a horrible asset management history amid Max Pacioretty’s departure
The Vegas Golden Knights were once a highly regarded organization. Entering the league in 2017, the team made shrewd moves that led to immediate and unprecedented success.
Vegas made the Stanley Cup Finals in its first year of existence. They were three games away from winning the Stanley Cup. It looked like the Knights would be a force for years to come.
Although they have been good for the past few years, things have fallen apart a bit. The shrewd gestures they made at the beginning of their existence turned into puzzles. And the Golden Knights missed the playoffs for the first time last season.
There’s one major reason the Golden Knights’ fortunes plummeted: asset management. Vegas has shown horrible asset management in recent years. And that has led the teams around them to improve when they tend to decline.
Let’s look at their wheeling and dealing history, starting with the 2017 expansion draft. We’ll see what they got and what it did for them in the long run.
Before the team hit the ice, they needed some training. The NHL scheduled an expansion draft, in which they were allowed to select one player from each of the league’s existing teams.
Still, the Golden Knights came out of this draft with multiple players from certain teams due to some side trades they made. And to the team’s credit, a lot of those moves still work. For instance:
- The Vegas Golden Knights acquired forward Riley Smith from the Florida Panthers in exchange for agreeing to select forward Jonathan Marchessault and a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Smith and Marchessault are still quality contributors to Vegas. Smith recently signed a three-year extension.
- The Vegas Golden Knights acquired defenseman Shea Theodore from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a deal to select defenseman Clayton Stoner. Theodore is still a quality contributor to Vegas. He signed a seven-year, $36 million contract extension in 2018.
- The Vegas Golden Knights acquired a 2017 first-round pick, a 2019 second-round pick and forward David Clarkson from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for agreeing to select forward William Karlsson. Karlsson scored 43 goals and led the team in points in 2017-18, and remains with the team to this day.
These are moves that, arguably, worked in the team’s favor. And the team has also received decent service from a few draft picks who remain with the team.
Forward William Carrier was the Knights selection from the Buffalo Sabres, a selection secured through a side deal. He has played 227 games for the Knights since their arrival and has been a dependable last-six forward who recently had his career-best season.
Defenseman Brayden McNabb was the selection of the Los Angeles Kings. He appeared in 338 games for Vegas and was a reliable top-six option who managed to carve out a place despite a flurry of blueline acquisitions.
However, there is one player the Golden Knights acquired in the draft who deserves special mention. He’s the first example we’re going to look at to demonstrate just how bad team asset management is.
The Golden Knights acquired a 2020 second-round pick from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for agreeing to take goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft.
It made sense to both parties. The Penguins had behind him a young upstart in the person of Matt Murray. Murray dominated the playoffs and helped the Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups.
For Vegas, the new franchise needed a name to sell in the local market as the face of the organization. And Fleury did the trick. A three-time Stanley Cup champion who was a future Hall of Famer.
Fleury was excellent in Sin City. He was 117-60-14 in 192 regular season games, with a .917 save percentage and a 2.41 goals-against average. In the playoffs, he posted a .920 save percentage and a 2.25 goals-against average in 47 games. Fleury won the Vézina Trophy awarded to the best goaltender in the league in 2020-21.
However, the Knights found themselves at a crossroads this past offseason. The team could use the cap space, and the veteran goaltender was expected to earn $7 million this season.
Despite Fleury’s desire to stay in Vegas, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for forward Mikael Hakkarainen. They almost immediately placed Hakkarainen on a waiver with the intention of mutually terminating his contract.
The Knights received virtually nothing in exchange for Fleury. They traded the best goaltender in their franchise’s brief history for nothing. Sure, they had a reliable option on Robin Lehner, but you still gotta get something for a franchise legend.
Fleury’s stay in Chicago was not long. He was returned at the trade deadline with the Minnesota Wild. However, Fleury played well enough to make the playoffs. The Golden Knights, on the other hand, did not. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.
The situation of Evgenii Dadonov
Vegas themselves made some noise at the 2022 trade deadline, but it wasn’t necessarily the right kind of noise. The Knights attempted to trade Evgenii Dadonov to the Anaheim Ducks.
Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal. However, they were unable to complete the deal due to a 10-team no-trade clause that Dadonov filed with his previous team, the Ottawa Senators.
The Ducks were on that list, and the list was valid. Still, the Golden Knights claimed they weren’t told about the no-trade clause. And it doesn’t seem like they even asked the question when they initially inquired about him.
The trade with Anaheim was canceled and it was incredibly embarrassing for the league. Dadonov returned to the Knights and played well throughout the streak.
He actually played so well that the Knights traded him again this offseason. They traded him to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for injured defenseman Shea Weber.
Weber has missed the entire 2021-22 season due to injury. And the veteran defenseman is unlikely to play another NHL game.
It’s another example of the Golden Knights taking a player who produced for them and getting nothing of value in return.
Now we come to the most recent example. Pacioretty was the Canadiens’ captain for a long time. However, he was expected to test the open market in 2019. This created an opportunity for Montreal to move their star.
And the Golden Knights burst in. They traded Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a 2019 second-round pick for Pacioretty in September 2018.
Tatar might have a section dedicated to itself. The Knights sent first-, second-, and third-round picks to the Detroit Red Wings for the forward. Months later, he was the victim of a cap.
Pacioretty was very valuable to the Golden Knights. He topped the 30-goal mark in 2019-20 and was nearly one point per game last season playing just 39 games.
The Golden Knights, once again, needed cap space. So they traded the 33-year-old along with defenseman Dylan Coghlan to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for future considerations. In the NHL, future considerations are usually nothing.
This move is especially egregious considering what the Knights gave up to get Pacioretty to start. Tatar found himself in Montreal a bit, even recording a career-high 61 points in 2019-20.
The bigger piece, however, was Suzuki. The Golden Knights drafted him in 2017, using a pick they acquired from the Winnipeg Jets in the expansion draft. He’s a star in Montreal and he helped them to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.
Vegas gave up a legit star and dependable player for Pacioretty, then moved Pacioretty for nothing. They have nothing to show for Pacioretty’s move, and that’s absolutely awful.
This piece could last forever. Sportsnet wrote an article detailing every instance the Knights took a player and traded him just to get his salary off the books.
These are just the most egregious examples of Vegas incompetence. The Knights missed the playoffs in part because of injuries to their top stars. It’s just to say.
However, they also missed the playoffs in part due to their horrible asset management. Vegas continually got itself into a hole where its only recourse was to trade a very capable player for next to nothing. Or, just trade that player for nothing in return.
If the Knights are to return to the playoffs and reach the heights they reached in their very first season, things need to change sooner rather than later.