Las Vegas has all the things I hold near and dear to my heart: degenerate gambling, cheap buffets, and professional hockey. Remember when everyone thought hockey in Vegas was going to be a bad idea? Remember when everyone thought that people wouldn’t leave their slot machines and Cirque du Sole to watch a hockey game? Boy, was everybody wrong.
Vegas has become one of North America’s best hockey cities. Toronto and Montreal might be nice, but can you go to a pool party and play $5 blackjack just a short stroll away? Probably not. For today’s Devils Army Blog Trade Series, let’s take a look at these Vegas Golden Knights.
The Deal In Vegas
In a city built on losers, the Vegas Golden Knights were winners much earlier than anyone expected. While the Golden Knights were initially expected to struggle, they stunned the hockey world and performed immediately. Their early success — culminating in a trip to the Stanley Cup final their inaugural season — has made them one of the biggest surprises in NHL history.
Vegas was able to assemble a competitive roster and add championship caliber pieces, but unfortunately for them, it came at a cost. After their latest prized jewel acquisition — acquiring Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators — the Golden Knights find themselves up against the cap in only their second season. Players may have to be moved to make accommodations.
Even though he is only 28 years old, Smith is one of the most experienced players on the Vegas’ roster. His previous stops in the NHL include stints with Dallas, Boston, and Florida, but the prior two seasons with Vegas have been his most successful. He finished this past season third on the Knights in scoring. He’s found himself a place on Vegas’ top line and has cemented himself as one of the best wingers in the league.
Smith isn’t the type of player that a team like Vegas wants to move, but it may make sense for them to at least consider it. They have a massive commitment to Mark Stone, who plays the same exact position and is arguably the better of the two so having Stone around makes Smith slightly more expendable. In addition, Smith only saw a small dip in production, as he tallied 53 points compared to 60 last season. All-in-all, most Golden Knights’ players saw reductions after exceeding expectations in 2017-18.
The Devils would absolutely love to have Smith. The fact he plays at a position that the Devils are in dire need of – right wing – makes the situation a great match. Vegas will want a good return for him, but with their cap situation, they can’t be too picky. If the Devils offer draft picks a deal may be completed.
Colin Miller has quietly built a reputation as one of the NHL’s most underrated defenseman. In addition, he’s got quite an offensive prowess. Miller tallied 41 points last season and 29 this season. Those might not be Brent Burns or Erik Karlsson numbers, but they’re great for a defenseman.
File this one under a Devils’ specific need, as they have a glaring hole at defense. The fact Miller is a right-handed defenseman makes him an even more ideal fit for the team. The free agency market for a defenseman is pretty thin this year, so a trade would likely be the best way for Ray Shero to address this need.
There are a few concerns with Miller. First, his weight of 196 pounds makes him slightly undersized. While not a major concern, his point production did decrease from last season. But then again, so did pretty much everyone on the Vegas team. The most concerning statistic is the decrease in his shooting percentage. This number went down by over half (5.2% to 2.6%).
Miller has a modified no-trade clause, but that clause doesn’t go into effect 2020-21. If Vegas is ever going to move Miller, now would be a perfect time. And if the Devils can get him, their blue line takes a huge step forward.
Former Devil David Clarkson’s appearance on this list may surprise many. Yes, he is basically retired and will never play again, but that’s not the point. Clarkson’s cap hit is currently on Vegas’ books, so they’re paying a guy that’s never going to skate for them. It was a move orchestrated by Clarkson’s former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, during the expansion draft to protect additional players.
While it may have benefited both the Blue Jackets and the Knights then, it’s hurting Vegas now. They need cap space desperately and getting Clarkson off their payroll would help immensely. Of course, any potential trade partner would be trading for a player that will never help their team. That’s why Vegas will have to give up assets — either in the form of players or draft picks — to convince someone to take on Clarkson’s contract for the next few seasons. It’s a tricky situation, but it’s nothing new for the Devils. A few seasons back, they got a few draft picks from Florida in agreeing to take on Marc Savard’s contract after his career was cut short by injury.
If the Devils were to get Clarkson’s contract, they would probably have to give up an asset themselves. Now, I am not saying Shero should do it, but he should at least listen to how desperate Vegas is. If they’re indeed desperate enough to shed Clarkson’s contract and throw in a second round pick to get it done, it’d be a deal worth making.