weather icon Partly Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Golden Knights players aren’t focused on NHL trade deadline

Reilly Smith wasn’t even aware it was coming up.

The NHL’s March 3 trade deadline is 10 days after the Golden Knights’ game at the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, but the locker room’s focus is elsewhere.

The Knights are looking to build off their five-game winning streak and keep separating themselves in the Pacific Division standings.

To Smith, there’s no point in thinking about it. He and his teammates have no control over what the Knights decide to do. The only thing within their power is how well the team plays.

The players are doing their part. The Knights’ 5-4 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday showed the team is capable of beating one of the NHL’s top contenders. Now the group will have to wait and see if that leads to any additions before the deadline.

“I feel like management, they’re always trying to make our team better,” Smith said. “So whatever they decide to do, we roll with.”

The Knights’ recent run creates an interesting dilemma for the front office.

They aren’t winning because a handful of players are carrying the team. They’re winning because of their depth. All four forward lines and all three defense pairs are contributing. The 18 skaters are getting the job done, even with captain Mark Stone out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery.

“We have a really good group going,” center Nicolas Roy said. “We have a really good team, and if we keep improving (our game), we can have a long run.”

The Knights still could use extra help, because they are unlikely to get through their final 26 games without more injuries. Whether they get it might depend on Stone’s status.

President of hockey operations George McPhee said recently on “The Bob McCown Podcast” that the Knights are trying to “buy time” before the deadline to learn more about when Stone and goaltender Logan Thompson, considered week to week with a lower-body injury, could return.

The Knights would gain an additional $9.5 million in spending power if Stone goes on long-term injured reserve and misses the rest of the regular season. If the team thinks he can come back before the playoffs, it wouldn’t have the same financial flexibility.

“If Mark’s coming back, we may not do anything because we were a pretty good team at the start of the year when everyone was in,” McPhee said. “The injuries complicate things.”

Other teams have been active as the Knights wait for more information.

St. Louis has made two major trades, sending right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and defenseman Niko Mikkola to the New York Rangers, and centers Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The New York Islanders acquired center Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks.

Plenty of other good players could be on the move. The Knights will see one in Chicago in right wing Patrick Kane. The 34-year-old won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks and the 2016 Hart Trophy for NHL MVP. But, with the team near the bottom of the league standings, it might be time for the pending unrestricted free agent to move on.

Kane will decide whether that’s the case because his contract has a full no-movement clause. He’s scored five goals in his past two games to at least generate interest.

Other players who could be available include San Jose left wing Timo Meier, Philadelphia left wing James van Riemsdyk and St. Louis left wing Ivan Barbashev. All could give the Knights a boost if Stone doesn’t return.

But the team’s current players aren’t focused on that. They want to keep their attention on the ice and deal with any moves as they come.

“Regardless of the deadline, this is the time of the year when you have to play your best hockey,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

Don't miss the latest VGK news. Like our Golden Edge page