The Golden Knights have surprised everyone with their 23-9-2 record, including owner Bill Foley, who originally stated he wanted to be in the playoffs by year three and winning the Stanley Cup by year six.
By jumping out to first place in the Western Conference at Christmas, Foley has moved up his timeline and wants to keep this team together.
“Now we have a situation where we need to get some unrestricted free agents signed up to make sure we keep the core of this team in place,” Foley said in a Q&A with Gary Lawless of the Golden Knights.
Foley is hinting at the big decisions his general manager has to make prior to February 26 trade deadline. In James Neal, David Perron, Jonathan Marchessault and Luca Sbisa four of the Golden Knights biggest stars will be unrestricted free agents.
Originally George McPhee was expected to be shopping these players at the deadline. Vegas was supposed to be looking for future picks to help hit Foley’s timeline.
But Vegas is good now. And the owner sounds like he wants to keep those four around.
McPhee has to decide if he still wants to acquire future assets for those four free agents, or if he wants to try and sign them long term to keep this surprisingly good core together.
There is a third scenario in which Vegas keeps Neal, Perron, Marchessault and Sbisa for a playoff run then lets them walk as free agents. But that is probably the worst outcome for the future of Vegas.
While all four players could see significant raises, Marchessault will be the one too see the largest jump in salary.
The 26-year-old is making just $750,000 this season. That will easily balloon to $5 million or more for a winger with just two fewer goals than Connor McDavid since the start of the 2016-17 season.
But Vegas should have the cap space to bring Marchessault and the rest of the free agents back. They currently have the fourth most cap space in the NHL ($14.9 million) and have The contracts of Mikhail Grabovski, Clayton Stoner and Jason Garrison (combined $11.8 million) coming off the books.
If Foley and McPhee want to keep this core together, they likely can. The only question now is if George McPhee is a believer in this team right now or if he is still focused on the future.
Tyler Bischoff hosts Coaches Corner on AM 720 KDWN Monday through Friday at 6:00 pm.