Golden Knights face tough free agent, contract decisions ahead

Updated June 13, 2018 - 5:16 pm

The drawback of the Golden Knights’ historic run to the Stanley Cup Final is an abbreviated offseason.

The NHL Draft takes place June 22 and 23, and unrestricted free agents can begin negotiations with teams that do not hold their signing rights starting June 24.

The deadline for clubs to make qualifying offers to restricted free agents is June 25, and clubs can sign RFAs to an offer sheet beginning at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time June 26.

SHORT DESCRIPTION (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Free agency officially starts at noon Eastern time July 1.

In addition, rookie development camp runs June 26 to 30.

The Knights have a long to-do list this summer, starting with the futures of unrestricted free agents James Neal and David Perron. Center William Karlsson, who scored 43 goals, is one of a handful of restricted free agents.

With plenty of room under the salary cap ($26.475 million, according to CapFriendly.com), general manager George McPhee could take a run at high-profile free agent John Tavares or make a run at Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson.

“The reality is in the salary cap world you have to make some tough decisions. This team, not everyone will be back,” McPhee said.

“We’ll do our best to keep this group together, but there’s always three or four changes.”

Unrestricted free agents

James Neal — The winger is coming off a 25-goal season, and at age 30, he could command a lucrative, long-term contract this summer out of the Golden Knights’ price range.

David Perron — The 30-year-old said his agent and the team had multiple discussions about an extension during the season but couldn’t come to an agreement.

Ryan Reaves — The 31-year-old winger provided a physical presence on the forecheck and became a fan favorite. He earned $1.125 million last season.

Luca Sbisa — The 28-year-old defenseman was one of six alternate captains. But he struggled to stay healthy and had a hefty $3.6 million salary cap hit.

Restricted free agents

William Carrier — The fourth-line winger must be extended a qualifying offer 105 percent of last season’s salary ($750,000). Carrier said he expects to return.

William Karlsson — Coming off a 43-goal season, he is in line for a significant raise from his $1 million salary. Could another team sign him to the seldom-used offer sheet and force the Knights’ hand? The 25-year-old forward is arbitration eligible.

Colin Miller — The 25-year-old led all Knights defensemen with 10 goals and 41 points. He made $1.1 million last season and also is arbitration eligible.

Tomas Nosek — The fourth-line winger made $650,000 last season and could return at a similar bargain salary. The 25-year-old is eligible for arbitration.

Shea Theodore — The former first-round pick finished his entry-level deal that came with a $863,333 cap hit last season. He’s likely get two years at an annual average value of $2.5 million to $3 million.

Additional moves

Contract years — Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Nate Schmidt will be entering the final years of their contracts next season. General manager George McPhee must decide whether to lock up the cornerstone players, and Fleury’s future is especially tricky because of age (33) and salary ($5.75 million in 2018-19).

Second-line holes — If Neal and Perron leave as free agents, two-thirds of the Knights’ No. 2 line would need to be replaced. Tomas Tatar is one possible solution on the wing, and maybe Alex Tuch takes up permanent residence opposite center Erik Haula.

Third-line scoring — The Knights got little in the way of offense from the line centered by Cody Eakin. The hole on the left wing was gaping. McPhee brought in Tatar at the deadline as a quick-fix, but he could take another swing at upgrading in the offseason.

Goaltending depth — Fleury and backup Malcolm Subban are signed through 2019, but there’s not much depth in the organization after that. Maxime Lagace (unrestricted) and Oscar Dansk (restricted), each of whom played well in the American Hockey League, are free agents.

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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