Tag Archives: Malcolm Subban

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round Preview: Western Conference

In continuation with Monday’s Eastern Conference preview, here’s the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round preview many of you have been waiting for.

In the past, Down the Frozen River has covered every game of every series. This year, DtFR is changing things up a bit with a preview of every round and continued excellence in analysis on the DTFR Podcast as well as some Instagram Live sporadic thoughts throughout the playoffs.

P1 Calgary Flames (50-25-7, 107 points) vs WWC2 Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14, 90 points)

The Calgary Flames reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since the 1988-89 season (and just the second time in franchise history). For those of you who might be younger than 30-years-old, that’s also the last time the Flames won the Stanley Cup.

Yes, the Flames won a Cup. Also, it’s been 15 years since Calgary’s appearance in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final or as it’s known to Johnny Gaudreau, “ten years before [his] birth.”

Only kidding.

Scotiabank Saddledome is ready to rock again as the Flames are fiery hot this season. So hot, they’re going to wear their throwback sweaters at home to rekindle the 1989 Cup run flame that burns deep inside the heart and soul of the C of Red.

Anyway, puns aside, Calgary is good. Very good.

Head coach, Bill Peters, has gotten the most out of his goaltenders, Mike Smith (23-16-2 record, 2.73 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 42 games played) and David Rittich (27-9-5, 2.61 GAA, .911 SV% in 45 GP), as they’ve racked up the wins.

Led by Gaudreau (36-63–99 totals in 82 games played), Sean Monahan (34-48–82 totals in 78 GP), Elias Lindholm (78 points), Matt Tkachuk (77 points) and potential 2018-19 Norris Trophy finalist, Mark Giordano (74 points), the Flames rose to the top and stayed there, laying claim to home ice all the way through the Western Conference Final– if not Stanley Cup Final, should the Tampa Bay Lightning be eliminated prior to then.

For Jared Bednar and the Colorado Avalanche, the Avs head coach rode the rollercoaster of injuries, out-of-this-world performances and pedestrian play as Colorado reached the top of the Central Division, fell to 6th place and resurfaced to playoff contention, snagging the 2nd wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Nathan MacKinnon finished one-point shy of the 100-point plateau with 41 goals and 58 assists (99 points) in 82 games this season, centering captain, Gabriel Landeskog (34-41–75 totals in 73 GP), and Mikko Rantanen (31-56–78 totals in 74 GP) on one of the best lines in hockey throughout the year.

Rantanen, of course, has been out of commission since March 22nd with an upper body injury, and remains a question mark for Game 1 against Calgary.

Back to MacKinnon for a moment, the 23-year-old sensation became the third 40-goal scorer since the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Colorado, joining current General Manager, Joe Sakic, and Milan Hejduk as the only players to do so.

Tyson Barrie led the Avs defenders with 59 points from the blue line.

In net, Semyon Varlamov (20-19-9, 2.87 GAA, .909 SV% in 49 GP) stole most of the games this season from Philipp Grubauer (18-9-5, 2.64 GAA, .917 SV% in 37 GP), who– despite getting off to a slow start– has really turned his play around as of late, notching three wins in his last five appearances.

Calgary swept the season series, 3-0-0, but the Avalanche kept every game close.

Both teams have hot hands and solid defenses, but there’s one common theme for each club– goaltending. Who’s going to get the starts? Who will rise above? And who’s going to flounder in the First Round?

Because of this, Calgary will likely get stretched to taking the series in six games, with or without a return of Rantanen to Colorado’s lineup.

Regular season outcomes:

5-3 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Jan. 9th, 6-5 CGY at Scotiabank Saddledome on Nov. 1st, 3-2 F/OT CGY at Pepsi Center on Oct. 13th

Schedule:

4/11- Game 1 COL @ CGY 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 COL @ CGY 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

4/15- Game 3 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, TVAS2

4/17- Game 4 CGY @ COL 10 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

4/19- Game 5 COL @ CGY*

4/21- Game 6 CGY @ COL*

4/23- Game 7 COL @ CGY*

*If necessary

P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs P3 Vegas Golden Knights (43-32-7, 93 points)

The San Jose Sharks quietly lurked the waters working their way diligently to 2nd place in the Pacific Division this season after acquiring Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators and not destroying teams out of the gate as everyone expected.

Still, San Jose was led by Brent Burns (83 points) in what was yet another Norris Trophy worthy performance this season. The Sharks leading scorer among forwards was 25-year-old Tomas Hertl (35-39–74 totals in 77 GP), while Logan Couture (27-43–70 totals in 81 GP) continued to be a presence in the lineup.

There’s no question surrounding San Jose’s explosive offense and their world class defense. Rather, the Sharks goaltending seems to be the club’s only weakness.

Martin Jones (36-19-5, 2.94 GAA, .896 SV% in 62 GP) posted career-worsts in goals against average and save percentage, while backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (10-8-4, 3.17 GAA, .886 SV% in 25 GP) didn’t look so hot either.

For the Vegas Golden Knights, a slow start and a lot of injuries almost decimated their inaugural season success, but in true Golden Knights fashion, the comeback got rolling and Vegas stormed into a divisional spot for the postseason.

Granted, it doesn’t come with home ice, but still.

Vegas didn’t have a 40-goal scorer like last season, but Jonathan Marchessault still led the way with 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists), while his teammate, William Karlsson amassed 24-32–56 totals in 82 GP.

Reilly Smith put up 53 points in a “down” season, but Alex Tuch (20-32–52 totals) had a breakout year, so everything evens out in the end.

In the crease, Marc-Andre Fleury (35-21-5, 2.51 GAA, .913 SV% in 61 GP) remained in control of the Golden Knights starting job, but fell victim to the increased scoring around the league– notching his worst GAA and SV% in a season where he was the starting goaltender since his 2.65 GAA and .905 SV% in 67 games played with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10.

For Malcolm Subban (8-10-2, 2.93 GAA, .902 SV% in 21 GP) it was a season to forget for the backup goalie. The sophomore slump is real.

The Sharks lost to the Golden Knights in the Second Round last year and it’s not hard to imagine Vegas pulling out another improbable postseason run.

But this time around feels different.

