Since joining the league during the 2017 NHL season, the Vegas Golden Knights have been a contender in the Western Conference. They shocked the league by owning the best winning percentage of any expansion team during their first season of play.
Adding onto the lure of the Golden Knights, Vegas toppled over other Western Conference foes to reach the Stanley Cup finals. While they ultimately fell short of the most prized possession in hockey, the Knights put the rest of the league on watch that they weren’t going to be doormats to the veteran teams in the NHL.
Since the Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup, they have been contenders in the NHL and are under the watchful eye of the rest of the league. One of the reasons the Knights stay atop the league and Conference standings is their ability to spend money.
Just this off-season, the Knights’ front office were able to sign the best player in Free Agency: Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. The contract came at a hefty price, with Pietrangelo signing for seven-years at $61.6 million. That move put the Golden Knights way over the salary cap, prompting Vegas to make some tough decisions.
Vegas traded away Nate Schmidt ($5.95 million cap hit) but that still leaves the Knights over the salary cap by $1 million. With Vegas being over the salary cap, questions have come to the front office about how they are going to shed salary to be compliant for next season.
One of the biggest rumors in the NHL right now is that Max Pacioretty may be the next Golden Knight moved.
Pacioretty joined the Knights in September of 2018 during a blockbuster trade with the Montreal Canadiens. After being traded, Pacioretty signed a four-year extension with the team. He has three more years on the deal which carries a hefty $7-million cap hit.
The 32-year-old is coming off a career-high in several categories. He led Vegas in goals (32) and points (66) while mirroring his career-high in assists with 34.
Pacioretty has been a target for many teams, considering his consistency on the ice since joining the NHL. Pacioretty can play top-line minutes and can be utilized in special areas like the power play or penalty kill.
Despite Pacioretty’s popularity around the league, Golden Knights owner Bill Foley shot down the idea that he was on the trade block.
“We’re not shopping Patches,” Foley said. “We do have cap issues, and so some of those things have to be resolved as we go forward, we started getting into the season. But he definitely is not being shopped.”
With such a statement, it will be interesting to see what Vegas does to be salary cap compliant. There are a number of players the Knights could trade with a lesser cap hit than Pacioretty, but Pacioretty also brings the most value back in terms of salary gained and potential trade return.