Ask Vegas Golden Knights Golden Knights owner Bill Foley if Max Pacioretty is going to be traded and you will get the straight skinny. Foley told News 3 Las Vegas that the Knights are "not “shopping” Pacioretty. Foley said he sees Pacioretty often as they are neighbors.
So much for the Patches trade rumors.
Foley is not the general manager of the Golden Knights. However, he signs all the checks and the pit boss has a lot of say about the final decisions that impact the current and future rosters of the Golden Knights. Foley knows the score. The Knights are scraping the salary cap ceiling and they need to shed a large contract or two to insure their salary cap compliance when the 2021 NHL season begins on or around January 13.
Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon already has $82 million committed for the 2021 season. The Knights already have $76 million committed for the 2021-22 season.
Two months ago, the Golden Knights went out on a legendary bender and landed themselves in salary cap jail.
The lovable Marc Andre Fleury was demoted to the baseball cap guy during the Stanley Cup playoffs when Pete DeBoer rode Robin Lehner to the finish line. Fleury and his agent were not keen on the idea but it didn't matter. The chatter turned to truth when Lehner was signed to a five-year, $25 million contract. Kelly McCrimmon said Fleury would not be traded despite Vegas re-signing Lehner. Fleury has two seasons remaining on his contract at $7 million per season.
Vegas traded veteran forward Paul Stastny ($6.5M AAV) to the Winnipeg Jets on October 9. McCrimmon then traded veteran defenseman Nate Schmidt ($5.95M AAV) to the Vancouver Canucks on October 12. Later that day, McCrimmon signed St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo to a massive seven-year, $61.6 million contract that carries a whopping $8.8M AAV.
The Pietrangelo trade sent shock waves through the formerly tight-knit Vegas room. Stastny and Schmidt were core players and key contributors. Shock waves started echoing around the NHL about the blatant disrespect that Golden Knights ownership and management was showing by dumping veterans to create enough cap space to sign an expensive unrestricted free agent. Veteran defenseman Alec Martinez has one year remaining at $4M AAV and has zero trade protection. Knights fans questioned why Schmidt was dealt away instead of Martinez.
Pacioretty, 32, led the Golden Knights in goals (32) and points (66) in 2019-20. Pacioretty is the owner of a $7M AAV which is guaranteed for the next three years seasons. Good luck finding a trade partner for Pacioretty's $7 million contract. Fleury's $7 million albatross of a contract. Additionally, Pacioretty and Fleury are holding firmly to their ten team modified no movement clauses.
The Pacioretty contract isn't going anywhere between now and the end of the 2021 regular season. I see Pacioretty being traded next summer. The NHL salary cap is $81.5 million this season and money is too tight to mention. There are only a few NHL clubs that can actually facilitate the Pacioretty contract. Just because a few teams like the Devils, Kings, and Predators can afford to add Pacioretty's $7 million contract doesn't mean there is a positional fit nor organizational need.
When healthy, Pacioretty is a proven scorer and a team leader.
In 2021, the Vegas Golden Knights pay their top forward trio of Max Pacioretty-William Karlsson-Mark Stone a combined $22.4 million or 27.5% of the team's salary cap. Pacioretty counts $7M AAV, Karlsson $5.9M AAV and Stone $9.5M AAV. The trio is earning their keep and finished the 2019-20 season first, second and fifth in team scoring, respectively.
So, if trading Pacioretty and Fleury are out of the question, which high priced veteran(s) will be leaving Las Vegas?
Pacioretty, Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Jonathon Marchessault, and Reilly Smith all have trade protection. Stone has a full no move clause while Pacioretty and Karlsson have ten team no movement clauses and Marchessault and Smith have eight team modified no movement clauses.
Winger Alex Tuch is a very compelling trade target. Tuch, 24, is big, fast, skilled and not afraid to get his nose dirty. Tuch is entering his prime years and led the Golden Knights with 8 goals scored in 20 playoff games played. In 200 career regular season games, Tuch has scored 43 goals and 63 assists. In 2018-19, Tuch scored career highs in goals (20) and points (52). Tuch is ready to achieve the high expectations placed upon him. I'm confident that he will score 30-35 goals this season. In 47 career playoff games, Tuch has potted 15 goals and 9 assists for 24 points. What makes Tuch so attractive as a trade target for teams is a combination of his elite level speed and scoring as well as his cost controlled contract. Tuch is entering year two of a seven year contract that has him g $4.75M counting AAV against the salary cap.
Count the Buffalo Sabres, San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators as being very interested in acquiring Tuch from the Golden Knights.
Why would the Golden Knights trade Tuch? They don't want to but they may have no other choice but to do so.