San Jose split the season series, 2-2-0, but was outscored by Vegas, 18-10, in that span. Though the Sharks should be able to batten down the hatches and outlast the Golden Knights in what’s sure to be quite the entertaining matchup in the First Round, there’s no way it won’t go seven games.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT SJS at SAP Center on March 30th, 7-3 VGK at SAP Center on March 18th, 3-2 SJS at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 10th, 6-0 VGK at T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 24th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS2

4/12- Game 2 VGK @ SJS 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2

4/14- Game 3 SJS @ VGK 10 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS

4/16- Game 4 SJS @ VGK 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN360, TVAS2

4/18- Game 5 VGK @ SJS*

4/21- Game 6 SJS @ VGK*

4/23- Game 7 VGK @ SJS*

*If necessary

C1 Nashville Predators (47-29-6, 100 points) vs WWC1 Dallas Stars (43-32-7, 93 points)

A year removed from winning the President’s Trophy, the Nashville Predators entered the final day of the regular season with the chance to grab the 1st seed in the Central Division. The Preds did just that, of course, and will promptly hold a banner ceremony worthy of AFC Finalists.

It’s fine for the local fan base to take pride in their team. It’s also fine for others in the league to poke a little fun at other organization’s unique quirks.

For Nashville, it’s catfish (see, this classic moment from Puck Soup animated— fair warning, language) and banners (see, “Regular Season Western Conference Champions 2017-18”).

Anyway, real talk, the Preds are a legitimate team.

Their defense is still a colossal stronghold with Roman Josi (2nd in points on the roster, 15-41–56 totals in 82 GP), Mattias Ekholm (44 points and a team leading, plus-27 rating), Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban.

Their offense was led by Ryan Johansen (14-50–64 totals in 80 GP) this season with Filip Forsberg chipping in 50 points and Viktor Arvidsson reaching the 30-goal plateau (he finished with 34).

Their goaltending… oh. Is this when Juuse Saros (17-10-2, 2.62 GAA, .915 SV% in 31 GP) takes over for Pekka Rinne (30-19-4, 2.42 GAA, .918 SV% in 56 GP) as the regular starter?

Oh. Again. Never mind.

While Rinne has had the better year, statistically speaking, his goals against average and save percentage rank 10th and 13th, respectively, among goaltenders who played at least 20 games this season.

In the same respect, there were only eight goaltenders with a goals against average below 2.40.

Saros ranked 21st in GAA (among goalies with 20 GP) and 20th in SV%.

This is only relevant in the head-to-head aspect with the Dallas Stars, which, let’s take a look at their organizational depth this season, shall we?

Dallas’s forwards went from being “f—ing horse—-” to… well, at least Tyler Seguin reached the 80-point plateau this season with 33 goals and 47 assists. Alexander Radulov still had 72 points and Jamie Benn ranked third on the team with 27-26–53 totals.

On the blue line, John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen made a case for Sergei Zubov to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and reached 10-35–45 and 12-21–33 totals, respectively as Klingberg continued to emerge as a veteran and Heiskanen made quite an impression in his rookie season.

Not to be outdone, Esa Lindell notched 32 points from the backend this season.

But in the crease, the Stars had two quality stars.

Starting goaltender, Ben Bishop (27-15-2, 1.98 GAA, .934 SV% in 46 GP) put up a career-best season while fighting a lower body injury at times and backup goaltender, Anton Khudobin (16-17-5, 2.57 GAA, .923 SV% in 41 GP) split time with Bishop– taking on more time while the starter was injured– and had almost a mirror image in wins (16) and goals against average from last season.

As long as Bishop (1st in the league in SV% and 2nd in GAA among goaltenders who played at least 20 games) is healthy, yeah, the Stars take home that advantage. Big time.

Nashville has never won the Cup. Dallas won it 20 years ago.

Both franchises have a thirst to quench for their respective markets. Both clubs split the series with two wins and two losses– never winning or losing by more than two goals.

It’s anybody’s guess, but the Stars should upset the Predators in a seven-game stunner.

Regular season outcomes:

5-3 NSH at American Airlines Center on Feb. 19th, 3-2 F/OT NSH at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 7th, 3-1 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 2nd, 2-0 DAL at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 27th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 DAL @ NSH 9:30 PM ET on USA, SN1, TVAS

4/13- Game 2 DAL @ NSH 6 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS2

4/15- Game 3 NSH @ DAL 9:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

4/17- Game 4 NSH @ DAL 8 PM ET on USA, SN, TVAS2

4/20- Game 5 DAL @ NSH*

4/22- Game 6 NSH @ DAL*

4/24- Game 7 DAL @ NSH*

*If necessary

C2 Winnipeg Jets (47-30-5, 99 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)

After a surprising run to the Western Conference Final last season, the Winnipeg Jets struggled at times to find scoring from their top-six forwards, as well as the mythical runway that let their goaltending soar beyond expectations.

This season, the Jets had their ups and downs, while coming back to Earth in other areas.

Blake Wheeler (20-71–91 totals) led Winnipeg in scoring and established a franchise record– dating back to their days as the Atlanta Thrashers– for most assists in a season, while Mark Scheifele (84 points) and Kyle Connor (66 points) rounded out the top-three scorers.

Despite a stretch of games without a goal, Patrik Laine still reached the 30-goal plateau and had 50 points on the season in 82 games played.

On defense, Jacob Trouba picked up the slack with 8-42–50 totals from the blue line while Dustin Byfuglien was limited to 42 games and 31 points due to injury.

In goal, Connor Hellebuyck (34-23-3, 2.90 GAA, .913 SV% in 63 GP) posted a career-worst goals against average (2.90) topping his previous worst 2.89 GAA in 2016-17 (56 GP).

Hellebuyck had his 2nd worst save percentage since his .907 SV% in 2016-17 as well.

Laurent Brossoit (13-6-2, 2.52 GAA, .925 SV% in 21 GP) posted decent numbers as a backup goaltender in his first season with the Jets, since joining the organization in free agency last July.

Winnipeg missed a major part of their defense for most of the season in Byfuglien and to some respects, that’s hampered their goaltending as a result. Tending the net is never solely about one person tending the crease, but rather a team keeping the puck out of their own zone.

However, Hellebuyck has shown signs of a “good year, bad year, good year, bad year” pattern in the past and might have just been victim to a bad year– statistically speaking.

The St. Louis Blues missed the playoffs last year, losing the final game of the regular season to the Colorado Avalanche and the last wild card spot in the process.

This year, the Blues redeemed themselves after almost completely embarrassing themselves. St. Louis was last in the Central Division, then they fired Mike Yeo and hired Craig Berube as interim head coach.

Berube began to right the ship, then Jordan Binnington (24-5-1, 1.89 GAA, .927 SV% in 32 GP) came along.

