Logical options for the expansion Golden Knights
There will be a great many unrestricted free agents after this season, all of which could be signed by the brand-new team in Las Vegas. Here are the players who will be available that the Golden Knights could and should realistically sign if they want to be a competitive NHL team over their first few seasons.
Joe Thornton – Thornton is 37 years of age, and still putting up points. His current 41 points in 65 games played is still very good as gets toward the end of his career. His current $6.75 million cap hit could be an issue for most teams, but if Vegas can sign him for 1-2 years at less money than that, he’d be a great temporary player to invest in.
Patrick Marleau – Like his San Jose Sharks teammate, Marleau is 37 years old and still producing at a decent rate. His 37 points in 65 games this season is nothing to be upset about, and his age, like Thornton, could be a good reason to sign him short term for less money. These two players could be valuable assets over the next 1-3 years for the Knights as they establish themselves as a real NHL team.
Ben Bishop – Starting goalie for the Vegas Golden Knights starting immediately. Bishop’s $5.95 million cap hit could be an issue as his performance this season has been less than stellar, but the twice Vezina nominated goaltender is only 30 years old, and becoming the first ever starting goaltender for the new franchise might be just the confidence booster he needs.
Patrick Sharp – Three time Stanley Cup champion with the Blackhawks, now playing with the much weaker Dallas Stars, and having a bad season. His 18 points in 40 games is not the pace at which Sharp normally produces, but again, this could be something Vegas takes advantage of in getting a good player and winning veteran in their lineup for a lesser price. Sharp is 35 years old with a current cap hit of $5.9 million.
Brooks Laich – The Toronto Maple Leafs centreman is 33 years old with making $4.5 million per season. He has always been a very serviceable and useful bottom six forward and special teams player. Laich would be a veteran presence in the locker room, and bring an unmatched work ethic to Vegas that any team would love to have. He could most likely be signed for half his current cap hit.
Dmitry Kulikov – The 26-year-old defenseman has not produced at all this season defensively. His $4.33 million cap hit is not very attractive currently with his 1 goal and 1 assist across 39 games, but with him still being at a young age and having showed promise in his previous years with the Florida Panthers, signing him to a cheaper deal could prove advantageous for the new hockey club.
Kevin Shattenkirk – Why would the Golden Knights not want Shattenkirk? The most sought after player at the trade deadline will finish his season with the Washington Capitals, but will most likely not be re-signed by them or the St Louis Blues. Shattenkirk is one of the premiere offensive defensemen in the league, and at the age of 28, could be Vegas’ top defenseman for years to come. His current cap hit is $4.25 million per season and would most likely need to rise for his next contract. Shattenkirk has 44 points in 65 games this season.
TJ Oshie – Shattenkirk’s teammate with St Louis and now Washington, Vegas could just keep them together. Oshie is a solid top six forward who won’t break the bank. At 30-years-old, the Golden Knights could sign him to a 3-5-year contract confidently and his current 44 points in 52 games will probably carry over for a few more seasons.
Michael Stone – Calgary Flames defenseman who they acquired at the trade deadline. He is a solid bottom four defenseman with some offensive upside. At only 26-years-old, Stone could be of use to the Knights for quite a few years. A 4-6-year contract around his current $4 million cap hit would suffice. The defenseman has 11 points in 52 games this season.
Michael Del Zotto – 26-year-old Philadelphia Flyers defenseman has shown flashes of brilliances in the last few years. While inconsistent, he has been among the Flyers top defensemen at times. He has 12 points in 36 games this season, and with a cap hit of only $3.875 million, a 4-6-year contract could be great for him to continue his partying lifestyle in Sin City.
Cody Franson – Like the previous two, this defenseman has shown offensive upside and brilliance in his career, but has failed to consistently perform at a high level. He currently has 19 points in 60 games for the Buffalo Sabres, and his $3.325 million cap hit is nothing to complain about. He was a consistent 30-point-scorer with the Maple Leafs in previous seasons. Throw the 29-year-old a 2-4-year contract and see how it goes.
Martin Hanzal – Currently being rented by the Minnesota Wild, Hanzal has been plagued by playing for the Coyotes for his entire career. He has 315 career points in about double the amount of games played, but as he’s been with one of the worst teams in the NHL for all those points, that’s impressive. Give this man some teammates to play with and he could become your second line center. The 30-year-old Czech has 29 points in 56 games this season, and a cap hit of $3.1 million.
Karl Alzner – Another late twenties defenseman? Why not? At only 28-years-old and a less than $3 million cap hit, give this man a 3-5-year deal and keep him on your bottom pairing. He’s always been serviceable for the star-studded Capitals. Alzner has 13 points in 65 games this season.
Tommy Wingels – Another player who has shown flashes of brilliance in his career. A bottom six forward who kills penalties, and can put up some points when he wants to. At only 28 years old and $2.475 per season, Wingels would be a solid player to have in the Vegas lineup for a few years to come.
Darcy Kuemper – Future Vezina winner Devan Dubnyk has driven Kuemper out of Minnesota. He’s gone from goalie of the future to back up to unrestricted free agent after this season. Kuemper has been great at times for the Wild, and even started successfully for some time in previous seasons. However, Dubnyk is the clear starter, and earlier this season the team signed former Sharks backup Alex Stalock to play for their AHL affiliate. Stalock will most likely backup Dubnyk next season. At only 26-years-old, Kuemper would be a solid backup option for the Knights. His cap hit of only $1.55 million per season is very attractive.
Sam Gagner – Only paid $650,000 a year, currently has 40 points in 64 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Vegas would be smart to sign Gagner to a 2-4-year deal worth a little more than he currently makes. Gagner is another player who has been fantastic at times in his career, but just needs to find a home where he can perform at a high level consistently.
Scott Darling – Darling is probably good enough to be a starter for any team in the league. As the backup to Corey Crawford in Chicago, the 28-year-old has a .931% save percentage and a 2.13 goals against average. His low cap hit of only $587,500 could be used to Vegas’ advantage if they were to sign him as their starter or backup, his young age for a goalie could mean they can comfortably lock him down to a 4-6-year contract.