Jolt Cola made a minor comeback recently and still comes with “all the sugar and twice the caffeine.” The carbonated swamp juice might be the best way to wake up the sputtering Golden Knights.
Or a trade.
And since the Feb. 24 deadline is fast approaching, that seems a more likely course of action for general manager Kelly McCrimmon, who prefers coffee to toxic energy drinks anyway.
The Knights (25-20-7) held the second wild card position and were three points out of first place in the Pacific Division entering Tuesday’s games. McCrimmon and president of hockey operations George McPhee showed they’re in win-now mode by bringing in Peter DeBoer as coach and won’t stand pat if the right deal presents itself.
With nearly $3.4 million in projected salary cap space at the deadline, according to CapFriendly.com, the Knights have room to be active once again, especially if they’re able to ship out a contract in a deal.
They’ve been sniffing around for a defenseman all winter to begin retooling a unit that has three pending unrestricted free agents.
Here are three directions the Knights could go should they look to swing a deadline deal for the third straight season:
This is the most obvious need for the Knights, who have struggled to retrieve pucks and break out of their own zone. But the cost is high.
Would the Knights be willing to go without a first-rounder for the second time in four years, especially with the potential to end up in the lottery if the final two months go sour?
Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia: A bit of a reclamation project on whom the Knights might be able to buy low. He is signed through 2022-23 at a $4.5 million cap hit.
Erik Gustafsson, Chicago: His value has gone down since last season’s 60-point campaign. Gustafsson turns 28 in March and would be a rental as a pending unrestricted free agent.
Jeff Petry, Montreal: He checks the boxes. Right shot. Can run a power play. Signed through 2021 at $5.5 million. But he has a modified no-trade clause and his price tag could be similar to Jake Muzzin’s last season— a first-round pick and two prospects.
Damon Severson, New Jersey: The Devils have a new GM and might be open to moving the 25-year-old signed through 2022-23 ($4.166 million cap hit). Severson’s most important stat is “Born: Brandon, Manitoba.”
Sami Vatanen, New Jersey: He’s been frequently linked with the Knights and has 22 points in 45 games. Perhaps the Knights could send the Devils back their second-round pick from the Nikita Gusev trade for the rental.
Steady Eddie D
It wouldn’t be a flashy move, but landing a cost-effective, stay-at-home defenseman might be the best alternative for McCrimmon.
The Knights allowed the eighth-most scoring chances and high-danger chances in the league at 5-on-5, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. Their surplus of second-round picks in 2020 and 2021 could be used to land someone that will clear the net in front of Marc-Andre Fleury.
Brenden Dillon, San Jose: The 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pound banger is eighth in the league with 158 hits but will be an unrestricted free agent. Dillon averaged more than 17 minutes per game under DeBoer.
Dylan DeMelo, Ottawa: He’s a cheap rental ($900,000 cap hit) and developed in a dependable right-side defender (20:08 per game) who can kill penalties. Like Dillon, he played for DeBoer in San Jose. Would a fourth-rounder be fair?
Alec Martinez, Los Angeles: The 32-year-old has two Stanley Cups to his credit, and that experience could be valuable in the playoffs. He also has another year left on his contract with a manageable $4 million hit.
Josh Anderson, Columbus: The rugged right wing has been out since Dec. 14 but scored a career-best 27 goals last season. If it’s clear the restricted free agent won’t sign a long-term deal this summer, the Blue Jackets could move the 25-year-old.
Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey: His name keeps being floated despite having an eight-team no-trade clause and being signed through 2021 at a $4.65 million cap hit. The 28-year-old scored 107 goals the previous four seasons.
Craig Smith, Nashville: The right wing has 21 or more goals in five of the past six seasons and could plug-and-play on the third line. He’s two years older and slightly cheaper ($4.25 million cap hit) than Palmieri.
Jason Zucker, Minnesota: Wild general manager Bill Guerin must decide if he’s a seller. Zucker has been heavily linked with Pittsburgh and it would require a major roster shake-up for the Knights to land the Nevada-raised left wing.