Binnington lifted the Blues to a franchise record 12-game winning streak and established the franchise record for most wins by a rookie goaltender (24)– surpassing the previous mark (22 wins) set by teammate and presumably the backup goaltender in the postseason, Jake Allen (19-17-8, 2.83 GAA, .905 SV% in 46 GP).

Don’t try to mess with what’s working.

Ryan O’Reilly led St. Louis in scoring with 28-49–77 totals in 82 games played. Meanwhile, Vladimir Tarasenko (68 points) and Brayden Schenn (54 points) compiled respectable totals in 76 and 72 games played, respectively.

Captain, Alex Pietrangelo, provided more than just leadership from the defensive zone. He added 13 goals and 28 assists (41 points) from the point to help guide St. Louis to a divisional playoff berth.

For the first time in franchise history, Winnipeg is making consecutive playoff appearances. Though they tied in points (99) in the standings, the Jets had the advantage in the regulation-plus-overtime wins tiebreaker, leading the Blues, 45-42, in that department.

Winnipeg won the season series 3-1-0, but is facing a Blues team that has completely shifted gears in the second half of the season. For that reason alone, it’s not impossible to predict St. Louis will be the series winner in five games as Binnington cements his status as a goaltender in the NHL– if not a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate at least.

Regular season outcomes:

1-0 STL at Bell MTS Place on Dec. 7th, 8-4 WPG at Enterprise Center on Nov. 24th, 5-4 F/OT WPG at Bell MTS Place on Oct. 22nd, 5-1 WPG at Enterprise Center on Oct. 4th

Schedule:

4/10- Game 1 STL @ WPG 8 PM ET on NHL Network, SN, TVAS3

4/12- Game 2 STL @ WPG 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS

4/14- Game 3 WPG @ STL 7:30 PM ET on CNBC, CBC, SN, TVAS2

4/16- Game 4 WPG @ STL 9:30 PM ET on CNBC, SN, TVAS

4/18- Game 5 STL @ WPG*

4/20- Game 6 WPG @ STL*

4/22- Game 7 STL @ WPG*

*If necessary

Vegas Golden Knights 2018-19 Forecast Through 62 Games

Coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights (32-25-5, 69 points, 3rd in the Pacific Division) have 20 games remaining in the 2018-19 regular season.

These aren’t your father’s Golden Knights, as production is down from their inaugural season in just their 2nd season of existence.

Though Marc-Andre Fleury (29-18-5 record, 2.60 goals against average, .908 save percentage in 52 games played) remains Vegas’ starter on an almost nightly basis, backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban (3-6-0, 2.76 GAA, .912 SV% in 10 GP) has struggled to carry his own weight.

Despite bringing in Paul Stastny via free agency and Max Pacioretty via trade, the Golden Knights haven’t been immune to the injury bug this season.

Stastny and Pacioretty themselves have joined Reilly Smith and others throughout the lineup on the injured reserve or out of playing action for various points of the season.

While the Pacific Division title might be out of reach for Vegas this season, a divisional spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs is all but assured as long as the floor doesn’t fallout from underneath Gerard Gallant and his players.

Of note, the Arizona Coyotes are emerging once again with a late season push for the playoffs– and this time around, they’re doing it without their starting goaltender, Antti Raanta (out for the season due to injury).

Plus the Vancouver Canucks are still in contention and, well, that’s about it, realistically among Pacific Division teams that still have a chance for the last divisional spot and/or a Western Conference wild card berth.

Anyway, back to the Golden Knights.

Here’s a look at the latest Vegas forecast– keeping in mind there are many variables that can and will effect the final outcome, such as injuries and/or being called up, assigned, traded, lucky or unlucky.

This forecast is just an educated guess. It’s a glimpse of what could be or could’ve been by the end of the regular season.

As always, my degree is in communication– not math– and hockey is naturally steeped in context and holistic unpredictability. Nothing can account for sheer puck luck, the odd bounce or a blown call.

If a player reaches the expected outcome, they’ve met expectations. If said player exceeds the forecasted stats, they’ve exceeded expectations (naturally). Of course, if a player does not perform, then they did not live up to expectations.

On a game-to-game basis, whatever’s on the scoresheet can indicate general trends that can be further broken down into an educated forecast.

At best, it’s a guess. At worst, well, it doesn’t really matter– it’s not like Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee is reading this and making his roster decisions based on what’s here, right?

If he is, I’d like a job, please. Thanks.

Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 62 Games (20 Games Remaining)
WordPress, when are you going to make the ”gallery” option again (and actually make it good like how it used to be)?

Among forwards, Vegas’ consistent first line last season of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Smith hasn’t had as much consistent luck and skill this season.

Though Smith has battled injury this season, Marchessault remains one of the Golden Knights most consistent performers expected to lead his team in goals (25) and points (54) with 25-29–54 expected totals.

Now what about Karlsson?

Good question, what about him? Things haven’t gone exactly as planned in terms of capitalizing on his breakout season last season with a new contract in the offseason and higher expectations for this season.

Karlsson’s bridge, one-year, extension last summer coming off the backs of a 43-goal season has only managed 18 goals thus far– including four goals in the last 22 games for the Golden Knights.

Given his current trend, Karlsson is expected to amass 21-23–44 totals. He’d be tied with Pacioretty for 2nd place in expected goals (21) and 3rd in expected points (44) on the roster, but nowhere near the emergent star in the making that he was last season.

While he very well could bounce back– similar to Smith in nature, following a good-year, bad-year, good-year, bad-year pattern– the phrase “what have you done for me yesterday” won’t help him in his next contract negotiation this summer unless McPhee gives him the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, Alex Tuch is expected to finish the season with a career-high 20-33–53 expected totals.

That’s comforting to hear for a team that needs to rely on secondary scoring in the midst of a recession in primary production.

Tuch is expected to lead in assists (33), followed by Smith (30) and Marchessault (29), while Marchessault is destined to lead in points (54) over Tuch (53) and Karlsson (44).

On defense, Vegas’ blue line will finish off the season being led by Shea Theodore (11-21–32 expected totals), followed by Colin Miller (30 expected points) and Nate Schmidt (25 expected points despite missing the first 20 games of the season while serving a suspension for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug).

In net, Fleury looks like he’s bound to break under the weight of all the minutes he’s been playing and will play this season. A 2.74 expected GAA and .909 expected SV% is not starting goaltender material, unless we’re talking about Sergei Bobrovsky with the Columbus Blue Jackets or something.

