Prior to the All-Star break, the Vegas Golden Knights were starting to sag. Wrapping up the first half with a 2-6-2 record, Vegas fell out of first in the Pacific Division and are now just two points up on fourth-place Edmonton, and five points up on fifth-place Calgary, both of which have a game in hand.
Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy called out star centre Jack Eichel two weeks ago, saying he needed to bring more to the ice. And just before the break, the team announced Mark Stone would be out indefinitely after having another back surgery.
At this point, it’s still not clear if Stone will be able to return in the regular season, or even in the playoffs. Before Stone’s injury, Vegas was poised to be a depth buyer at the deadline with a couple million dollars in March 3 cap space projected. But if Stone’s going to be out for the rest of the regular season and goes on LTIR for the duration, the Golden Knights could have a lot more money available to do something even more aggressive.
“The info I have is that the Golden Knights are not expecting him to be back in the regular season,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said on Friday’s 32 Thoughts Podcast. “With that theory, it opens up a lot of possibilities with long-term injury for the Golden Knights, and as you know, they’re aggressive. I would expect them to be aggressive. They’ve been on some depth names, (Noel) Acciari, (Ivan) Barbashev, now I wonder if we’re, ‘All right, load up the hunting equipment, we’re looking for big game.’ “
WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF VLADI?
Eight points out of a wild-card spot at All-Star weekend, it’s looking more and more like the St. Louis Blues will be deadline sellers. For depth players, Ivan Barbashev and Noel Acciari will probably be available as their contracts are set to expire, but the Blues could also move some star players — namely Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly.
And while O’Reilly has suggested he’d prefer to stay and re-sign with the Blues, Tarasenko had previously asked for a trade out, so his tenure seems to be in the final phases.
Tarasenko is representing the Blues at the All-Star Game and was asked about his situation on Thursday.
“Even Vladi doesn’t know the future of Vladi,” he said. “There is only one guy who knows more than me, and his name is Doug Armstrong. I think that’s the guy who you should talk about my future with the Blues (with).”
With 10 goals and 29 points in 38 games, there will be an interesting market for Tarasenko, and one that may have gotten slightly larger with the Stone injury.
“There’s two areas I look at with Tarasenko that I say make some sense,” Friedman said on the podcast. “The New York area, and by that I’m talking about any of the teams in the New York area. Maybe not the Islanders now. But the other team I wonder about now is going to be Vegas.”
WILL THE RED WINGS HAVE TO CONSIDER TRADING DYLAN LARKIN?
Another pending UFA was asked about his future on Thursday, when 26-year-old Dylan Larkin discussed his expiring contract with the Red Wings.
“I’ve said it all along and I stand by it: I really see myself as a Red Wing,” Larkin told the gathered media. “There’s negotiation to be done and that’s about all I’ll say about that. This is my first time in this position as a (pending) UFA, but I doubt contracts ever go smoothly until they’re done.”
Larkin, Detroit’s leading scorer with 15 goals and 43 points in 47 games, currently makes $6.1 million against the cap on a deal he signed in 2018.
The Red Wings would prefer to keep their captain as the team hopes to keep making progress towards the playoffs, but if the ask is too high from the player’s side, GM Steve Yzerman has a reputation of sticking to his guns.
If this negotiation does hit an impasse, though, and a trade is in the offing, Larkin will still have control over what happens.
“I think Steve Yzerman has proven there’s only certain places he’s willing to go and I think he has said he has reached his line or is at least close to his line,” Friedman said. “Larkin has a no-trade clause. I don’t know what’s going to happen here. I’ve always believed Dylan Larkin was going to be a Red Wing, and when he says I want to be a Red Wing, I believe him. I think the Bruins have bent to Pastrnak (in his contract negotiations); I don’t think the Red Wings are bending to Larkin.”