When the Vegas Golden Knights came into the NHL as an expansion team, like every other expansion team, the roster was made up of castoffs from other teams in the NHL. In other words, these were players who weren’t wanted with their teams and were exposed so that the Golden Knights could pick them.
Traditionally, it’s a recipe for prolonged suffering. That said, this team was different.
The Building of a Team Culture
When these players got to the Golden Knights, this bunch of castoffs had a chip on their shoulders and used that identity to motivate their on-ice performance. And, did they.
Unlike any other expansion team that had come before them, they didn’t suck. In fact, they were
surprisingly good so good that the team actually made it to the Stanley Cup finals. And, until the clock struck midnight on their Cinderella story, they were on their way to creating history.
They were professional hockey players, after all, and they prided themselves on their good play. Many of this same group of people players remain with the team. And, while the players are clinging onto the concept of misfits-turned-favorites, the team seems to be slowly losing their identity. Some players still have a chip on their shoulders. Unfortunately, that chip is there for a different reason.
The Erosion of a Team Culture
As the organization moves pieces around and shows they value busines over loyalty, those players who started on this journey are finding they no longer know their place. Nate Schmidt was one of those players.
Exposed in the expansion draft by the Washington Capitals, he was picked by the Golden Knights where he grew to become a solid top-pairing defenseman. This past week, he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round draft choice in an NHL Entry Draft a couple of years from now – 2022.
Schmidt’s trade suggests just how much things have changed in Las Vegas. Newer players have come, and that same trope often used in movies such as The Replacements no longer completely holds true about the culture.
This last week, Vegas landed the one of this offseason’s most prized free agents when the organization signed Alex Pietrangelo. To do so, as noted, the team traded Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
To be clear, the Golden Knights got back next to nothing for Schmidt – a solid defender who had been with the team since the very first game the team played and was even the player during the Golden Knights’ first season that led the team in ice time.
It was a salary (cap) dump so Pietrangelo could be signed.
Great Players Might Be Signing, But at What Cost?
There’s no question that, as a defenseman, Alex Pietrangelo is an upgrade on Schmidt. Good on them for signing Pietrangelo to a seven-year, $61.6 million contract. But, that the team traded the 29-year-old who had been there from the start didn’t sit well with every player on the team.
As rumor has it, there’s a huge erosion of the same culture that had become the motivating ethos of the team – if not the organization. The rumor also has it that many of the Golden Knights players and their agents are miffed. Why the agents? Because Las Vegas (in Nevada) has very favorable tax advantages, agents might encourage their players to sign team-friendly contacts to play there. However, if there’s no provision for an NMC (no movement clause), that same player could get moved to another city with a much less-favorable tax situation – such as Vancouver (for example).
The Golden Knights Weren’t Just After Pietrangelo
As well, according th Elliotte Friedman in today’s 31 Thoughts report, there were also rumors that Pietrangelo wasn’t the only “superstar” player to be wooed by the team. Friedman noted that the Golden Knights were after both Taylor Hall and Stephen Stamkos.
Specifically, Friedman noted, “I think Vegas was one of the finalists for Taylor Hall. I think they wanted to do it.” It’s clear why Hall didn’t go for it. Friedman added, “I would guess they were offering him around five [million], but they wanted him.” He signed in Buffalo for $3 million more.
Friedman went on: “And I’ll tell you another thing too. There’s a whole situation in Tampa over Steven Stamkos, and I believe Tampa has gone to Stamkos and asked him if he would waive. And I think Vegas at least had a conversation about it.”
Granted, these are great players; however, who else would the team have to “give away” in a trade to dump the salary cap to where signing these players was possible? To make salary-cap space, players such as Max Pacioretty or Jonathan Marchessault would have had to go.
To make the salary cap work, already general manager Kelly McCrimmon traded away two key team members – the top-pairing defenseman Nate Schmidt and the team’s second-line center Paul Stastny to make room under the Golden Knights salary-cap limit.
Had the Golden Knights signed Taylor Hall, who went to the Buffalo Sabres for $8 million on a one-year deal, and Steven Stamkosm who’s earning $8.5 million per season for four more years, what else did the team have to give up in trade?
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