- The Golden Knights are considering the possibility of acquiring the rights to Ryan Kesler from the Ducks, notes David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period. Kesler, who hasn’t played since 2019, carries a $6.875MM cap hit that is LTIR-eligible. In theory, if Vegas moved out enough salary to bring Kesler in and remain in cap compliance with their current cap situation, he could then be added to their LTIR pool, enabling them to eventually activate Jack Eichel. There’s precedent for teams acquiring injured players to boost their LTIR pool – Toronto (David Clarkson) and Tampa Bay (Brent Seabrook) – are recent examples and with Max Pacioretty and Alec Martinez both expected to return before the end of the regular season, Vegas may need to get creative to make the cap work when their players are healthy.
Golden Knights Rumors
As a result of attendance restrictions in Western Canada, the NHL has postponed eight more games. The games affected are as follows:
Monday, Jan. 3
Minnesota @ Ottawa
Wednesday, Jan. 5
New York Islanders @ Vancouver
Saturday, Jan. 8
New York Islanders @ Edmonton
Tuesday, Jan. 11
New York Islanders @ Calgary
Wednesday, Jan. 12
Minnesota @ Edmonton
Friday, Jan. 14
Vegas @ Edmonton
Saturday, Jan. 15
Vegas @ Calgary
Sunday, Jan. 16
Edmonton @ Winnipeg
In addition to those contests, the Islanders’ road game in Seattle on January 4th has also been postponed due to the other games on their West Coast road trip being postponed.
No make-up dates for any of the games were announced but in the release from the league, it was noted that the games “will be rescheduled for dates later in the season when such restrictions may be eased or lifted”. These postponements bring the running total to 90 games that the league will need to reschedule in the coming weeks and months.
The Vegas Golden Knights will be without one of their top players for the foreseeable future, as Max Pacioretty is out indefinitely following wrist surgery. Pacioretty played just over 17 minutes on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings but has been absent from Golden Knights practice as he tried to deal with the injury.
The Golden Knights, of course, are dealing with an impending cap crunch as Jack Eichel rehabs from neck surgery and approaches a return to action. Pacioretty’s injury will solve that issue for the time being, given he can likely be placed on long-term injured reserve as he recovers from his own surgery. The 33-year-old’s $7MM salary would be more than enough to cover Eichel’s cost as long as Alec Martinez stays out, though things would get tricky again if everyone was healthy before the postseason.
While it may seem conspiratorial that Pacioretty is going on LTIR, the Golden Knights would obviously rather have him in the lineup. The veteran forward has been outstanding since arriving in Vegas, with 90 goals and 178 points in 201 games. This year he was scoring at an incredible pace with 12 goals and 21 points in just 16 games. Never a point-per-game player during his time in Montreal, it would be two seasons in a row that Pacioretty reached that mark in Vegas had he been able to continue it through the rest of the year.
Now it’s unclear when he will be back, making this a disappointing season for the winger. With just one year left on his contract and Vegas bringing in more big-money players at every chance, it’s hard to know how much longer Pacioretty will even be with the Golden Knights.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The Golden Knights could be down several key regulars for tomorrow game against Los Angeles. Jesse Granger of The Athletic reports (Twitter link) that wingers Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone along with goaltender Robin Lehner all missed practice today due to what’s being termed as bumps and bruises and are all listed as game-time decisions for tomorrow. Pacioretty sits second on Vegas in goals despite missing more than half the season while Stone joins Pacioretty in being the only Golden Knights averaging more than a point per game so far. Lehner missed last Tuesday’s contest with an undisclosed issue so his injury has lingered for a little bit. Vegas will, however, have defenceman Nicolas Hague back after missing last Tuesday’s game.
- Golden Knights center prospect Ivan Morozov was dealt to HC Sochi from SKA St. Petersburg. The 21-year-old was a second-round pick (61st overall) back in 2018 but after spending all of last season in the KHL, he split this season between that league and their lower-tier VHL. The swap should allow him to play a larger role with Sochi. Vegas also holds Morozov’s rights indefinitely.
Dec 27: Less than a week later, the Golden Knights have announced that Brett Howden and head coach Pete DeBoer are also now unavailable due to the COVID protocol. Vegas is supposed to play the Los Angeles Kings tomorrow night.
Dec 21: The Vegas Golden Knights and Tampa Bay Lightning are currently still scheduled to play this evening in the final game before the NHL’s holiday break, but not every player will be on the ice. Evgenii Dadonov and Alex Pietrangelo are both unavailable for the Golden Knights tonight due to the league’s COVID protocol.
Losing those two is obviously a huge blow, though the Golden Knights did have Nolan Patrick back at practice in a regular jersey today. Mark Stone also practiced in full. One of those two could potentially enter the lineup for Dadonov if they are ready, but it’s much more difficult to replace Pietrangelo given all that he does for the team.
The 31-year-old has logged almost 26 minutes a night this season for Vegas as the team tries to navigate through COVID absences and injuries, recording 22 points in 31 games in the process. That’s good enough for 10th among all league defenders, just ahead of teammate Shea Theodore who plays an equally important role.
