Fresh off a whirlwind inaugural season that saw them march all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, the Vegas Golden Knights now find themselves mired in a complicated off-season. With negotiations underway between the team and the handful of key roster players in need of new deals, the club’s free-agency picture is coming into focus.
Veteran wingers James Neal and David Perron lead the crop of Golden Knights set to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1, while William Karlsson and Shea Theodore are the most pertinent names on the cusp of restricted free agency. General manager George McPhee said Saturday that the club has made initial offers to both Neal and Perron, as well as fellow pending UFAs Ryan Reaves and Luca Sbisa, but there has been no movement since.
“So far, they haven’t been accepted, so we’ll see where the process takes us,” McPhee told Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “But there’s a line there. You either have a deal or you don’t. … We made our offer, and they said they’d circle back. They’re looking for a longer term, and if they get it, they won’t be back.”
Neal’s agent, Patrick Morris, says the star winger — who posted 25 goals in 2017-18, fourth-most on the team — would like to return to Vegas next season, but will likely move on if a deal isn’t reached by July 1.
“Until further notice, James prefers to keep things quiet,” Morris told the Review-Journal. “All I can tell you is he loves Vegas and he wants to stay. … Common sense says that if he’s not signed by July 1, he’s probably not coming back.”
Carp added that Neal rejected a five-year, $25-million offer from the team, hoping for a deal with a $6-million average annual value.
As for Perron, whose 66 points last season ranked third on the Golden Knights roster, agent Allan Walsh says interest from other suitors may pull the veteran out of the desert.
“There’s been significant interest in David today,” Walsh told the Review-Journal. “David has loved his time in Las Vegas. He loves his teammates. It’s a very special group.
“But he’s forced to look at other opportunities.”
The winger’s agent also told the Vegas-based newspaper that Perron hasn’t received any offers from the club since the end of the 2017-18 season, and that proposals were discussed around the trade deadline in February.
McPhee has more than few complicated situations to solve this summer. While decisions must be made on veterans Neal and Perron, the more pressing discussions are those involving pending RFA Karlsson — who took his production into overdrive to become Vegas’ leading scorer after two NHL seasons of mediocrity — and Marc-Andre Fleury, surely the best option the team has for a No. 1 netminder, but also a season away from needing an extension that will stretch into his late 30s.
Despite the affinity fans and the organization may have for the free agents in question, McPhee stressed the importance of focusing on the numbers during the negotiation process.
“You have to pay attention to the analytics. They really help you make your decisions now,” the GM told Carp. “There’s certain things it tells you that you have to pay attention to. It’s really different. But it makes things easier. … Sometimes you feel a certain way about a player, but the information you have tells you something different.
“Especially now in the cap world, you have to make some cold, hard decisions.”