But it’s not like Gallant can really count on his current backup to offset some of Fleury’s load. Subban’s expected 2.70 GAA and .912 SV% isn’t tremendous either.

If anything, it’s an indication that McPhee could help bolster his team with the acquisition of an extra goaltender by the trade deadline.

Someone like Ryan Miller, 38-years-old, could help steal some crucial points for the Golden Knights down the stretch if the San Jose Sharks aren’t already in the process of completing a trade for the goaltender with the Anaheim Ducks.

Growing pains are a fact of life– especially in sports– and Vegas is going through puberty already in its 2nd season. This season’s been full of highs, lows and awkward phases that hopefully will end in a glow up.

Otherwise we’ll all be looking back at this season shaking our heads at how it could pull off that much denim or something back in the day.

DTFR Podcast #142- Chia’s Pets

The Edmonton Oilers fired their president of hockey operations and General Manager, Peter Chiarelli (April 2015-January 2019). The club officially made the announcement after the DTFR Duo finished recording this week’s episode.

There won’t be a 2020 World Cup of Hockey and there were a few milestones to go along with a bunch of minor trades made this week.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 40 Games

It’s not the most recent forecast, since the Vegas Golden Knights played Game 41 of their 2018-19 regular season on Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings.

Nevertheless, it’s time to take a quick check of the pulse of the Golden Knights– how their season has progressed so far and where it appears to be going from here.

Thanks to some extenuating circumstances, perhaps Vegas fans will forgive me for not being able to get around to their quick forecasted glance after 20 games played this season.

Why? Because it would’ve been pretty dismal and you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

Although, now at the halfway mark (officially after the game against the Kings, technically unofficially as of this forecast), things have improved, but with a few concerns remaining.

Nate Schmidt served his 20 game suspension for a performance enhancing drug and for the most part, Vegas’ blue line got the job done.

The team’s record wasn’t desirable, but guys like Shea Theodore and Colin Miller continued to rise past expectations in their ability– even more so now that Schmidt is back and solidified the defensive zone for the Golden Knights.

One thing that has plagued the team all season is subpar goaltending.

Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t getting any younger and Malcolm Subban regressed quite a bit from his debut season as a backup netminder at the NHL level last season.

Managing playing time in the crease is something to keep in mind and we’ll take a closer look in a minute.

For now, Vegas stands in a divisional spot in the playoffs in the Pacific. Not nearly as dominant as last season, but keeping up with the legitimate(?) playoff contenders in an otherwise weaker division compared to the rest of the league.

Without further ado, here’s a look at the remaining 42 games (now 41) on the season and what to expect from the latest forecast.

Keep in mind, there are many variables that can and will change what goes down from now through the end of the regular season in April, like trades, injuries, general lineup changes, roster moves and anything else unbeknownst to the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that generates this forecast.

My degree is in communication– not math. It’s “not my fault”.

If a player meets the forecasted stats, then they’ve met expectations. If they exceed their forecasted stats, then they’ve exceed expectations.

And of course, if a player does not live up to the latest forecast, then something went awry (the player could’ve been injured, been unlucky or regressed– a.k.a. didn’t meet expectations).

Puck luck cannot be predicted, but general trends and estimated gut feelings can indicate a sense of what’s to come based on the results of each and every scoresheet night-in and night-out.

Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 40 Games (42 Games Remaining)

(Just click on the image if you’re having trouble seeing it– WordPress changed their layout so there’s no more slideshow options.)

Every set of blessings comes with a set of curses and this year, that rings truer more than ever before for the Golden Knights. Of course, it’s only their second season in franchise history, but it’s still true.

William Karlsson (24-26–50 expected totals) is having a “down” year compared to last season’s breakout career-year of 43 goals and 35 assists (78 points). Reaching the 50-point plateau is still respectable, but doesn’t scream any guarantees of being on the first line should the postseason roll around.

Head coach, Gerard Gallant, has enough top-six forward depth to play around with if Karlsson starts to head south, considering Alex Tuch‘s expected 22-28–50 totals, Paul Stastny‘s expected 14-22–36 totals and Max Pacioretty‘s expected 21-22–43 totals.

Despite the ever-consistent qualities of Jonathan Marchessault (27-33–60 expected totals) and Reilly Smith (17-32–49 expected totals), this year’s Golden Knights team point spread is more spread out.

As it is, while Marchessault should lead in goals (27), assists (30) and points (60) and Karlsson should be second in goals (24) and points (50), one would think Smith would be second or third in whatever stats Marchessault and Karlsson aren’t leading in.

However, Tuch’s expected point outcome (50) is tied with Karlsson for the second-most points behind Marchessault and Tuch is expected to rank third on Vegas’ roster in goals behind Marchessault and Karlsson with Smith a distant 5th behind Pacioretty’s 21 expected goals this season.

While the offense isn’t as impactful from the forwards, the blue line has really come into its own in Vegas.

Shea Theodore’s expected 8-29–37 totals will be the best of his teammates and fellow defenders in a Golden Knights uniform, leading Colin Miller (5-27–32 expected totals) and Nick Holden (7-17–24 expected totals).

Nick Holden. That’s right. Holden is ahead of Nate Schmidt (5-18–23 expected totals) in the latest forecast.

But that speaks to Holden’s resiliency in his career and the chemistry Gallant has found in his pairing every night– coupled, of course, with the fact that Holden is seeing more time on the ice (in the literal “games played” sense) than he has the last couple of seasons with the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.

He is a durable top-four defender that’s still in his athletic prime and it is exactly that kind of depth that can take teams deep into a Stanley Cup Final run.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury should land around a 2.61 goals against average and .911 save percentage in a season in which he has been overworked thus far.

He will continue to be overworked unless Malcolm Subban regains his footing, Gallant argues for calling someone up from the Chicago Wolves (AHL) or Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee makes an acquisition for a suitable backup option if all else fails.

Fleury has played in 35 of the 40 games up to this forecast. He’s since played in 35 out of the 41 games played by the club this season.

Subban has played in six games and is 0-5-0 in that span. His expected outcomes are a 2.76 GAA and .907 SV%– both below average goaltending the backup role.

Whereas if Vegas wanted to try Oscar Dansk or Maxime Lagace without the pressures of coming into the dressing room in an emergency recall situation– unlike last season– a little healthy competition for the backup role might nudge Subban in the right direction and take off some of Fleury’s workload.

