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Knights on Ice — You Can Play Salary-Cap Gymnastics for Only So Long
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For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Las Vegas, NV
Friday, April 2, 2021


The VGK’s salary-cap gymnastics over the last 2 seasons finally reared their ugly head last night in the heartbreaking 3-2 shootout loss at T-Mobile. It got to the point where they couldn’t put 18 players on the ice.

I’m calling it heartbreaking, because Robin Lehner played his heart out, stopping 35 of the 37 shots he faced. More than a few of his 35 saves were spectacular. He also stopped 7 of the 8 shots Minnesota generated on their 3 power plays.

Unfortunately, 180 feet away, Cam Talbot was having just as good a night guarding the Minnesota net. Talbot also stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced. Talbot robbed Keegan Kolesar last night of 2 sure goals for the rookie, who is officially snake bitten. Kolesar actually stood behind the net after the 2nd save on the same shift and just looked up to the T-Mobile roof and laughed, clearly out of frustration.

The Minnesota Wild sits right behind Vegas in 3rd place in the Honda West Division. It was an important game and a potential playoff matchup in the first-round if everything remains status quo. Vegas did earn one point with the shootout loss which ties them with Colorado for first place; both teams have played the same number of games. Last night’s loss was the second in a row at T-Mobile, a first this season. It was also the first time in the DeBoer era that Vegas has lost 2 games in a row.

With Chandler Stephenson receiving a 3-game suspension for his elbow to the head of the L.A. King’s Tobias Bjornfot in Wednesday’s game and Ryan Reaves scratched with an injury, along with Zach Whitecloud who was injured late in Wednesday’s game, Vegas was prohibited from dressing 2 forwards to replace Reaves and Stephenson because they have virtually zero cap space. The current cap is $81.5 million; the combined salaries of the 23 players on the VGK roster add up to $81,202,438, leaving a little over $413,000 in cap room. The lowest salary on the team is Zach Whitecloud’s at $725,000, so they’re between a rock and Gary Bettman’s restricted salary cap. The only relief in sight is if they move Reaves to LTIR.

Vegas is allowed 25 players, but can carry only 23 players, due to the bigger contracts: Stone $9.5 million, Pietrangelo $8.8 million, Pacioretty $7 million, and Fleury $7 million. Last night, Dylan Coghlan was considered an emergency call-up, so none of his salary is applied to the team’s daily cap calculations.

As you recall, Vegas played Wednesday’s game shorthanded as well. They were allowed 1 emergency call up and they used that to fill Whitecloud’s spot on the back end with Coghlan. Vegas will be allowed a 2nd emergency call-up for tomorrow’s game based on skating with a shortened roster last night also.

Vegas dressed just 10 forwards, 2 less than the normal lineup. It clearly had a negative effect on last night’s game as the Knights didn’t have a 4th line in the second of back-to-back games. Some of the forwards had ice times similar to what the 6 defensemen log every game. Smith, Stone, Pacioretty, Karlsson, and Marchessault all had in excess of 20 minutes of ice time. Smith was low, if you want to call 21:12 of ice time low, and Stone had the most with 25:04. In some good news, the team has a day off today to rest and recoup for Saturday’s rematch.

In a number of games this year, Vegas had 13 forwards and only 5 defensemen in their attempt to dance around the salary cap. It also avoided sending Kolesar down, as he would have to clear waivers. Cody Glass is exempt from waivers — thus, his demotion to the HSK without having to clear them.
Brayden McNabb was not only crushing any Minnesota player who dared come near him with the puck last night, but he also scored a huge goal early in the 3rd period to give Vegas the lead 2-1. It was McNabb’s first goal since Nov. 21, 2019, which was 66 games ago. Vegas is excellent in protecting 3rd period leads, but last night’s game was anything but normal. It was like a game on a frozen lake with lots of offensive rushes up and down the ice. If you were one of the 3,950 in attendance, you sure got your money’s worth. This was a very entertaining game for the fans, not so much for the coaches.

The VGK continue to struggle on the power play and could not convert on any of their 4, including one in overtime. On the OT power play, William Karlsson had 2 glorious scoring chances off passes from Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, but Talbot stoned both. Max Pacioretty, the VGK leading goal scorer, didn’t have a shot on goal until overtime and he put it directly into Talbot’s chest.

Jared Spurgeon scored the Wild’s power play goal of the game in the 3rd period to tie send it to overtime and the shootout. One goal was scored in the shootout, but that was enough, as none of the VGK shooters — Marchessault, Theodore, and Tuch — could beat Talbot. The one shootout goal was an unfortunate way for Lehner to lose the game: The shot hit the post and as it was headed back out of danger, it bounced off the back of Lehner’s leg and trickled into the net.

One other note. After Wednesday’s game, I questioned why Pete Deboer didn’t dress an extra player for the warmups, knowing that Ryan Reaves might not be available. I wasn’t aware that dressing an extra player for the warmups would put the VGK into a cap violation. My apologies for questioning DeBoer with incomplete information.

My 3 Stars of the Game
1) Cam Talbot (35 saves on 37 shots; he played the best game of his career)
2) Robin Lehner (35 saves on 37 shots; this may have been Robin’s best game as a VGK)
3) William Karlsson (1G on 3 shots and 2 glorious scoring chances in OT, denied by Talbot)

Next game is tomorrow vs. Minnesota at 6 p.m. Pacific Time at T-Mobile.

If you want to hear and see more VGK content please check out the podcast I do with Eddie Rivkin on YouTube it’s called Hockey Nights in Vegas
Here is a link to our previous podcast.

Your comments and opinions are welcome here at Las Vegas Advisor or you may contact me directly at [email protected] or on my Facebook page or the Facebook page of Vegas Hockey Guy or on Twitter @TheRealJoePane.

One other note: If you’re reading this blog from Facebook or Twitter and would like to access it earlier in the morning before I share it on social media, it’s usually published by 8 a.m. the morning after a game on LasVegasAdvisor.com. What better way is there to enjoy your morning coffee than reading my take on last night’s VGK game?

Talbot robs Kolesar

Big save by Lehner in the 3rd period

The winning goal from the shootout

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