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Golden Knights may pursue star defenseman, others in free agency

Updated September 27, 2020 - 3:22 pm

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley made a name for himself in the business world by purchasing distressed companies and properties.

Could a similar strategy work for the Knights in free agency?

As contract negotiations between the St. Louis Blues and captain Alex Pietrangelo become increasingly contentious, the Knights appear ready to swoop in should he reach free agency.

Multiple reports indicate the Knights will aggressively pursue the right-shot defenseman if he’s available starting Oct. 9 and then perform the necessary salary cap gymnastics to fit in a player of his caliber.

The Blues are pushed against the salary cap and offered the maximum eight years with an $8 million average annual value, according to St. Louis media. Pietrangelo’s reported asking price is more than $9 million per season.

Thanks to Foley’s financial clout and dogged pursuit of a Stanley Cup, the Knights are one of the few teams willing to spend to the salary cap ceiling during the pandemic.

Pietrangelo, 30, finished fourth in the voting for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman and posted a career-high 16 goals with 52 points.

With few holes on the current roster, the Knights are not expected to be active in free agency outside of Pietrangelo. But here are some other possibilities should they decide to spend (players listed without teams are unrestricted free agents):

Defensemen

Tyson Barrie, Toronto Maple Leafs — He shoots right-handed like Pietrangelo and ranks 10th in points among defensemen the past five seasons. Barrie’s contract is projected to be around $7 million per season. The Knights would have to clear cap space to fit him in. Considering his defensive shortcomings, is he worth it?

Golden Knights right wing Alex Tuch (89) pushes the puck up ice past Colorado Avalanche defense ...
Golden Knights right wing Alex Tuch (89) pushes the puck up ice past Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) in the first period on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018, at T-Mobile Arena, in Las Vegas. Benjamin Hager Las Vegas Review-Journal

Dylan DeMelo, Winnipeg Jets — Knights coach Pete DeBoer is familiar with the reliable right-hand shot from their time in San Jose. DeMelo wouldn’t cost much (projected $2 million AAV) and can kill penalties. But he doesn’t offer much offense, which is where the Knights are looking to improve.

Brenden Dillon, Washington Capitals — The physical left-hander doesn’t fill an immediate need, but he might offer an upgrade over Nick Holden or Brayden McNabb. And he also played for DeBoer in San Jose. Dillon’s next contract is projected by Evolving Hockey to be in the neighborhood of $4 million AAV.

Travis Hamonic, Calgary Flames — A steady veteran who plays the right side. Hamonic’s offense has diminished since a 33-point season in 2014-15, but he should get a raise from his $3.86 million AAV. He finished his junior career playing for general manager Kelly McCrimmon with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Sami Vatanen, Carolina Hurricanes — The Knights were rumored to be interested in the right-handed shooter at the trade deadline before he was injured. Vatanen might help the No. 2 power play, if healthy. But his price tag could be almost $4 million per season, according to The Hockey Code’s salary projections.

Forwards

Jesper Fast, New York Rangers — If the Knights create room in the top six for Alex Tuch, Fast is the type of hard-working winger that could plug the hole on the third line. He is the only member of the Rangers to win the Players’ Player award five straight seasons and is projected to cost less than $3 million per season.

New York Rangers right wing Jesper Fast (17) reacts after dropping his hockey stick during the ...
New York Rangers right wing Jesper Fast (17) reacts after dropping his hockey stick during the second period of an NHL hockey game between the Vegas Golden Knights and the New York Rangers at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal @vegasphotograph

Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo Sabres — A former first-round pick of the Sabres who was voted into the 2015 All-Star Game, Girgensons, 26, is now a high-effort, bottom-six role player. The 6-foot-2-inch, 211-pound native of Latvia can play center or wing and made $1.6 million last season.

Tyler Pitlick, Philadelphia Flyers — He is due a small raise from his $1 million AAV and might re-sign after a 20-point season. If not, Pitlick would provide a bottom-six forechecker with double-digit goal potential. The 28-year-old led the Flyers’ forwards in hits (132) and blocked shots (42).

Carl Soderberg, Arizona Coyotes — Productive centers rarely get to free agency, and at 34, he might not be the answer to the Knights’ need for a middle-six pivot. But Soderberg could provide a net-front presence that’s been lacking. He’d have to take a pay cut from his $4.75 million AAV, though.

Goalies

Laurent Brossoit, Winnipeg Jets — The backup to Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck wasn’t handed many starts in Winnipeg and didn’t do much when called upon (3.28 goals against, .895 save percentage). But Brossoit is inexpensive after making $1.225 million last season.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit (30) gets a pad on a shot by Vegas Golden Knights cen ...
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit (30) gets a pad on a shot by Vegas Golden Knights center Cody Eakin (21) during the first period of their NHL game at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Left_Eye_Images

Aaron Dell, San Jose Sharks — He had marginal success with the Sharks when DeBoer was the coach and wouldn’t be called on often if Robin Lehner shoulders most of the workload. Dell has a modest .908 career save percentage and is coming off a deal with a $1.9 million AAV.

Brian Elliott, Philadelphia Flyers — The two-time all star was briefly teammates with Lehner in Ottawa during the 2010-11 season. Elliott’s save percentage has decreased each of the past four seasons from .910 to .899. The 35-year-old made $2 million last season.

Cam Talbot, Calgary Flames — This would represent a bigger investment at the goalie position in the event of a condensed schedule. Talbot, 33, posted a 2.63 GAA and .919 save percentage for the Flames and started all 10 playoff games. He made $2.75 million last season.

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

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