We’re several days removed from the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline and Kelly McCrimmon’s head is still spinning. McCrimmon, GM of the Vegas Golden Knights, entered the final day of the trade window with a not-so-simple plan to implement – dump salary on other franchises to enable his injured stars to return to the line-up.
The plan failed.
Late on Monday [21 March], the Golden Knights announced a trade with the Anaheim Ducks. The deal saw forward Evgenii Dadonov and a conditional second-round pick moved to California in exchange for defenceman John Moore and Ryan Kesler’s contract.
The Anaheim Ducks have acquired Evgenii Dadonov and a conditional 2023 or 2024 second-round pick from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for John Moore and Ryan Kesler's contract. #TradeCentre pic.twitter.com/ZeorpH7xXp
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) March 21, 2022
To lift the hood on the transaction: it wasn’t a hockey deal; it was cap-focused.
Dadonov is a middle-six winger with a scoring touch, albeit one forced down the line up in Vegas. Moore, on the other hand, is an injury-hit blueliner with plenty to prove as the final year of his contract comes into view.
Kesler’s situation is entirely different – he’s halfway through his third season on LTIR with a career-ending injury. The one-time Selke Trophy winner was only included in the deal for financial reasons.
In other words, Vegas traded Dadonov to create cap space – which they need to reactive their players on the injury list.
And then, just hours after the trade was announced, it fell apart.
We have become aware of an issue with respect to the trade. We have been consulting with the league office. We will provide further information once it becomes available. #VegasBorn
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) March 22, 2022
Dadonov, it was quickly discovered, has an active modified no-trade clause in his contract, giving him the power to veto the deal. An administrative bungle on the part of the NHL, Golden Knights, and Ottawa Senators – the Russian’s former team – lead to his trade to Anaheim being wrongly rubberstamped.
Two days later, the deal was cancelled because it violated Dadonov’s no-trade clause. As a result, he remains a Golden Knight, Moore a Duck, Kesler a retiree.
What are the Golden Knights’ Cap Issues?
The trade’s reversal leaves Vegas in an awkward position.
Between defenceman Alec Martinez and forward Mark Stone, the Golden Knights have more than $15 million on LTIR. As it stands, McCrimmon doesn’t have enough cap space to reactivate either of them if they return to health during the regular season.
Vegas needs $9.1 million in cap room to bring Stone back into the fold, plus $4.8 million for Martinez. For what it’s worth, trading Dadonov to the Ducks would’ve saved them roughly $3.375 million.
However, there are still a couple of ways Vegas could create cap space.
Even after the deadline, the Golden Knights could make a trade – although any players involved wouldn’t be able to participate in the postseason. Vegas could also waive players – but that would require another team claiming a large contract.
Lastly, and perhaps most realistically, McCrimmon could place more players on LTIR. “We’ve got a lot of LTIR candidates, not just the players that are on LTIR currently,” he said on Monday.
If Max Pacioretty – for example – was placed on the injury list, it would free up enough space to reactivate Martinez.
However, only by trading or waiving a player will Vegas be able to ice their full roster before the end of the regular season. They’re capped out.
Will Vegas Qualify for the Playoffs?
Now, that’s an interesting question because the Western Conference is incredibly tight.
Vegas are fourth in the Pacific Division with 15 games left to play and sit one point back of the second wildcard spot.
They’re 3-7-0 since 8 March and have struggled since the turn of the year. Although the team’s patchy form cannot be blamed on Jack Eichel, his return from injury didn’t exactly set a fire under his teammates.
If the regular season ended today, the Golden Knights wouldn’t have done enough to clinch a playoff spot. As a result, Peter DeBoer – the team’s head coach – is on the hotseat, just like McCrimmon.
However, their next game could allow them to build up a head of steam.
Vegas won 6-1 against the Nashville Predators last time out and are scheduled to host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday [26 March] at 19:00 GMT.
It’s a fixture the Golden Knights must win. They’re running out of games to get above the playoff line and Chicago are beatable. The Blackhawks sold at the deadline and will be vulnerable heading down the stretch.
Ironically, Dadonov scored in Vegas’ win over Nashville. McCrimmon will be hoping he repeats the trick versus Chicago.