While the season’s upon us, there are still a few decisions to made regarding current unsigned free agents and more. Several teams are over the National Hockey League’s $81.5 million salary cap and will need to be compliant before the season begins on Jan. 13th.
One of those teams is the Vegas Golden Knights, who currently sit over the cap at $82,474,104.
Max Pacioretty’s name has come up in the latest round of trade rumors, but he’ll be the first to admit that’s nothing new, since he was subject to many rumors in his time with the Montreal Canadiens for about a decade before the Habs shipped him to Vegas on Sept. 10, 2018, for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a 2019 2nd round pick (that originally belonged to the Columbus Blue Jackets and was later flipped to the Los Angeles Kings).
Pacioretty carries a $7.000 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season and has a modified no-trade clause.
Considering his longstanding disdain for the Boston Bruins as an opponent, as well as the fact that Boston doesn’t really have the workable cap space (about $3.000 million) to take on Pacioretty without giving up part of the core, the B’s aren’t likely to take a flyer unless they’re bold enough to go all-in on “win now” mode.
There’s actually something most of the Golden Knights core has in common, however– they all have modified no-trade clauses except for defender, Shea Theodore, who just had a bit of a breakout year (13-33–46 totals in 71 games last season).
It’s not likely that Vegas will shift from scooping up William Karlsson, making him into a 40-goal scorer in their inaugural season, then sending him packing in only their fourth season of existence, but they could try to move someone that’s a little more cap friendly by about $900,000 in annual cap hit.
Jonathan Marchessault has come up in the rumor mill and would be a quality second line asset for the Bruins to inquire about.
He reached the 30-goal plateau in 75 games with the Florida Panthers in 2016-17– his first full season– and has put up three consecutive seasons of 20 goals or more since with the Golden Knights, recording career-highs in assists (48) and points (75) in 77 games with Vegas in 2017-18.
At 29-years-old, Marchessault is in the midst of his prime, can play left or right wing and carries a $5.000 million cap hit through the 2023-24 season.
Though David Krejci is in the final year of his current contract, the Bruins wouldn’t just be looking to land someone that’s compatible with No. 46 on their roster, but rather someone that’s reliable for if and when Krejci moves on and someone like Charlie Coyle or Jack Studnicka slots into the second line center role.
There’s one more familiar face Boston could consider asking Vegas about, though he might have to fight Greg McKegg to get his old number back.
It’s Reilly Smith.
At 29, Smith is also in the midst of his prime and carries a cap hit worth $5.000 million per season through 2021-22, with a modified no-trade clause to boot.
Since departing the Bruins in a trade with the Panthers on July 1, 2015, Smith has become a consistent playoff performer, recording eight points in six games with Florida in 2016, 22 points with Vegas in 20 games en route to losing in five games to the Washington Capitals in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, six points in Vegas’ seven-game run in 2019 and 14 points in 20 games with the Golden Knights in the 2020 postseason.
Smith’s numbers in the regular season have also been pretty good– reaching at least 40 points in six out of his seven full seasons, including five seasons of 50 or more points and setting a career-high in goals last season with 27 in 71 games.
Since their inaugural season in 2017-18, Smith has worn an “A” on his Golden Knights jersey.
Vegas also presented Pacioretty with an “A” last season, but has never given Marchessault the designation as an alternate captain.
Not that that’s really too much to look into or anything, but all signs seem to indicate it’d be harder to pry one someone from the Golden Knights’ leadership group, let alone their core rather than Marchessault and his versatile style.
Of course, Vegas would also have to be convinced to take something on from Boston and the Bruins wouldn’t exactly be giving Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon and their head coach, Peter DeBoer, much to work with other than cap space.
Anders Bjork signed a three-year extension on July 29th with the Bruins that carries a cap hit of $1.600 million through 2022-23.
He’ll be a pending-restricted free agent by the end of his current deal, which might be incentive for Vegas to latch onto him in any potential trade, but Bjork has struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t exactly dazzled pro scouts with 9-10–19 totals in 58 games last season for the B’s.
Again, though, if Vegas is trying to save money, they might be convinced to take on a reclamation project with a prospect or two and/or a draft pick invovled.
At 24-years-old, Bjork might just need a change of scenery if he can’t tap into his scoring ways with Boston.
Of course, most Bruins fans would like to see Boston’s General Manager, Don Sweeney, try to sell high on Nick Ritchie while he still can– to put it lightly.
Ritchie had 21 points last season in 48 games split between the Anaheim Ducks and Bruins, is 25-years-old and has a $1,498,925 cap hit, which is somehow better than Bjork’s production and value.
He only has one-year left on his current contract, so he’ll be a pending-restricted free agent at season’s end.
But then, of course, there’s a few problems for Boston with trying to move Bjork or Ritchie.
Players are expendable components of the business side of hockey, but they’re human and humans like a little loyalty in their relationships– business or otherwise.
To be signed to an extension over the summer, then dealt to another team before the new season begins or to be acquired at last season’s deadline and moved so early on in your tenure in a new market might put a damper on Boston’s reputation as a free agent destination.
It could also backfire among players with modified no-trade clauses or that are willing to nullify their NTC or no-movement clause, but might reconsider if the Bruins come up in the conversation if that player’s looking for their next stop to have a little more longevity to it.
Oh and there’s the general fact that a team isn’t likely to just hand you a good player for bits and pieces, so Boston could still be working from behind on any potential trades with Vegas.