Vegas quietly enjoyed their most successful season to date, without any of the support coming from a player that they’ve drafted. The Knights set franchise records in wins, points, goals scored, winning percentage, and home wins, while also recording the fewest losses, fewest home losses, and fewest goals against in franchise history.
Looking back at the team over the last 3 years:
While the team should’ve managed their endorsements better, the plan for the season, coupled with the results of the first ten games, did not give much of an indication that this season would be almost 30 points better. The Knights started the season with a shutout loss to the Stars, followed by shootout and regulation losses to the Yotes. They then edged the Bruins in a shootout, before losing to Detroit and Buffalo (shutout). Winless in regulation in the first six games is hardly an inspiration, and just seemed par for the course of the Knights’ past results and long-term vision. A decisive 3 - 2 victory against the Blues was the first regulation victory of the season, which was quickly followed by defeats at the hands of the mighty Hawks and Avalanche. Then came another win, this time against the Isles, and it was decision time. With six points in the first ten games, just two regulation wins, a negative goal differential, and having been shut out twice, the Knights felt safest with the most generic of all endorsements: Comcast.
Part of the Knights plan was to trade netminder Pavel Francouz, a rookie who, at 79 OV, with a $1,000,000 contract and waiver exemption, should’ve had his choice of suitors, but didn’t end up moving. Now, with dynamic ratings, having had a year off to recover, and playing for a stacked Avalanche (NHL) team, he’s an obvious choice for a loyalty and long-term contract. With two of the highest rated goalies in the league (Kuemper and Hellebuyck) still in the playoffs, one of them guaranteed to play for the Cup, both of whom were runners up for the Vezina last year, the importance of having strength at goaltending cannot be understated. Add to that that Keumper and Vasilevskiy won the Cup the two previous years, Vasilevskiy and Hellebuyck won the Vezina the two years previous, and all three are the highest rated goalies in the league, no GM should ever make the mistakes of selling a goalie for pennies, or missing the opportunity to buy one at a discounted price.
All things considered, with lots of dead weight being shed from the roster, several roster spots available, the strength of Weber, Ristolainen, and Subban on the blueline, and Francouz in net, and plenty of financial flexibility, the Knights are poised to continue to build on their successes this year.
(Below contains part one, published yesterday)
The Entry Draft is always the start of a new season. For the Knights, many changes have been made in the last 365 days, with two of the most important being who they added to their roster in the 2020 Draft; superstar forward Tim Stützle and phenom goalie Yaroslav Askarov.
Stützle put up 12 goals and 29 points in 53 games with the Senators this year. Two highlights from his heason include 10 points in 14 games in February, earning him Rookie of the Month honours, and a hat-trick against the Jets on May 8th. His 5 goals and 10 points in five games with Germany at the WJC were the third highest point total, placing him fourth in tournament scoring.
Despite having an underwhelming World Juniors, Askarov still posted a .951 SV% and 1.21 GAA in nine games against men in the world’s second-best hockey league, the KHL. As a 2002 player, he’ll get another chance to prove himself in the WJC. In the move to acquire Askarov, Vegas surrendered Devon Toews, Jesperi Kotkaneimi, and VGK 2020 Rnd 2.
Other significant changes for the Knights included trading for Rasmus Ristolainen who, despite missing 6 games, led the team in assists (44), points (53 - tied), time on ice/game (23.1), and points per game (0.70). The cost of adding him to the franchise was insignificant, as management was able to capitalize on a situation which was unfortunate for the Lightning. Going the other way were Kurtis MacDermid (waivers), Allan McShane (drafted), DET 2021 Rnd 5 and LOS 2022 Rnd 3.
Boone Jenner was the other leading point getter for the Knights (53 - tied), while also pacing the team in goals (27), powerplay goals (6 - tied), game-winning goals (6), and points per 20 min (0.71). As far as waiver adds go, you couldn’t ask for more. As a 27 year-old RFA, he’s earned the right to come back next year.
To recap other moves:
IN - Matthew Peca, Andrew Ladd, Craig Anderson, Drake Rymsha, Alexander Khovanov, Andrew Shortridge, Colin Wilson, P.K. Subban, NJD 2021 Rnd 7, $195,000.
OUT - Reese Johnson, Lucas Carlsson, Yegor Zaitsev, Corey Schneider, Eetu Makeneimi, WASH 2021 Rnd 2, LOS 2021 Rnd 3