It was solely two years in the past that the Golden Knights had an excessive amount of expertise within the crease. Vegas had the good thing about selecting between Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner on a nightly foundation, a tandem that allowed the fewest objectives within the NHL. Now Fleury is gone, a sufferer of the wage cap squeeze, and Lehner is anticipated to overlook your complete 2022-23 season after it was decided he requires hip surgical procedure, the staff introduced Thursday.

So the place do the Golden Knights go from right here? Laurent Brossoit, who served as Lehner’s backup for almost all of final season, additionally underwent offseason surgical procedure. His timeline for return is unclear, however there’s an opportunity he isn’t prepared for the beginning of the season. That leaves Vegas with Logan Thompson — who impressed many with a 10-5-3 report down the stretch of final season – and free agent signing Michael Hutchinson.

Thompson confirmed nicely as a rookie in 2021-22, posting a save proportion of .914 and three.9 objectives saved above common in 19 appearances. He has fast legs, protecting the underside of the web extremely nicely, and proved he has the athleticism to play on the highest stage. The extra motion he noticed, the calmer he grew to become within the crease, and he was a serious motive Vegas had any shot on the playoffs within the ultimate days of the common season. Having mentioned all of that, it’s nonetheless an extremely small pattern measurement, particularly at a place as risky as goalie, so Vegas hanging its hopes of returning to contender standing on a younger goalie with 17 profession NHL begins is dangerous, to place it mildly.

Thompson has succeeded at each stage thus far, with a .927 save proportion in 40 ECHL video games and .929 save proportion in 50 AHL video games. The Golden Knights may resolve to present him the prospect to show himself as a professional NHL starter.

A serious promoting level of going with Thompson is it will go away Vegas with loads of cap house to improve the roster elsewhere. If Lehner’s $5 million cap hit is positioned on long run injured reserve, it will go away the Golden Knights with roughly $7 million in usable cap house. Vegas may use that house to amass a goalie — and we’ll go over the present choices — or it may roll with Thompson and his $766,667 cap hit in web. If it chooses the latter, the Golden Knights would have loads of house so as to add one other free agent, with Paul Stastny, Sonny Milano and Phil Kessel amongst others nonetheless on the market.

If Vegas decides it wants so as to add one other goalie, listed here are the choices:

Option 1: Free company

Nearly a full month faraway from the beginning of free company, the goalie panorama is barren. Remember what rest room paper aisles regarded like at grocery shops in early 2020? That’s just about what Vegas is taking a look at when it comes to goalies out there to signal.

Braden Holtby shall be a well-liked identify thrown round due to his monitor report, however The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported earlier this summer that he probably received’t play this season attributable to an damage, and that retirement may very well be an choice for the 32-year-old. While Holtby can be a stable, low-cost veteran addition, it doesn’t seem he’s an choice.

The subsequent largest identify nonetheless unsigned is former Devils’ netminder Cory Schneider. The 36-year-old performed just one recreation final yr for the Islanders, spending the overwhelming majority of the season within the American Hockey League. As can be anticipated for a goalie with as a lot NHL expertise as Schneider, he was sturdy within the AHL with a .921 save proportion within the common season and .927 within the playoffs.

Schneider has had a pair sturdy seasons as a beginning goalie within the NHL, even ending sixth in voting for the Vezina Trophy in 2016, however has posted detrimental objectives saved above common in four-straight seasons previous to final yr’s NHL hiatus.

Outside of these two the goalie free agent market doesn’t have a lot to supply. There’s former Red Wings prospect Filip Larsson, who stays unsigned, however Vegas probably doesn’t see him as an improve over its present goalies.

Option 2: Trade

After a wild couple of weeks across the draft and free company most groups have just about settled on their goalie tandems at this level, however there may nonetheless be a chance for the Golden Knights to amass a goalie through commerce.

The scenario that stands proud essentially the most to me is on Long Island, the place Ilya Sorokin has clearly taken the reins because the beginning goalie however veteran Semyon Varlamov nonetheless has one yr remaining on his deal.

Varlamov’s numbers had been stable final season, posting constructive objectives saved above anticipated, regardless of the Islanders dismal 10-17-2 report with him within the crease. He’s just one season faraway from ending fifth in Vezina voting after saving 22 objectives above common in 2020-21, so even at 34, he seems to have good hockey left within the tank.

Varlamov’s $5 million cap hit would match simply into Vegas’ cap as soon as Lehner is positioned on LTIR, and he may very well be out there if the Islanders need to open up cap house. New York presently has greater than $11 million to work with — fourth-most within the league — however the Islanders have been linked to unsigned free agent Nazem Kadri, who will demand a hefty contract.

Option 3: Offer sheet Jake Oettinger

This is the least-likely choice, however an choice nonetheless. Oettinger is barely 23, and coming off a formidable second season within the NHL. His common season was sturdy, however his efficiency within the seven-game playoff sequence in opposition to Calgary was otherworldly. Oettinger stopped 272 of the 285 pictures he confronted in that sequence for a .954 save proportion and 10 objectives saved above anticipated. That was ok to complete third within the league in GSAx for the playoffs regardless of enjoying in solely seven video games.

Now a restricted free agent Oettinger is in a contract dispute with the Stars. LeBrun reported in early July that groups across the league had been “debating the merits of offer sheeting Oettinger.”

Here’s what offer-sheet compensation appears to be like like this yr, primarily based on the common annual worth (AAV) of the contract provided.

Offer sheet AAV Compensation

$1,386,490 or much less

No compensation

$1,386,491 to $2,100,472

Third-round choose

$2,100,473 to $4,201,488

Second-round choose

$4,201,489 to $6,302,230

First and third-round picks

$6,302,231 to $8,402,975

First, second and third-round picks

$8,402,976 to $10,503,720

Two firsts, a second and third-round picks

Over $10,503,721

Four first-round picks

The catch is, with a view to provide sheet a participant, the staff will need to have its personal draft picks to present as compensation. Vegas is with out its 2023 second-round choose — which was included within the commerce for Jack Eichel — so any provide sheet to Oettinger would want to exceed the $4,201,489 threshold and would value the Golden Knights their first and third-round picks within the upcoming draft.

It appears unlikely a staff would commit that form of cash and choose compensation to Oettinger when Lehner continues to be below contract for 3 extra seasons, however Vegas did commerce for Lehner and signal him to a 5-year take care of Fleury nonetheless below contract so it’s not inconceivable. Even if Vegas sends a proposal sheet to Oettinger, the almost definitely final result is Dallas matches it. He’s the most effective younger goalies within the league with a vibrant future forward of him.

This can be a protracted shot, however it’s price mentioning. The almost definitely final result is the 2022-23 season rests on Thompson’s shoulders.

(Photo by Jeff Bottari / NHLI through Getty Images)

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