It’s not that Fleury can’t handle 50-plus games anymore as a starting goaltender, but rather, it’s just that he shouldn’t be relied on for about 85% of the games in the regular season as is his current going rate.

Bruins first line leads B’s to 4-1 win over Vegas

Secondary scoring had its fair share Sunday night at TD Garden, but league leader in goals, David Pastrnak is not done producing by any means as he added a goal and an assist in the Boston Bruins, 4-1, winning effort against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Jaroslav Halak (6-1-2, 1.72 goals against average, .945 save percentage in 11 games played) made 37 saves on 38 shots against (.974 SV%) in the win for Boston, while Malcolm Subban (2-1-0, 3.17 GAA, .885 SV% in 4 GP) turned aside 33 out of 37 shots faced for an .892 SV% in the loss for Vegas.

Both teams were playing their second game in two nights, with the Bruins having hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and the Golden Knights having visited the Montreal Canadiens as part of their four-game road trip.

Boston finished their four-game homestand, 3-1-0, while Vegas went 1-3-0 on their Eastern Conference swing.

The Bruins improved to 10-5-2 (22 points) on the season, good enough for 3rd in the Atlantic Division– tied in points for 2nd place with Toronto, but trailing by one regulation-plus-overtime win.

The Golden Knights fell to 7-10-1 (15 points) so far this season and remained in 7th place in the Pacific Division with the loss– four points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings from the basement of the division.

Bruce Cassidy made two changes to his lineup on the blue line as a result of an injury, but didn’t mix things up among the forwards. Cassidy announced Sunday morning that Brandon Carlo was “questionable” and would be a game-time decision with an upper body injury.

Jeremy Lauzon was an emergency recall on Sunday and would be in the lineup in place of Carlo if No. 25 in black-and-gold wasn’t ready to go.

Matt Grzelcyk slid up to the first defensive pairing with Zdeno Chara, as Lauzon played on the third pair with Steven Kampfer. Torey Krug and John Moore were left together from Saturday night.

Cassidy also indicated that he expected to talk with Tuukka Rask about his return from a personal leave of absence with a decision in place by Tuesday before the Bruins hit the road for a four-game road trip. Cassidy suspects Rask will rejoin the team on Tuesday, but wouldn’t commit to a definitive answer until having the appropriate time and place discussion with the goaltender.

Noel Acciari remained a healthy scratch on Sunday, with Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), Charlie McAvoy (concussion) and Kevan Miller (hand) still out of the lineup for Boston.

Unknown-7

Rushing through the neutral zone early in the first period, Danton Heinen worked the puck to Anders Bjork as the Bruins forwards entered the attacking zone. Bjork flipped the puck back to Heinen (2) for the game’s first goal as No. 43 tipped a redirection past Subban to give Boston a 1-0 lead at 2:54 of the first period.

Bjork (2) had the only assist on the goal.

Fellow third liner– and centering the line for the second straight game– Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson had a run in with the penalty calling threshold after he got his stick between the legs of Golden Knights forward and former Bruin, Reilly Smith.

Forsbacka Karlsson went to the box for tripping at 5:43 and Vegas went on the power play for the first time of the night. The Golden Knights failed to convert on the skater advantage.

Almost four minutes later, Pastrnak hooked Jonathan Marchessault and was sent to the sin bin at 9:27 of the first period. Vegas failed to score on the ensuing power play.

For the fifth time in three games, Kampfer found his way to the box with a tripping minor against Ryan Carpenter at 11:55, but the Golden Knights weren’t able to make the Bruins brass pay on the resulting skater advantage.

Late in the first period the Golden Knights caught Halak out of position and sent a chance through the slot that was intercepted by Moore as the Bruins defender was in the right place at the right time with his stick.

Moore then sent Sean Kuraly on rush back the other way and with a dump into the corner and Lauzon chasing, Subban came out of his crease to make a play on the loose puck– except Subban overcommitted.

With a gift sent by the hockey gods themselves, Lauzon (1) had the easiest conversion on his first career National Hockey League goal at 17:51 of the first period. Kuraly (2) and Moore (2) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively.

William Carrier tripped up David Krejci at 18:29 of the first period and gave the Bruins their first power play of the night.

Not to be outdone, while on a rush to the net, Brad Marchand got tripped by Subban in front of the goal, yielding a 5-on-3 skater advantage for Boston at 18:58 that would extend into the second period if the Bruins didn’t score by the end of the first.

Krejci dove to keep the puck in the zone as time was expiring in the opening frame and generated one last chance before the first intermission on all-around dominant 5-on-3 opportunity to close out the period.

After 20 minutes of game action, the Bruins led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and trailed the Golden Knights, 15-11, in shots on goal. Boston held onto an advantage in blocked shots (3-2), takeaways (5-4) and face-off win percentage (81-19). Vegas led in hits (11-6) after one period and both teams had one giveaway each.

Entering the dressing room for the first intermission the Golden Knights were 0/3 on the power play, while the Bruins were 0/2. That would change in the first minute of the second period.

Patrice Bergeron sent a pass to Pastrnak that got bent out of shape just enough by a Vegas defender for Pastrnak’s only option in the low slot to be to send the vulcanized piece of rubber back to Bergeron off a body.

From there, Marchand (6) was in front of the goal at the right time to receive a quick bumper pass from Bergeron and redirect the puck with elevation into the twine just as the power play was expiring.

Bergeron (16) and Pastrnak (7) had the assist’s on Marchand’s goal at 58 seconds of the second period and the Bruins led, 3-0.

vegas_golden_knights_logo

Midway through the middle frame, Alex Tuch stripped Moore of the puck in front of the Boston goal and prior to breaking into the trapezoid, Tuch slid a one-handed pass back to Cody Eakin (5) for a one-timer that beat Halak as Krug was out of position behind the play.

Vegas was on the scoreboard and cut the lead to two-goals as the B’s led, 3-1. Tuch (5) had the only assist on Eakin’s goal at 10:55 of the second period.

Late in the second period, Vegas again gave Boston a 5-on-3 power play for 42 seconds after Brayden McNabb was penalized for holding Marchand at 15:05 and Tomas Nosek was called for tripping Bergeron at 16:24.

The B’s did not convert on either power play opportunity.

Entering the second intermission, Boston led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and, 28-27, in shots on goal. Vegas had an advantage in blocked shots (6-5) and hits (17-13), while the Bruins led in takeaways (9-6), giveaways (7-3) and face-off win% (63-38). The Golden Knights were 0/3 on the power play after 40 minutes and Boston was 0/4.

