Deryk Engelland had a choice.
The veteran defenseman lost his spot in the Golden Knights’ lineup at the start of February and could have accepted a trade to another organization with more available playing time.
But Engelland chose to remain with the team that selected him in the expansion draft three years ago even if it meant being a healthy scratch during the final weeks of the regular season and playoffs.
The longtime Las Vegas resident is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and might have played his final game for the Knights.
“We talked (in February) about the situation and offered to try to do whatever we could to put him in a better spot,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Wednesday. “If he wanted to go to another organization, there was an organization that was ready to trade for him. We wanted Deryk to make the decision. We talked to him.
“He talked it over with his family and came back the next day and said, ‘I think this team can win the Stanley Cup. I want to stay here.’ And he was an incredible teammate the rest of the way.”
Engelland, 38, was not available during end-of-the-season interviews with the media to speak about his future. His agent, Allain Roy, did not return a text message Thursday for an interview request.
Engelland was scratched for 17 of the final 18 games in favor of rookie Zach Whitecloud before the regular season was paused and did not play during the postseason.
He last appeared in a game Feb. 13 at T-Mobile Arena when he played 13:34 in a 6-5 overtime win over St. Louis.
During the playoffs, Engelland skated with the team’s reserves and spent time each day with rookie forward Peyton Krebs, the team’s first-round pick in 2019.
Krebs told the ICE Breaker Show podcast that he and Engelland logged several rounds on the golf simulator inside the NHL bubble in Edmonton, Alberta.
McCrimmon said he has not talked to Engelland or his agent about his future since the Knights’ season ended Monday with a five-game loss to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final.
It long has been speculated that Engelland would work for the organization once his playing days are finished, though neither the team nor Engelland has given an indication there is mutual interest.
“The impact that Deryk had on the people around him and the professionalism that he showed during what’s a challenging time for any athlete, that’s not easy for anybody,” McCrimmon said, “but he was a true pro and I just wanted to take this opportunity … to just really point that out.”
Engelland started his pro career with the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL in 2003-04 and became a fan favorite with the Knights after his powerful speech before the team’s home opener following the Route 91 Harvest festival mass shooting. He served as an alternate captain and recorded eight goals and 33 assists to go with 79 penalty minutes in 202 games.
During his career, Engelland has 30 goals and 127 points with 579 penalty minutes in 11 seasons with Pittsburgh, Calgary and the Knights.
Engelland is one of four unrestricted free agents on the NHL roster along with goaltender Robin Lehner, defenseman Jon Merrill and forward Tomas Nosek. Forwards Chandler Stephenson and Nick Cousins are restricted free agents with arbitration rights.
Free agency begins Oct. 9, and the Knights are projected to have approximately $5.8 million in salary cap space with 10 forwards, six defensemen and one goaltender under contract. They have been linked with St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in free agency, though it would take some creative cap management to sign him.
“The coming three to four weeks is often the most important month of the year for an organization, a manager,” McCrimmon said. “That’s where our focus goes to next. Although it’s only two days since we finished playing, we’ll be working hard to do a real good job in those areas as well.”