LAS VEGAS — The dust has settled. “Silly Season” is over.
Thursday’s trade for goaltender Jonathan Quick’s was the third and final transaction completed by the Golden Knights, who did not do anything at Friday’s NHL trade deadline. There were rumors Vegas was involved in a potential deal to bring James van Riemsdyk from Philadelphia but the trade failed to gain any traction and as noon approached, coach Bruce Cassidy announced “We’re done.”
So how did the Knights do overall?
They picked up a good, versatile forward in Ivan Barbashev, a fourth-line defensive-minded center in Teddy Blueger and a backup goalie in Quick. In return, the cost was a former first-rounder who is still playing junior hockey (Zach Dean), a fourth-string goaltender (Michael Hutchinson), a couple of low-level future draft picks and no additional money spent.
Barbashev, who was traded from St. Louis for Dean, has been a solid contributor so far. He has three assists in three games, two of which came in the Knights’ 4-3 shootout win over New Jersey Friday night at T-Mobile Arena. With William Carrier getting injured in the second period, Barbashev was forced to be moved around but he continued to give Vegas some strong play. It’s pretty much what they expected when they dealt for him.
Vegas certainly didn’t overspend in making the trio of acquisitions over the past five days. At face value, the Knights probably improved their roster some. But enough to win a Stanley Cup? No. Not even close. They might’ve tried to get in on a couple of the big-ticket items that were being shopped like St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko or Chicago’s Patrick Kane, both, ironically who wound up with the New York Rangers. One or both of those additions might have given Vegas the necessary offense they could use to produce some separation between themselves, the Los Angeles Kings, the Edmonton Oilers and the Seattle Kraken to stay atop the Pacific Division.
Of course, Cassidy said he likes the roster he has, especially when everyone is healthy. But that may never happen and what would you expect him to say? And I’m sure general manager Kelly McCrimmon tried to land a blockbuster deal. But for now, this team is treading water, hoping for a postseason life preserver in captain Mark Stone to return from his second back surgery and lead them to safety and eventually, 16 playoff victories, which would allow owner Bill Foley to make good on his “Cup in Six” vow.
When asked if he can count on Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Chandler Stephenson to generate enough offense and end the prolonged slumps each has encountered this year, McCrimmon said Thursday: “It’s amazing. You go through the NHL, how many teams have had guys who go dry? We have guys who have a history of scoring. Many of these guys have seized the moment.”
They’ll need to. As good as he is, Jack Eichel can’t do it alone. Others will need to chip in. And the team’s power play, which has been downright miserable for a good portion of the season, needs a true reversal of fortune if anyone is to take Vegas seriously as a Cup contender. Fortunately for the Knights, Marchessault delivered with a pair of goals and an assist in Friday’s win over the Devils and he has 19 goals and 41 points with 21 games remaining.
You look at what the teams in the East did — New Jersey, the Rangers, Boston, Toronto, Carolina, Tampa Bay — they all added important pieces. They may destroy each other when the playoffs begin next month and whoever survives will likely be a heavy favorite in the Stanley Cup Final.
But the West is a different story. It may come down to which team has the hot goaltender. That could be Dallas with Jake Oettinger. It could be Colorado with Alexandar Georgiev. Perhaps Connor Hellebuyck carries Winnipeg to the Cup Final.
You could argue a healthy Logan Thompson should be in that conversation for the Knights except Thompson has never played a playoff game. Who knows how he’ll handle the hot glare of the postseason spotlight?
We know Quick has done so. But that was quite a while ago. He hasn’t won a playoff series since 2014, which was when the Kings won their second Stanley Cup. And given the decline in his play, can he turn back the clock and be the Ponce de Leon of the NHL and drink from the Fountain of Youth in order to gain one more sip from the Stanley Cup?
I’m not putting those expectations on him. For now, you should hope he can make the routine stops, occasionally come up with a brilliant save, keep the Knights in the game and try and be consistent with his overall play in the net.
That’s a lot of variables for a team which has winning the Stanley Cup as its top priority at the start of training camp each September. It may be too much ultimately to overcome. But Cassidy is hoping the recent additions will help tip the scales in the Knights’ favor.
“I think Vegas has a winning reputation,” he said. “Bringing in players who have won is a positive thing.”
Yes, Barbashev and Quick have Stanley Cup rings. Phil Kessel has a pair of rings. But so do Alex Pietrangelo and Alec Martinez. The Knights haven’t won a Cup with them so far. But hockey is a funny game. You never know how the puck will bounce. Maybe there will be enough talent to get it done.
The cards have been dealt. Time to play the hand that you have and hope you win the pot at the end.