year while skating in over 20 minutes per night. Theodore trailed only Schmidt in average time on ice and defensive scoring and led all Knights defenders in goals, assists, points, and shots in the postseason. On top of that, if Theodore’s shooting percentage regresses positively – as it should – in a full-season role, he should be even more productive moving forward. While the team can no longer treat the salary cap as a non-factor and thus don’t want to dramatically overpay their young defenseman, Vegas has too many reasons not to resolve these contract talks as soon as possible.