Vegas notched another penalty as a team at 6:42 of third period having sustained a delay of game face-off violation bench minor infraction. Tomas Hyka served the penalty for the Golden Knights and the Bruins went on the power play.

The B’s did not convert on the ensuing advantage.

Moments later, Kuraly exchanged words with former teammate and current Golden Knights defender, Colin Miller, at 12:04 of third period and earned himself a minor penalty for roughing. Vegas did not score on the resulting power play.

Late in the third, the Golden Knights sent themselves back in momentum with two consecutive tripping penalties being called at the same time thanks to Max Pacioretty tripping Bergeron and Deryk Engelland subsequently getting his stick between the legs of Marchand and bringing the Bruins forward down at 15:40.

Boston converted on the 5-on-3 power play after working the puck around from Pastrnak to Krejci, then across the point to Krug for a bumper pass back to Pastrnak (16) whereby the league’s leading goal scorer one-timed a shot past Subban to give the Bruins a three-goal lead.

Krug (6) and Krejci (13) had the assists on Pastrnak’s power play goal at 16:08 of the third period and Boston led, 4-1.

At the final horn, the Bruins solidified a 4-1 victory with a 7-0-1 record when scoring first this season. Boston also improved to 8-0-0 when leading after two periods.

The B’s led in face-off win% 58-42 and the Golden Knights dominated just about every other statistical category after 60 minutes. Vegas led in shots on goal (38-37), blocked shots (8-7), giveaways (9-8) and hits (25-20).

Boston finished the night 1/7 on the power play, while the Golden Knights were powerless on the skater advantage, finishing 0/4 on Sunday night.

One consolation prize for the Vegas franchise is that through 100 regular season games in franchise history, the Golden Knights have the most wins among all expansion franchises in their first 100 regular season games with 58.

Sunday night was former Montreal Canadien and noted Bruins mood-killer, Max Pacioretty’s first matchup against the Bruins since being traded to Vegas, while it was also Danton Heinen and Sean Kuraly’s 100th career NHL games.

The Bruins carry a two-game winning streak heading onto the road for a four-game road trip beginning in Colorado (Nov. 14th) and swinging through Dallas (Nov. 16th), Arizona (Nov. 17th) and Detroit (Nov. 21st) before returning home for Black Friday’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Vegas Golden Knights 2018-19 Season Projections

It’s forecasting season, well, actually it’s the regular season and I’m just a little behind, but until I pointed that out, you didn’t know I was behind on my little passion project here, did you?

I know I wrote “[i]n the coming days I’ll reveal what teams I’ll be forecasting/tracking all season long, so stay tuned because it’s about to get messier than ever before and I’m up for the challenge,” in my Boston Bruins 2018-19 forecast, but life and the fact that I’m moving all my data into a new format has slowed my turnaround for the time being.

Nevertheless, my Vegas Golden Knights forecast for 2018-19 is here and let’s pretend the first week of the regular season hasn’t already happened or something.

Additionally, if you’re wondering what other teams I’m preparing to post (before we get too far into the first quarter of the season) they are the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets.

I always keep tabs on the Bruins every year because I grew up a Boston fan and I decided to track Vegas last season because there hadn’t been nearly as much hype surrounding an expansion team since Columbus and the Minnesota Wild in 2000. Additionally, I’ve previously tracked the Arizona Coyotes simply because they follow us on Twitter (and I’ll get back around to them hopefully before season’s end, if you’re interested).

But I’m adding Carolina and Columbus to my forecast portfolio this season because 1) the Hurricanes are supposed to be better than last season, plus they have some exciting youth in the lineup and 2) a lot of Blue Jackets fans are also fans of our brand around here, so shouts 5th Liners.

Please be patient on the timeline for when I’ll get my Hurricanes and Blue Jackets forecasts posted– it’ll be by the end of the month for sure.

Anyway, on with the Golden Knights, shall we?


Vegas is coming off of their inaugural season having finished 1st in the Pacific Division with 109 points and a 51-24-7 record under head coach Gerard Gallant. Not only did they finish at the top of their division in their first season, but they did so with over 100 points and a 50-plus win season.

Oh yeah and they played the Washington Capitals in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

Despite the loss in five games to Washington, the Golden Knights were and still are well ahead of owner Bill Foley’s “Cup in three [seasons]” masterplan– what with General Manager George McPhee‘s offseason additions of Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty and everything.

This year, of course, the competition has gotten a lot tougher. There are expectations now when opponents play the Golden Knights.

Gallant and his Vegas lineup are going to have to get more creative than ever before in franchise history to avoid the hangover of a Stanley Cup Final appearance run and to avoid getting too predictable.

Things are different now. They’re no longer the new kids on the block. They’re the 2018 Western Conference champions and a team to beat.

As always, I’d like to remind you my degree is in communication– not math– therefore anything that looks wrong is either adjusted with a little gut-feeling and/or Microsoft Excel’s fault. My expertise resides in the written, spoken and nonverbal language of communicating– not numbers on a spreadsheet.

These forecasted stats are to be seen as an utopian perspective, as though nothing bad could happen this season at any point to any player– where every player at least lives up to their forecast and then some.

Some will pan out and some will fall flat. It’s a suggested outcome for a sport that’s played on ice in a highly unpredictable collective environment of action and sheer puck luck.

vegas_golden_knights_logo

Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 0 Games (82 Games Remaining)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a breakout 78-point season (43 goals, 35 assists) for William Karlsson, the Golden Knights number-one center is prime for a respectable 41-point season as part of the natural regression of the game– unless Karlsson is truly an outlier, like he was coming from Columbus to Vegas last season.

Meanwhile, Reilly Smith (19-27–46 expected totals) and Jonathan Marchessault (28-35–63 expected totals) bolster the Golden Knights first line with respectable performances of their own, while the point spread has really been shared with the second line.

Newcomers Paul Stastny (22-43–65 expected totals) and Max Pacioretty (33-30–63 expected totals) are set to become the key contributors to the fiery Vegas offense in their first season with the club.

The Golden Knights top-six core of forwards is deeper than last season, whereas the majority of their offense was reliant upon Marchessault, Karlsson and Smith. This year there’s more emphasis on Alex Tuch and Erik Haula inside the top-nine.

On defense, Gallant’s crew will have to do without Nate Schmidt for the first 20 games of the season while Schmidt serves a suspension for a performance enhancing drug.

