This off-season the Knights’ said goodbye to defenceman Nate Schmidt and Paul Stastny in an effort to sign premier free agent defenceman Alex Pietrangelo to a long-term contract. Ultimately they succeeded, but his seven-year, $61.6-million contract has caused some cap concerns. According to CapFriendly.com, Vegas currently has a total of zero dollars in cap space and would need to create some space for the start of the season in order to handle even the most basic of transactions. But is there a move that could benefit both the Wild and the Knights?
According to The Athletic’s Jesse Granger, there are three players that Vegas is considering moving in order to achieve some breathing room; wingers Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault, as well as goaltender Marc-André Fleury.
Let’s get Fleury out of the way first. He’s 36, would carry his $7-million cap hit for an additional season beyond this one and his best hockey is behind him. He isn’t a considerable upgrade over Cam Talbot and doesn’t fit into the Wild’s timeline for competitiveness. The Flower just isn’t a fit. Pacioretty and Marchessault present interesting options though.
Jonathan Marchessault has been one of the most heralded grabs for Vegas from their initial expansion draft. Coming off a season where he would have scored 27 goals and 58 points in a normal 82-game campaign, he’s been consistent in his production for Vegas. The diminutive forward is a shot creation wizard, looking at Corey Sznajder’s (@Shutdownline) tracking data from 2018-2020, it places Marchessault in the upper echelon of the league when it comes to shots and shot assists.
But what Marchessault brings on the offensive end of the game, he lacks on defense. By both traditional and ‘advanced’ metrics, Marchessault is a liability.
In a traditional view, he was a plus-six in the 2019-20 season and a plus-two in 2018-19 on teams with great goal differentials. In the advanced metrics department, let’s see how he stacked up against the rest of the forwards on the Knights;
I’m pretty sure it’s bad if your defensive metrics are so putrid that it drags you into the depths Nicolas Roy and William Carrier in terms of overall value.
But who’s that up there I see? Above much-lauded Mark Stone?
In terms of what would benefit the Wild most out of any transaction with the Knights right now, a sizeable winger with goal-scoring touch would be at right at the top of the list.
Pacioretty is in the second year of a 4 year/$7 million contract extension and is likely the Knights’ top pick to move. He is 32, but just scored 32 goals on one of the best lines in the NHL last season (Pacioretty flanked Chandler Stephenson with Mark Stone). As seen in the chart above, he was more valuable to the Knights’ than any other forward in the eyes of Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement model.
If Mats Zuccarello does miss a large chunk of the season, an LTIR stint may provide the Wild with the ability to fit Pacioretty’s cap hit.
The situation in Vegas that is ripe to be taken advantage of.
I don’t know if the Wild will be in on it, but this depends on what GM Bill Guerin expects out of the flawed roster he has in front of him. Vegas is going to be desperate to get out of the cap-bind they’ve put themselves into and there is a good chance that Guerin could get a player like Pacioretty for pennies on the dollar.
If Guerin sees this upcoming season as chance to reset the organization and experiment with the assets he’s got, adding Pacioretty may help cover up some of the other question marks elsewhere on the roster. If he wants to acquire an impactful player on the cheap, a better situation couldn’t present itself.