The Vegas Golden Knights rolled the dice Monday and hopefully ended up with a lucky number seven as they signed the top unrestricted free agent on the market, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
The Golden Knights inked him to a seven-year deal worth $61.6 million over the length of the contract, with an average annual cap hit of $8.8 million.
The NHL allows each team to be 10 percent over the salary cap during the off-season and to get within that range, Vegas dealt their previous best defenseman Nate Schmidt, who still had five years remaining on a contract that he signed in October 2018, while he was suspended under the NHL/NHLPA’s Performance Enhancing Substances Program. The ‘giveaway’ to Vancouver as Vegas only received a third-round pick in return, allowed the Golden Knights to slash $5.95 million per year off their cap.
The Golden Knights did upgrade significantly (as did Vancouver) as Pietrangelo is a top-five defenseman in the NHL. I thought Pietrangelo would be forced to sign a shorter-term deal with the ongoing pandemic still raging as most teams would not have the room under the salary cap, save for some bottom teams like Detroit, but Vegas made it work, even though they still have moves to make being over the cap.
Marc-Andre Fleury seemed like a sure bet to go elsewhere as he looks to be the backup netminder with the long-term deal handed out to Robin Lehner earlier, but Lehner is in need of shoulder surgery (although he is expected to be back in time for the start of the season) and GM Kelly McCrimmon said on Monday night that the organization’s intent is to keep both netminders. Fleury’s cap hit is $5.75 million, so it is possible that he could still be on the move as the Golden Knights are $974,104 over the limit as of now.
Pietrangelo will now look for his second Stanley Cup, as he captained his former team, the St. Louis Blues, to the Cup in 2019. The Golden Knights just became stronger and they weren’t missing that much last month when they lost in the Western Conference Final to Dallas. They have to be considered Stanley Cup co-favorites with Tampa Bay at this time.
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NOTES: In other news around the NHL, the New York Rangers signed first overall pick in 2020, Alexis Lafreniere, to an entry-level contract…Tyler Toffoli, one of the biggest names in the free agent market, signed a four-deal deal with Montreal for $17 million. He should fit in very nicely as a top-six forward for the Habs…Colorado gave defenseman Ryan Graves a three-year extension for $9.5 million. Graves led the NHL in plus/minus last season with a plus-40…The Blackhawks gave the underrated Lucas Wallmark a one-year deal for $950,000…Ryan Miller wants to play another season but the goaltending market is drying up, unless Fleury goes elsewhere and Vegas needs an inexpensive backup for Lehner…Erik Gustafsson signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia…Colorado picked up defenseman Devon Toews from the Islanders, giving up a pair of second-round picks in 2021 and 2022…Minnesota signed their goalie of the future, Kaapo Kahkonen, to a two-year contract. The first year will be a two-way contract while it will be a one-year deal in 2021-22. The Wild will go with Cam Talbot and Alex Stalock this season but expect to see Kahkonen between the pipes the following year, at least in a backup role.