Luckily, Brad Hunt, Colin Miller and Shea Theodore are prime for an uptick in time-on-ice and production, with Hunt and Miller expected to reach the 30-point plateau, while offseason addition, Nick Holden should see a pleasant rebound from his 17 points split between the Bruins and New York Rangers last season to a 25-point effort in 2018-19 with Vegas, provided he can remain in the top-six on the depth chart.

Upon Schmidt’s return, he should still have 4-23–27 totals from the blue line, which is not great like last season’s 5-31–36 totals, but not terrible for a top-four defender.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to return to Earth from his superhuman season last year (a 2.24 goals against average and .927 save percentage in 46 games) to a 2.49 GAA and .913 SV% in 2018-19. As the Golden Knights starter continues to get older, limiting his workload to keep him fresher for the postseason is the way to go.

Granted, Fleury’s playing time was limited last season due to a concussion, he still went on to have solid regular season numbers and an impeccable 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff run up until the Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Subban‘s 2.68 GAA and .910 SV% in 22 games played look to be improved upon to a 2.65 GAA and .911 SV% in somewhere around 30 appearances as the backup netminder for Vegas.

As always, we’ll get more into the goalies once the team has played through a quarter of the season.

Vegas Golden Knights 2018-19 Season Preview

vegas_golden_knights_logo

Vegas Golden Knights

51-24-7, 109 points, 1st in the Pacific Division

Lost in Stanley Cup Final to WSH, 4-1

Additions: F Daniel Carr, G Zach Fucale, F Alex Gallant, D Nick Holden, F Curtis McKenzie, D Jimmy Oligny, F Max Pacioretty (acquired from MTL), F Paul Stastny

Subtractions: D Philip Holm (signed, KHL), F James Neal (signed with CGY), F David Perron (signed with STL), F Teemu Pulkkinen (signed, KHL), D Luca Sbisa (signed with NYI), F Nick Suzuki (traded to MTL), F Tomas Tatar (traded to MTL), F Paul Thompson (signed with FLA)

Still Unsigned: D Chris Casto, D Jason Garrison, F Mikhail Grabovski, D Clayton Stoner

Re-signed: F William Carrier, G Oscar Dansk, F William Karlsson, D Colin Miller, F Tomas Nosek, F Brandon Pirri, F Ryan Reaves, D Shea Theodore

Offseason Analysis: Only one team in the NHL’s more than a century of existence has ever won the Cup in their inaugural season. The 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights almost joined the 1917-18 Toronto Arenas as the only teams to win the Cup in their inaugural season. Toronto beat the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s (PCHA) Vancouver Millionaires 3-2 in a best of five-game series.

Vegas came up three wins short of winning it all in the modern-day best-of-seven game series against the Washington Capitals that the Stanley Cup Final has become.

The Golden Knights didn’t have an unfair advantage in the 2017 Expansion Draft. General Manager George McPhee worked the trade market to his advantage, primarily building the inaugural season’s core group of players through acquisitions.

Owner Bill Foley has touted the “Cup-in-three” mantra, meaning it’s his goal as an organization to win the Cup in their first three years of existence. Upon league expansion in 1967, it took the Philadelphia Flyers seven years to win their first Cup.

Foley wants to do it in half the time.

McPhee’s already gone to work on improving his roster from year one to year two. He’s added Paul Stastny via free agency and Max Pacioretty in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens.

Stastny, 32, joins the Golden Knights after spending last season with the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets. In 82 games split between the Blues and Jets, Stastny had 16-37–53 totals.

A deadline acquisition by Winnipeg, he had 13 points down the stretch in the remaining 19 games of the regular season, then had his best career performance in the postseason (15 points in 17 games) en route to the Western Conference Final against (his now current team) Vegas.

Despite Stastny’s playmaking style and ability to elevate the players around him in Patrik Laine and friends in Winnipeg, the Jets were no match for the hard-charging Golden Knights.

If you can’t beat them, join them.

The old saying rings true for Stastny, despite Winnipeg’s intentions on re-signing the veteran NHL center entering his 13th season in the league. He’ll slide in on Vegas’ second line behind William Karlsson and play alongside one of his best friends since they played together at the 2010 Winter Games, Max Pacioretty.

Yes, that’s right, Pacioretty is a Golden Knight– in case you’ve been under a rock since training camp.

At its surface, the price of the Pacioretty trade is one well spent for both teams. Vegas acquired Pacioretty in exchange for Tomas Tatar, prospect Nick Suzuki and a 2019 2nd round pick. That’s right about what you’d expect as a going rate for a top-six scorer– one current roster player, a prospect and a draft pick.

But for all that McPhee dealt to the Detroit Red Wings to add Tatar at the trade deadline last season, this Pacioretty deal carries a hefty trade-tree baggage, whereby a lot of assets were ultimately tossed in the pot for Pacioretty’s services.

At the very least, McPhee not only added a five-time 30-goal scorer, but he signed him to a four-year extension right away too. So if things don’t work out this season, the Golden Knights will remain in the hunt for the next few years.

Why’s that?

On top of their solid core group of forwards, Vegas has a crafty defense that’s capable of doing more than turning heads like they did last season. There’s just one catch though– they’ll have to do it without Nate Schmidt for the first quarter of the regular season.

Schmidt will be serving a 20-game suspension for a performance enhancing drug, leaving Colin Miller and Shea Theodore to do the bulk of the work with Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland rounding out the rest of the top-four defenders.

Brad Hunt and Nick Holden, in the meantime, seek to use the first 20 games as an audition for the sixth defenseman role upon Schmidt’s return to the lineup.

Miller signed a four-year extension this summer and Theodore signed a seven-year deal worth $5.200 million per season. While seven years might be a bit more than the Golden Knights can chew if Theodore’s play heads south, at least he’s signed to a manageable $5.200 million cap hit– up to 50% of which can be retained in a trade.

With an immense top-nine group of forwards and questions surrounding who will step up on defense in Schmidt’s absence, head coach Gerard Gallant must adjust accordingly as he’s always done– on-the-fly and with the complete buy-in of the dressing room.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury— now signed through the 2021-22 season, thanks to a three-year extension this summer on top of the remaining year on his current contract– must find a way to continue his rejuvenated play in net. Last season’s 2.24 goals against average and .927 save percentage are more than likely unattainable in back-to-back seasons.

One thing working in Fleury’s favor is his reduced workload. In his second-straight season under 50 games played, Fleury appeared in 46 games last season after battling a concussion.

