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Knights agree to contract extension with Stanley Cup-winning goalie

Updated June 30, 2023 - 2:21 pm

Adin Hill — after tossing his stick with eight seconds left in the Golden Knights’ last game of the season, after kissing the Stanley Cup twice in T-Mobile Arena and after rocking a Larry Johnson UNLV jersey during his team’s championship parade — faced a choice this summer.

The pending unrestricted free agent could find a new deal with another team. Or the goaltender could find a compromise that kept him with the Knights for years to come.

Hill’s decision became official Friday. He and the Knights agreed to a two-year, $9.8 million extension that kept one of the team’s playoff heroes in town.

The deal brings stability to a goaltending situation that would have been in flux if the 27-year-old were allowed to depart. It also represents a sizable reward for Hill, who was traded to his third team in three seasons at the start of last year but proceeded to more than prove his worth.

Bringing back Hill answers the Knights’ main question this offseason: Who would mind the crease for their run at back-to-back titles?

Hill was an obvious candidate after leading all starters with a .932 save percentage in the playoffs and finishing third in the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP. It was just a matter of whether his incredible performance priced him out of the team’s plans.

The Knights found a way to get a deal done, but it doesn’t come without risk. Hill, who they acquired from the San Jose Sharks in August for a fourth-round pick, has never been a full-time No. 1 in the NHL. He set a career high in regular-season appearances this past year with 27.

Hill should get some help from goaltender Logan Thompson, a 2023 All-Star who remains under contract for two more seasons. The two grew up in Calgary, Alberta, together and spent most of last year sharing the net.

Hill will also get additional support from the environment around him. He was a perfect fit in coach Bruce Cassidy’s defensive system and should benefit again from playing behind one of the NHL’s best blue lines.

Hill, who was 16-7-1 with a .915 save percentage and 2.45 goals-against average in the regular season, won’t be asked to carry the team himself.

Bringing Hill back on a sizable raise — his previous deal had a $2.175 million cap hit; his new one ranks 19th among goaltenders — keeps the Knights’ championship lineup almost fully intact.

The only player who appeared in the final against Florida and is definitely not returning is left wing Reilly Smith, who was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.

Re-signing Hill means the Knights should be pretty quiet at the opening of free agency Saturday. General manager Kelly McCrimmon said the team expects to wrap up its business fast.

The Knights have approximately $4.35 million in salary-cap space to work with if goaltender Robin Lehner, who had one shoulder and two hip surgeries last summer, begins the season on long-term injured reserve. The bulk of that is expected to go to the team’s three restricted free agents: Left wing Brett Howden, right wing Pavel Dorofeyev and goaltender Jiri Patera.

Those deals often take longer to materialize. Right wing Keegan Kolesar re-signed with the Knights on August 5 last year as a restricted free agent, and Nicolas Roy did the same three days later. Defenseman Nic Hague didn’t agree to a new deal with the team until the day before the regular season.

The Knights, if they believe they’ll have any money left over, also have four pending unrestricted free agents that played for them last season in right wing Phil Kessel, center Teddy Blueger and goaltenders Laurent Brossoit and Jonathan Quick.

McCrimmon said Wednesday before the NHL draft in Nashville that the team is only interested in its own free agents. The Knights want to fight to retain the Stanley Cup using the players that won it for them the first time.

That includes Hill.

He said several times throughout the postseason he was having the most fun he’s ever had playing hockey. With his new deal, the good times can keep rolling.

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

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