Updated August 13, 2022 - 8:36 am
The Golden Knights’ eventful offseason — which included a coaching change, the loss of two of their four leading goal scorers, the re-signing of right wing Reilly Smith and more — saw its latest twist Thursday.
Starting goaltender Robin Lehner is expected to miss the entire 2022-23 season because of a hip injury that requires surgery. The news represents a massive loss for the Knights six weeks out from training camp. They do still have time to adjust, however.
Moving Lehner to long-term injured reserve will give the team about $5 million extra in spending power if they choose to use it to address their hole in net or elsewhere. The Knights could also roll with the goaltenders they already have and see how things shake out.
Here is a look at the team’s roster and what is available on the market:
Thompson is likely to get the first crack at the net in 2022-23.
That’s remarkable for a player who five seasons ago was playing the equivalent of “Summerlin softball league” hockey at Brock University in Ontario, according to former coach Pete DeBoer. Thompson morphed from an undrafted non-prospect into a promising rookie who went 10-5-3 with a .914 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average last season.
The key for the 25-year-old will be sustaining that success. NHL teams will come equipped with better scouting reports and ways to attack him next season. He’s still confident. He said in May he believes he can be a starting NHL goaltender.
“I think that I can handle it,” Thompson said. “I think I proved to a lot of people (last season) that I can take on that role.”
Brossoit should be the Knights’ primary backup again when he gets healthy.
The 29-year-old had hip surgery this offseason after making a career-high 21 starts and 24 appearances by March 15. General manager Kelly McCrimmon said July 14 that Brossoit will be “nip and tuck” to make the opening-night roster.
Brossoit’s health and light recent workload — he has 66 starts and 78 appearances the last four seasons — means it’s unlikely he’s given the majority of games next season. He’ll have to compete for time with Thompson once he gets up to speed on coach Bruce Cassidy’s systems instead.
Brossoit, for his career, is 42-41-8 with a .905 save percentage and 2.84 goals-against average.
Hutchinson, a free-agent signing, has a chance to make the Knights out of camp if Brossoit isn’t ready.
The 32-year-old was added for insurance in net on a one-year, $750,000 contract July 13. Hutchinson in 137 NHL games is 55-55-15 with a .905 save percentage and 2.79 goals-against average.
It remains to be seen what he has left in the tank. Hutchinson struggled last season by giving up six goals on 42 shots faced in two appearances with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also posted an .899 save percentage in 28 American Hockey League games.
The Knights won’t find much out there if they look to sign another goaltender.
McCrimmon said “it’s almost there’s a shortage of goalies” July 14 after signing Hutchinson, and that’s still true a month later.
The only other unrestricted free agent goaltender who appeared in at least 10 NHL games last season is 34-year-old Andrew Hammond, who had an .879 save percentage.
Trade targets in net
The Knights, with minimal free-agent options, could attempt a trade.
It would likely take a significant offer to make a team switch up its roster this late in the offseason. It may be worth a call anyway.
Semyon Varlamov is a potential target if the New York Islanders are willing to listen. The 34-year-old has a .916 save percentage in 560 NHL games and will likely start the year behind Ilya Sorokin on the depth chart. Varlamov has one year left on his contract with a $5 million cap hit.
Not many other goaltenders could be available without major question marks.
Anton Khudobin beat the Knights in the 2020 Western Conference Final, but the Dallas Stars would likely be happy to shed the final season of his three-year, $10 million contract. The 36-year-old went unclaimed on waivers in December and had hip surgery in March.
Anaheim’s John Gibson has made three All-Star teams and his name appeared in trade rumors this summer. He still has five years left on his contract with a $6.4 million cap hit however, making any deal challenging.
The Knights don’t have to use their newfound financial flexibility in net.
There is nothing stopping them from using their extra cap space to address a forward group that’s gotten thinner with Max Pacioretty, Evgenii Dadonov, Alex Tuch, Mattias Janmark and Peyton Krebs all leaving since November.
There are intriguing players on the market, though the other 31 teams have left them unsigned for nearly a month.
Former Knights center Paul Stastny is available after scoring 21 goals and 45 points in 71 games for the Winnipeg Jets last season. So are other productive players like right wing Phil Kessel (52 points), right wing/center Evan Rodrigues (43 points) and left wing Sonny Milano (34 points in 66 games).
Center Nazem Kadri is the highest-profile name still unsigned after scoring 87 points and winning a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. His asking price could be difficult for the Knights to meet if he wants a long-term deal.