Having made an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season, what next for the Golden Knights? Can they repeat as Western Conference Champions or maybe go one better?
Expectations Will Be High
One of the first hurdles the Golden Knights will face will be fan expectations. This year was a miracle on ice, a dramatic fairytale that swept everyone along. Coming so close to the big prize in the first season was an amazing achievement. But a second year must surely be an improvement, mustn’t it? At least that’s what a lot of fans will think.
Vegas have done well this year as underdogs. There can be no doubting that they played worse in the finals than they have in any series this season. Was this because they were finally favourites, or was it because the Capitals figured them out? Neither of those would bode well for a Vegas repeat. But one thing we can be sure of is that there will be more rumblings in the press if they don’t get off to a good start.
Will They Keep The Team Together
One of the problems for new franchises is that fans become attached to players so quickly. And when you have a miracle run, players become more entrenched in the fans minds. But make no mistake, the Golden Knights have a number of key questions awaiting them with their current players.
James Neal, David Perron, and Ryan Reaves will likely be moved on as the veterans look to get paid as unrestricted free agents. Reaves leaving, in particular, could be a bitter pill for Vegas fans to swallow as he has become a big favourite already.
William Karlsson, Colin Mille, and Shea Theodore are all restricted free-agents and are likely to return, but at what cost. The Golden Knights have a healthy $26m in cap space available, but they may look to make a big splash in free agency.
Will They Add Some Genuine Star Power
One of the question marks over Vegas finals was where were the stars. Looking across the ice they could see Alex Ovechkin leading his team with roars, and determination, each goal spurring him onward towards his goal. He was the unstoppable Great 8. Vegas has no such talisman.
That’s to be expected, as those players aren’t available in expansion drafts. But will the Golden Knights look to add that player this summer? John Tavares of the Islanders is one such player they could target. They’ve proven they have the fan base, the desire, and that they’re not that far away. And they have the money to offer in free agency.
Another opportunity might be to add a big name via trade. Vegas holds 7 picks in 2018, and 12 picks in 2019. They could look to package some of those picks, to make a move for an unsettled star. It has been Vegas firm belief in their process, however. That would seem to eliminate the trade route as they look to continue to build from within.
Vegas are playing with house money in a lot of ways. Well ahead of their development plans, they are well placed to compete again next year. The chances of all the stars aligning again next season are very slim…but if we learned one thing this season, it’s to never count out Vegas. It’s gonna be one heck of a ride as we keep asking what next for the Golden Knights.