Still, it’s obvious that the NHL wishes to get through as many games as possible before shutting things down for a few days. The Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers were set to play each other despite several absences until a number of other positives were revealed today. Whether these two entering the protocol is enough for the league to postpone it remains to be seen. Regardless, Pietrangelo and Dadonov will miss several other contests if they have tested positive and are held out for a minimum of ten days. The Golden Knights are set to resume play on December 27 in the first half of a back-to-back.
Golden Knights center Jack Eichel is progressing well in his recovery from artificial disk replacement surgery and has started skating. Accordingly, the clock is starting to tick on how Vegas will be able to get cap compliant to activate him off LTIR. Speaking with David Schoen of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, GM Kelly McCrimmon wasn’t giving away any hints towards how he plans to get there:
McCrimmon also cautioned that Eichel will be further away from returning than it may seem at first glance as resuming on-ice activities is one thing but being able to do while taking full contact is another one altogether. Even so, it sure seems like the Golden Knights will get Eichel back well before the end of the season which means their cap crunch is starting to get closer.
The 2022 World Junior Championships will get underway from Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta on Sunday. As is the norm and to be expected from the top U-20 competition in the world, the World Junior tournament field is loaded with drafted NHL talent. While most nations don’t have the prospect depth to form a roster completely composed of NHL prospects and those that do have opted to include some younger, future draft picks, there are still a whopping 106 drafted players on WJC rosters. Nine of ten WJC have at least one current NHL prospect and six of those nine have at least ten draft picks. Those players come from 30 of the NHL’s 32 teams, with the Carolina Hurricanes leading the way with ten prospects. While enjoying the WJC action in the coming days, keep track of who may one day be playing at the highest level:
Arizona Coyotes (1):
F Dylan Guenther, Canada
Boston Bruins (1):
F Fabian Lysell, Sweden
Calgary Flames (1):
F Matt Coronato, USA
Carolina Hurricanes (10):
F Nikita Guslistov, Russia
D Aleski Heimosalmi, Finland
D Ville Koivunen, Finland
D Scott Morrow, USA
F Zion Nybeck, Sweden
D Joel Nystrom, Sweden
F Alexander Pashin, Russia
F Vasily Ponomarev, Russia
G Nikita Quapp, Germany
D Ronan Seeley, Canada
Colorado Avalanche (1):
F Oskar Olausson, Sweden
Detroit Red Wings (8):
G Jan Bednar, Czechia
G Sebastian Cossa, Canada
D Simon Edvinsson, Sweden
F Carter Mazur, USA
F Theodor Niederbach, Sweden
F Redmond Savage, USA
D Donovan Sebrango, Canada
D Eemil Viro, Finland
New York Islanders (0)
San Jose Sharks (1):
F William Eklund, Sweden
Tampa Bay Lightning (0)
Vancouver Canucks (1):
F Dmitry Zlodeyev, Russia
Washington Capitals (1):
F Oskar Magnusson, Sweden
*Switzerland roster pending finalization on Sunday; team has been in COVID-19 quarantine since Thursday but will be ready to begin tournament and participate as schedule, the Swiss announced.
According to The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell, the Washington Capitals placed right wing Tom Wilson on injured reserve, although the move is retroactive to December 10. He hasn’t played the last week as he deals with an upper-body injury. Due to the retroactive nature of the move, he can be activated at any time. The team needed to free up roster space for Garnet Hathaway, though, who came off COVID protocol today, and moving Wilson to injured reserve accomplished that. Wilson’s day-to-day status hasn’t changed. He has nine goals and 15 assists in 27 games this season, on pace for a career-high in points.
More injury notes from around the league:
- Many Vegas Golden Knights fans were concerned when captain Mark Stone missed today’s game with an upper-body injury due to his lengthy absence earlier in the season. However, head coach Peter DeBoer said after the game today that he doesn’t expect Stone to be out long-term. That’s great news for a Vegas team that’s finally getting on a roll after a nightmarish season in terms of health. The team now sits atop the Pacific Division, the place many expected them to be before an injury bug bit the team hard. The captain’s been red-hot recently, scoring four goals and 17 assists in 18 games.
- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Brian Boyle is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and won’t play tonight against the New Jersey Devils, head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed. Pittsburgh somewhat unexpectedly added Boyle, who didn’t play at all in 2020-21, to the roster prior to training camp with injuries to both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin limiting them down the middle. Boyle’s gotten into 19 of Pittsburgh’s 29 games, scoring three goals and providing a good defensive game.
While we wait on news from Calgary on the Flames’ situation, two players from the Atlantic Division are dealing with their own quarantines. The Florida Panthers have announced that Ryan Lomberg will be unavailable tonight due to COVID protocols, while the Boston Bruins announced that Craig Smith has been placed in the protocol.
Neither team confirmed whether or not the players have tested positive, but if they have and are experiencing any symptoms they will be held out a minimum of ten days. The Panthers are set to play the Ottawa Senators this evening and will have to do so without Lomberg, while the Bruins are welcoming in the Vegas Golden Knights without Smith’s help.
The spread of COVID across the league continues, though to this point there have been only three teams that required postponed schedules. Still, the prospect of Olympic participation seems more and more unlikely with each positive case. The league continues to try and navigate the schedule without disruption, meaning for teams like Florida and Boston, they’ll have to make due with a little less depth for the time being.