The Vegas Golden Knights are among the NHL teams with the most salary cap space going into free agency , giving the Western Conference champions some chips to put on the table in a bid to get back to the Stanley Cup Final.
Vegas had nearly $30 million to spend going into the weekend, according to spotrac.com, trailing only the New York Islanders by about $2 million. The Golden Knights seem set up for major moves if general manager George McPhee wants to bolster the second-year team with free agents.
Vegas didn’t appear to have a shot at landing the top prize on the market John Tavares . But the Golden Knights may make a run at some other available veterans to help increase their chances of competing at a championship level again next season.
Players such as James van Riemsdyk and Paul Stastny would fit in up front with a team that stunningly exceeded expectations during the franchise’s inaugural season. Mike Green, perhaps the best defenseman available, is another veteran that would mesh well as a puck-moving defenseman for the speedy team.
However, McPhee may not want to pay a heavy price with long-term contracts to land any of the top players on the market. He may choose to re-sign his own free agents, sign goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has one year left on his deal, to a contract extension. He may roll with the talented players on his roster while trying to draft and develop.
The Golden Knights have some free agents of their own they’ll want to bring back. James Neal, David Perron and Ryan Reaves are unrestricted free agents with a chance to cash in on their performances last season by re-signing with Vegas or leaving to take advantage of a thin crop of available players.
Vegas’ key restricted free agents are: William Karlsson, Colin Miller, Shea Theodore, Tomas Nosek and Will Carrier. Keeping Karlsson, without a doubt, will be a priority.
Here’s a look at some other teams positioned to make major moves:
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
The Islanders had nearly $32 million in cap space the day before free agency began, giving them more money to spend than any other team in the league. They’ll need a lot of that money to retain Tavares, who is easily the best player potentially available. The 27-year-old star center can command an eight-year deal to stay in New York for perhaps $10 million, or more, per season.
NEW YORK RANGERS
The Rangers were $27-plus million under the cap going into the weekend, but had just 13 players under contract. They will have to spend about $10 million next season to retain restricted free agents Vladislav Namestnikov, Kevin Hayes and Ryan Spooner.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
The franchise hopes to sign Tavares, who is from the Toronto area, to give it a second star to go along with 20-year-old Auston Matthews. Toronto will have some tough choices to make with some of its own players potentially on the unrestricted free agent market such as van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Tomas Plekanec and Leo Komarov. William Nylander, a restricted free agent, will be a priority to keep after consecutive 61-point seasons.
With twin brothers Henrik and Daniel Sedin retiring after counting $7 million each against the cap last season, the Canucks had nearly $25 million in cap space going into the weekend. They’ll probably have to pay free agents more and offer longer-term contracts than other suitors because they’ve been among the worst teams in the league the last three seasons.
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