Malcolm Subban (2.68 GAA, .910 SV% in 22 games played last season) is still in line to become the next Golden Knights starting netminder in the post-Fleury era, but he undoubtedly must see an increase in playing time this season.

It’s not quite a 1A, 1B option for Vegas, but rather a precaution for Fleury and a means of keeping their starter fresh for what could be another long postseason run.

Unless any of the other Pacific Division teams have anything to say about it.

Offseason Grade: B+

McPhee bolstered his top-six forward group this offseason with two simple moves, while preserving the large-scale depth of the Golden Knights prospect pool. They didn’t land Erik Karlsson, John Tavares or Ilya Kovalchuk, but they did get Max Pacioretty.

And they still have quite an impressive amount of cap space to work with next offseason as the franchise continues to settle into existence.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #115- Welcome to Arby’s

Nick, Connor and Pete decide Connor should name his first kid “Tkachuk” while revealing their top-10 left wingers of their lifetimes. Also, Ray Emery, Arby’s and Marian Hossa.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify.

2018 Offseason Preview: Vegas Golden Knights

Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Vegas Golden Knights and their outlook for the summer.

vegas_golden_knights_logo

After shattering record after record set by previous expansion teams in their inaugural seasons, the Vegas Golden Knights compiled a 51-24-7 record and 109 points on the season in 2017-18. It was not only good enough for a playoff berth, but good enough for 1st place in the Pacific Division.

Head coach Gerard Gallant got the most out of General Manager George McPhee‘s roster, which was mostly built on trades and a mix of 2017 Expansion Draft claims, bringing the Golden Knights all the way to the Stanley Cup Final– in their first season. First postseason. First Western Conference championship. First everything.

Well, almost everything (except the Cup, which I hear Alex Ovechkin is, yep, still attached to it).

Jon Marchessault and Reilly Smith dominated the first line, while William Karlsson emerged from the shadows of the Columbus Blue Jackets into the limelight as one of the league’s top goal scorers.

He’s also a pending-RFA this summer.

But Vegas doesn’t have to worry about whatever anyone else thinks of them. They’ve already smashed through all the walls that others thought would surely contain them back Earth, yet here they are– with almost $26.500 million to spend this summer.

2018 NHL Entry Draft

McPhee’s Golden Knights do not have a first round pick in the 2018 Draft currently as Vegas packaged a 2018 first round pick, 2019 second round pick and 2021 third round pick at the trade deadline in exchange for Tomas Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings.

Tatar signed a four-year extension with Detroit last offseason and is on Vegas’s books through 2020-21 at a whopping $5.300 million cap hit. I say whopping, because that’s the most expensive cap hit on the roster currently.

Pending free agents

With almost $26.500 million to work with this offseason and some big-time renewals to hand out, McPhee’s work isn’t cut out for him, but the Golden Knights look good heading into 2018-19.

Sure, maybe they won’t get back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, but…

Who am I kidding? They’ve defied all logic and we’ll never see an expansion team as good as this one in their inaugural season again. No, not because of any pending changes to future expansion drafts (I’m talking post-Seattle here).

James Neal, Mikhail Grabovski, David Perron and Ryan Reaves are all pending-UFAs for Vegas.

Neal, 30, was an alternate captain this season and 25-19–44 totals in 71 games as a clutch goal-scorer and early face of the franchise. He’ll get top-dollar on the market if he doesn’t re-sign and is the only priority pending-UFA for McPhee to consider bringing back.

Grabovski, 34, is likely to never play in the NHL again, since missing the entire 2016-17 season with ongoing concussion issues.

Perron, 30, was another alternate captain on Vegas’s squad and had 16-50–66 totals in 70 games. His point production was up 20 from last season to this season and he could have some staying power as a playmaker or he could test the waters.

McPhee isn’t rushing to re-sign Neal or Perron because the future’s looking pretty bright with the Golden Knights core, plus the tremendous cap space available that could make Vegas a dark horse for John Tavares, Ilya Kovalchuk or a landing spot for an Erik Karlsson trade.

Reaves, 31, was acquired in a three-team trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators, fitting in on Vegas’s fourth line as a tough guy that scored two important goals in the postseason. He’s a cheap bottom-six forward if McPhee likes grit, otherwise there’ll be other opportunities for Reaves to seek.

Pending-RFAs, William Karlsson, Tomas Nosek and William Carrier are more important to McPhee’s immediate plan.

Karlsson, 25, is likely to receive the biggest salary on the roster, thanks, in part to his forthcoming raise, but mostly due to his scoring ability. He had 43-35–78 totals in 82 games with the Golden Knights this season and 7-8–15 totals in 20 postseason games.

Pay up.

Nosek, 25, eased into a comfortable seven goals and eight assists (15 points) in 67 games this season, then added another four goals and two assists (six points) in 17 playoff games. By comparison, he’s no William Karlsson, but he is a dependable top-9 forward in his prime.

Likewise, Carrier, 23, is still young and coming into his own as a bottom-six forward that could see more time or about the same number of games this season (37) as next season. For depth purposes alone, Carrier matters a lot to the team.

28-year-old pending-UFA, Luca Sbisa, played a part in 30 regular season games and could remain as a depth defender if he stays, while 33-year-old pending-UFA, Clayton Stoner, is without a doubt searching for a new place to play.

If re-signing Karlsson and his other pending-RFAs is a pretty big deal for McPhee this summer, then so is locking up Colin Miller, 25, and Shea Theodore, 22, to viable contracts that won’t cost an arm and a leg, assuming the top-6 defenders continue to develop and capitalize on career seasons.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury, 33, has one-year left on his current deal at $5.750 million and will be looking to sign what might be his last NHL contract next summer, while backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban, 24, is also entering the final year of his $650,000 per year deal.

Subban isn’t likely to overtake Fleury in the next year or two, so both goalies should be back, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, okay? It’s only 2018, not 2019.

Retained salary: Derick Brassard ($2.000 million) through 2018-19.

Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:

Brandon Pirri (UFA), Chris Casto (UFA), Paul Thompson (UFA), Maxime Lagace (UFA), Jason Garrison (UFA), Teemu Pulkkinen (RFA), Oscar Dansk (RFA), and Philip Holm (RFA)

Down the Frozen River Podcast #107- Stanley Cup Final Preview (Not Live in Vegas)

Nick and Connor contemplate going to Vegas in addition to a complete breakdown, preview and predictions for the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.