February 24 marks the trade deadline in the National Hockey League. This is the time when teams look to make trades to bolster their rosters in hopes of making a deep playoff run. General Manager Kelly McCrimmon and President of Hockey Operations George McPhee will be looking to strengthen the Golden Knights within this timeframe.
The Golden Knights currently sit in 2nd place in the Pacific Division and possess less than $1 million (per Capfriendly) in available cap space. If they decide to make a trade, they will need to move some contracts off their books. This means players like Cody Eakin, Jon Merril, Nick Holden and/or Ryan Reaves would need to be moved. They probably will also need to part with draft picks and some prospects they have in the Minor League. The following players are potential trade pieces Vegas could target.
1. Erik Gustafsson (Defenseman, Chicago Blackhawks)
Fresh off a 2019 season where he had 17 goals and 43 assists (60 points), Erik Gustafsson looks like a piece that McCrimmon and McPhee could target. He has a good shot and can move the puck well. He would make an immediate impact in this roster and would slot in with either Brayden McNabb or Nate Schmidt to round out the top 4 defense. He also would give the second power play unit a heavy shot from the blueline that they haven't consistently had.
His current cap hit sits at $1.2 million with him set to become a free agent this summer. This means Vegas does not have to move multiple contributors to acquire him.
Chicago currently sits in 6th place in the Central Division, but only 2 points out of a wildcard spot. The question here becomes whether or not Chicago is willing to part ways with a piece if they continue to push for a playoff spot. Even if Chicago feels like they can move him, the asking price will still be high because they (and other teams) know Vegas is in need of a defensemen.
2. Tony DeAngelo (Defenseman, New York Rangers)
Tony DeAngelo makes the most sense for Vegas to try and acquire. The biggest reason why is because he shoots right-handed. Deryk Engelland and Zach Whitecloud are the only players on the Golden Knights roster that shoot right handed. Engelland is not an offensive threat, and Whitecloud has very minimal NHL experience. DeAngelo currently has 41 points on the season (12 goals, 29 assists per Hockeyreference) and is only 24 years old. He also plays like a monster on the powerplay and can move the puck well. DeAngelo could fill the void that Colin Miller left in the lineup when he departed for Buffalo in free agency.
DeAngelo’s current cap hit sits at less than $1 million (per Capfriendly), so Vegas’ cap issue will not be a significant problem. The issue here is that DeAngelo is only 24, which will make convincing New York to part with him a challenge. Knowing that DeAngelo will be a hot commodity before the deadline is up, the asking price for him will be high. The question then becomes whether or not Vegas has enough desirable pieces to persuade New York to move off their young defensemen. DeAngelo will be in line for a massive raise this summer, which could factor into his price as well. Recent trades have indicated that McPhee and McCrimmon do not like to trade away key assets for players without extensions being agreed upon first (Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty are great examples last season).
3. Alec Martinez (Defenseman, Los Angeles Kings)
Part of the Golden Knights issue this year is defending in their own zone. If the Golden Knights lose out on DeAngelo or Gustafsson (or the asking price is too high) then Alec Martinez could be another player to consider. While Martinez doesn't fit the puck mover the Golden Knights are looking for, he is a solid defensemen who can help round out their top 4 defense pairings. This would allow for Shea Theodore and Brayden McNabb to reunite and would give Nate Schmidt a defensive minded partner that could help reignite his offensive potential. He does come with a $4 million dollar cap hit (per Capfriendly) until the end of the 2021 season. While Martinez’s asking price will not be as high as some of the other defensemen on the trade market, Vegas will still have to move some money around in order to complete this trade.
The Kings will be looking to rebuild over the next couple of seasons, so they will look to move off some of the contracts they have signed. The question is whether or not the Kings will be willing to make a trade with a division rival.
4. Shayne Gostisbehere (Defenseman, Philadelphia Flyers)
Shayne Gostisbehere is another solid puck-moving defenseman that the Golden Knights are looking for. Gostisbehere is a capable puck mover that can play on the powerplay and move the puck around. He would make a great fit on the third defense pairing with a Zach Whitecloud or Deryk Engelland, but could also slot in to one of the top 4 pairings if need be. His offensive skills would help add more scoring depth to a Golden Knights blue line that has lacked it all season.
With Gostisbehere comes a few issues. First, he has regressed since his 2017-18 season which saw him put up 13 goals and 52 assists (per Hockeyreference). This season he only has 5 goals and 7 assists in 41 games played. He has missed some time to injury this season, but he hasn't played the best when he has been in the lineup.
Sometimes, a change of scenery can help a player get back to the form they are capable of. This was no more evident than with the players that came in from Vegas’ expansion draft.
The other issue Vegas will have to deal with in acquiring him is his contract. He comes with a $4.5 million dollar cap hit until 2023-24. Any price that Philadelphia asks for him could be steep if he is unable to reignite his offensive potential.
5. Craig Smith (RW/C, Nashville Predators)
Make no mistake, the Golden Knights desperately need help on the blue line, but a lot of other teams with more desirable trade pieces need help as well. This will make it difficult to acquire some of the marquee players on the trading block this year. Part of the problem Vegas has had this season is their 3rd line. At times, it has been mediocre at best and utterly useless at worst. If none of the defensemen that could help the Golden Knights are available, they may look to bolster the bottom 6. Like Nashville in general, Craig Smith has had a down year. However, pairing him on the 3rd line with Alex Tuch and Cody Glass could help jumpstart a line that has been, at times, absolutely abysmal this year. This also is the biggest risk because if Smith doesn't provide depth scoring, Vegas will be in even bigger trouble than they already are.
With all the ups and downs this season, the Golden Knights are still firmly in playoff contention. Adding one of these players will help them improve their position in the standings and make a run for the Stanley Cup.