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Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Free agent focus: Vegas Golden Knights

By Vaseline May26,2024

Free agency is now just over a month away and teams are looking forward to it opening. Several impact players will hit the open market in July, while many teams also have key restricted free agents to re-sign. We continue our look around the NHL with an overview of the free agent situation for the Golden Knights.

Major restricted free agents

F Pavel Dorofeev – Dorofeyev made his long-awaited jump to the NHL this season, spending the entire year on the Golden Knights roster for the first time in his career. And although he missed five weeks of action in February and March due to an upper-body injury, Dorofeyev still managed to play a career-high 47 NHL games this season. He made the most of the opportunity, scoring 13 goals and 24 assists and playing a routine role in the team’s power play. The Russian winger has been a go-to pick for the top breakout prospect in Vegas lineups since moving to North America in 2020. He was a little shy of a real one “breakthrough” this season, but he showed impressive goal-scoring ability and seemed much more adapted to the NHL. That likely gets him a cheap short-term deal, but also likely due to a slight increase from the $925,000 salary he had on his entry-level contract. In a year when Vegas’ cap space is at a minimum, Dorofeyev appears to be the closest to a surefire re-signing. He will look to make his mark on Vegas next season with a healthy year.

D Kaedan Korczak – Korczak was Vegas’ go-to call-up when they needed defensive help this season – something that happened often, with each of Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Nicholas HaagAnd Zach Wittewolk Lost a lot of time due to an injury. These absences paved the way for Korczak to play in 26 games. During his official rookie season, Korczak scored one goal and nine points, also recording identical scores in 26 AHL games. Korczak was strong when called upon this season, but didn’t do much to warrant an everyday role. That should lead him to another cheap and short-term contract, though he could benefit from additional ice time if one of Vegas’ seven NHL defensemen doesn’t return.

Other RFAs: F Ivan MorozovG Isaiah SavilleF Mason PrimeauD Layton Achac

Major unrestricted free agents

F Jonathan Marchessault – Marchessault signed a hefty six-year, $30 million contract with the Golden Knights in 2018 after a dazzling 75-point season in his first year with the team. Over the course of six seasons since signing, he has developed into one of Vegas’ first true icons. He has found a way to make a strong impact in every season, winning the 2023 Conn Smythe Trophy in Vegas’ first Stanley Cup victory. But even after all these accolades, Marchessault still saved his best for last, scoring a career-high 42 goals on his way to 69 points in 82 games this season. He is only the second Golden Knight to reach the 40-goal mark and participate William Karlsson‘s 43-goal season in 2017/18. That fact maintains Marchessault’s value even at age 33 and should earn him a sizable raise from his previous salary of $5 million. Vegas would have to make some cap-clearing moves if they wanted to bring back Marchessault. But with such an intricately crafted lineup, Marchessault could finally leave the franchise where he built a legacy.

F Chandler Stephenson – Vegas will watch in pain as they cash out the final check on Stephenson’s four-year, $11 million contract, signed in 2020. The deal cost Stephenson a cap hit of $2.75 million – a price that quickly became one of the most team-friendly contracts in the NHL, as Stephenson solidified his strong role in the team’s middle six. He has remained consistent in every aspect of the game. He scored 51 points in 75 games this season after scoring 64 and 65 respectively the last two years and continued to be a dominant presence on the defensive side of the puck. There’s no telling what price tag he will ask for a new deal. At age 30, Stephenson still has a lot of hockey ahead of him. That, plus his strong scoring and two-way presence, could justify a price as high as $5 million, although he could agree to a new team-friendly deal to stay with the team where he made his mark. But a free agency market is already emerging for Stephenson — and the promise of a higher salary could lead him away from Sin City. If he makes that decision, it will be one of Vegas’ biggest losses.

F Anthony Mantha – Mantha seemingly seemed like an afterthought as the trade deadline approached. Even after 20 goals and 34 points in 56 games with the Washington Capitals, Mantha couldn’t guarantee too rich a return. He was dealt to Vegas just before the deadline for a second-round pick in 2024 and a fourth-round pick in 2026. He made his debut with Vegas on March 7. Mantha then scored 10 points in the last 18 games of the regular season. That brought his tally to 23 goals and 44 points in 74 games, Mantha’s highest since his 25 goals and 48 points in the 2018-19 season. That’s not necessarily a phenomenal score, but it was enough for Mantha to feel comfortable among a Bruce Cassidy-led attack encouraged his power-forward, shoot-first style. Mantha’s chemistry with the team’s style, and ability to produce in an inconsistent third-line role, could be enough for Vegas to invite Mantha back – although he’ll have to settle for a price lower than his previous cap of $5.7 million. His style may also clash a little too much with Dorofeyev – the younger and probably cheaper option. Mantha will have to sell his value to teams as he enters an open market full of reasonably priced goal scorers.

G Jiri Patera – Jiri Patera is Vegas’ lone Free Agent in Group VI this summer after playing six NHL games this season. He posted a modest save percentage of .893 in those appearances, cementing his 11 wins and .903 save percentage in 25 AHL games. Those stats should be enough for Patera to earn a deal close to the league minimum in order to once again serve as an AHL starter competing for a spot on the NHL roster. That could come with Vegas, although the team has already done that Adin Hill, Logan Thompson, Jesper VikmanAnd Carl Lindbom signed to their goalkeeper’s room. That room might be a little too crowded for Patera, who would otherwise be on his way to unrestricted free agency.

Other UFAs: F Michael AmadioF Willem DragerD Alec MartinezF Sheldon RempalF Byron Froese

Projected cap space

The story of the Vegas offseason is one of little to no limits. They enter the summer with just $900,000 in available cap space. That is largely due to Noah HanifinThe eight-year, $58.8 million contract extension takes effect, increasing his cap hit by nearly $6 million from his prorated $1.2375 million cap hit with Vegas this season after 75 percent of his salary was withheld during his Trade Deadline promotion. It seems the endless addition of expensive star talent is finally catching up with Vegas – although fans have been fooled into thinking that before. The Golden Knights will likely lose one of their two notable UFAs – Marchessault and Stephenson – even though they have a depth defenseman like Brayden McNabbor a pricey forward like Nicholas Royto build enough cap space to sign the other.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Contract information courtesy of Cap friendly.

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