The Vegas Golden Knights are in a unique LTIR situation, and the Canucks could take advantage of it
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
7 months ago
It’s hard to say that the existence of the Vegas Golden Knights has been a net-positive for the Vancouver Canucks.
Sure, the expansion fee was nice, and it’s always cool to have another team in the same time zone.
Beyond that, however, the Golden Knights have been bad for the Canucks at nearly every turn. They’ve finished far higher in the standings than the Canucks in each of the five seasons since they joined the league. The Canucks’ all-time record against the Knights? 5-9-2.
And the one time that the Canucks actually made the playoffs in the past five years, who was it who knocked them out?
Oh right, it was the Golden Knights.
Which is all a roundabout way of saying that it’s about time that the Canucks got some good out of their second-newest division rivals, and with the current LTIR situation going on in Vegas, that time may have finally come.
As of this writing, the Golden Knights are one point out of the Pacific lead, and seem well on their way to cruising toward another playoff berth. Which is, of course, all part of the plan. Unlike most expansion teams, Vegas was always built for the now, not the future. In fact, strange as it is to say, they’re so present-day-loaded that their contention window could already be on the way to closing, here just half a decade past their founding.
Most of their core consists of veterans in their 30s. Alex Pietrangelo, 33. Mark Stone, 30. Jonathan Marchessault, 32. Reilly Smith, 31.
Jack Eichel and Logan Thompson stand out as two key pieces that are locked in and still in their prime. Beyond them, however, the Knights are extremely light on young players and prospects.
What we’re really emphasizing here is that the Golden Knights can’t really afford to wait around for next year. With the way that they’re built, every year has to be “the year” to go for it.
Which is why it’s particularly unfortunate that they’ve been so hammered with injuries in the 2022/23 season. Or, if you’re a team looking to take advantage of their situation, it could be considered particularly fortunate.
Robin Lehner has missed and will miss the entirety of the season. Shea Weber is in LTIRetirement. And, it was announced just last week that Mark Stone would undergo back surgery and be gone for at least the remainder of the regular season, if not the playoffs, too.
Now, that’s an awful lot of talent on the sidelines, and the loss of Stone hits especially hard. But, as we said at the outset, the Golden Knights simply cannot afford to give up on the season because of it. They’re going to have to find a way to make up for the losses somehow, or else watch their Cup contention window inch even closer to slamming shut.
In this, their abundance of potential LTIR space will come in mighty handy. Even with Stone still on the roster, the Golden Knights have nearly $4 million in LTIR relief available to them at the Trade Deadline. As soon as Stone gets placed on LTIR, that number jumps up to an astonishing $13.38 million in spending space. That’s an awful lot of money to play around with.
The aforementioned Thompson has ably covered Lehner in the crease. And Weber was never really part of the plan on the blueline. Thus, it’s the absence of Stone and his scoring that the Golden Knights will be attempting to make up for as they throw around their extra cash at the deadline.
And who do we know that has a bunch of productive, yet expensive, forwards available for trade?
Enter the Vancouver Canucks.
Should Vegas go hunting for a replacement winger, the Canucks would be able to offer them options. The most direct comparable is probably Brock Boeser, who plays the same side as Stone and could theoretically replace him on the power play. Conor Garland could be an enticing option, too, and he does seem to play a real Vegas-style of hockey. Perhaps even the newly-acquired Anthony Beauvillier could be of interest to a Golden Knights team still occasionally accused of being too slow.
Each of those players is signed beyond this year, but that’s not the end of the world for the Knights. For one, Weber is never coming off of LTIR, and Lehner might not, either. That’s still a lot of extra cap space moving forward. Vegas also does not have any major new contracts to hand out until at least 2024, and as we already mentioned, they don’t have any up-and-coming players to worry about saving a raise for.
The Golden Knights have cash to burn now and in the years to come. Which brings us to our actual, central suggestion:
Vegas should make a trade for JT Miller.
Whether on the wing or pushing Chandler Stephenson and William Karlsson down the center depth chart, Miller fits into the Golden Knights lineup like a glove in the present day. He plays a hard forechecking style similar to what their franchise tries to exude, and has an attitude that just screams “Vegas.” In terms of outright replacing Stone’s offensive production, there’s very little chance of the Golden Knights doing better than Miller on the trade market. The only available forwards even comparable to Miller in this regard are Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko, and at this point in their respective careers, Miller is probably the most valuable of the bunch.
As an added bonus, Miller only hits the cap at a pro-rated $5.25 million for the rest of this season, giving Vegas plenty of room for a couple of rentals, too.
Starting next year, of course, Miller’s seven year, $8 million AAV extension kicks in. But even that might be far less of a problem for the Golden Knights than it would be for the Canucks. For one, Miller’s age just happens to line up perfectly with the already-established core. For two, Vegas is already set up to chase success now and suffer the consequences in the future. What’s one more expensive and aging vet contract on a team that’s full of them?
If acquiring Miller is the difference between the Golden Knights winning a Stanley Cup in the next couple of years or not, they won’t mind nearly as much when they’re paying a 35-year-old Miller $8 million to pot 20 goals. The job will have already been done.
Really, a trade of Miller to Vegas comes across as a win-win-win. Vegas maintains their contender status, Miller goes to a franchise that will appreciate him more, and the Canucks get out from under a millstone contract before it even begins. Hey, chances are pretty good that the Golden Knights would even throw a few choice assets, like their 2023 first rounder, back in exchange for Miller. That’s just gravy.
The Vegas Golden Knights have been routinely taking advantage of the Vancouver Canucks ever since expanding into the league. Isn’t it about time that the Canucks took advantage of them?
The path is there, should the Canucks choose to take it.
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