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Could The VGK Land David Pastrňák?

David Pastrňák

(Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

David Pastrňák
Could the Vegas Golden Knights actually land David Pastrňák? Read why this future hypothetical cannot be ruled out. (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Could The VGK Land David Pastrňák?

The Bruins aren’t really going to screw up this David Pastrňák thing, are they? Word on the street is the Bruins and Pastrňák remain far apart in negotiations. Pastrňák is playing out of his mind right now notching 48 points in 35 games while continuing to be one of the premier talents the league has to offer. The clock is ticking on an eventual contract extension as the Pasta man continues to play in the final year of his deal.

What if Boston does screw this thing up? What if some of this hinges on the eventual retirement of Patrice Bergeron? Doesn’t this 2022-23 Bruins run feel like a last-dance sort of team as it is? The second Bergeron calls it quits, this window likely closes. We already saw what the team looked like last year just losing David Krejčí. When Charlie Coyle is your third line center, you have a chance. Not so much when he moves way up the ladder.

Keep this in mind as well. Matthew Tkachuk just controlled his own destiny in free agency opting to sign with a team that has no state tax. It was a very real factor in his decision to force his way to the Panthers. If Pastrňák really wants to maximize his earnings, would he opt to take a similar route?

This is an important note because the millionaires tax in Massachusetts is going to be something that’s talked about the longer this thing drags out. It’s already playing a big factor in MLB free agency for the Red Sox. The State tax in Massachusetts is 5%. With the millionaires tax lumped in, you’re increasing that number to 9%. That’s a lot of bread you’re leaving on the table with taxes on a new potential contract.

How could that not play a factor? Especially if the Bruins are going to haggle him on the obvious extension on top of it all? This is David Pastrňák we’re talking about. This thing should have been done months ago.

Wasn’t that a beautiful picture of David Pastrňák skating on Lake Tahoe? I guess that leads me to the crux of this blog post. Could the VGK actually land Pastrňák? Why the hell not? The no-state income tax already gives them a leg up on any elite free agent that hits the market. Their history also shows that this is what they do after making aggressive plays for Mark Stone, Alex Pietrangelo, and most recently Jack Eichel.

Yes, we know the Knights are cash-strapped. There isn’t a lot of meat on the bone in terms of fitting players under their current cap constraints. It remains to be seen where the cap sits next season but optimistic projections could lead to a $4 million increase. Maybe that’s an optimistic outlook but regardless the cap should see some sort of an increase heading into next year.

The VGK cap sheet when you look at it is a bit misleading because of the status of Shea Weber. With Weber being a permanent member of the LTIR club, Vegas will have at least some cap space to work with. Phil Kessel and Adin Hill are also the only notable impending free agents that will need to be replaced in some form or fashion. It’s not nearly enough to sign Pastrňák outright but there is a pathway to get it done.

Vegas should and likely will continue to hunt for elite players. It’s what they have continued to do since entering the league in 2017. Aggressive wins and if Pastrňák hits the open market, the VGK are going to be in the mix.

In reality, an elite winger is exactly what Vegas should be searching for. They still haven’t properly replaced Max Pacioretty. Chandler Stephenson is doing yeoman’s work at the left winger spot and probably should remain there. Still, Vegas needs another guy that can put the puck in the back of the net. Kessel has maybe given the club an emotional spark breaking the consecutive games played mark but he’s also a problem on the ice right now. The goal for Vegas right now should be securing that winger that can score.

To clear the cap space in order to get this done, you’re probably looking at clearing an $11 million AAV. The same number I advocated Vegas to hand out to Matthew Tkachuk. Something that any smart team should have done but that’s a story for another day. In this case, Pastrňák is going to get that number on the open market. It’s a matter of which team he wants to sign with.

Clearing the cap space to get this done is actually easier than many may think:

A: Robin Lehner has no place on this roster anymore. There is already some bad blood between the two sides given what happened last year. Logan Thompson has also taken over the starting job (as predicted) and there is zero reason to turn the keys back over to Lehner.

Lehner carries a $5 million AAV which is a more than reasonable price for a goalie of his caliber. In a mailbag on, Dan Rosen wrote a column that suggests the Knights will try to trade Lehner this upcoming offseason given the performance of Thompson.

Yes, Lehner will be coming off hip surgery but it’s not like there is a goalie surplus around the league. The Leafs were so desperate this past offseason that they went all in on Matt Murray who was nothing short of terrible with Ottawa. Here’s an idea off the top of my head. What about a return to Buffalo? The Sabres need a goalie and Vegas has done business with them in the past… Either way, a trade partner of some kind will be there. Even if you have to take a smaller contract back in order to get it done.

B: As previously stated in the Daniil Miromanov post, Vegas has unreal blue line depth. If I’m running the Knights, I’m looking to move on from Alec Martinez a year too soon rather than a year too late. It’s exactly what the Tampa Bay Lightning did with Ryan McDonagh. While Philippe Myers didn’t exactly pan out for Tampa, McDonagh has been a bust with the Predators to this point. All of those miles catch up to you at some point.

Martinez, 35, is a respected locker room guy like McDonagh that contending teams are going to want. Martinez also leads the NHL in blocked shots by a country mile. You can sell that to any general manager trying to improve their defense. You can find a taker here.

Clearing Lehner and Martinez would give you $10.250 million in cap space between the two players. I’m not advocating giving either player away for free. You may even have to take a smaller contract back in return. However, the point remains the same. You can get yourself in the Pastrňák dance really quicking by simply making moves the team may opt to do anyway after the season.

On paper, the fit may not make obvious sense but there is a clear pathway toward making everyone happy. Pastrňák is a right winger which is the same position that Mark Stone plays. With the second line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith locked in as that weird chemistry misfit line that somehow creates magic all the time, you’re talking about sending Stone to the third line. At the same token, I’d argue that’s actually something that the Knights should be looking to do anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, Mark Stone is a baller. He’s the captain for a reason and gives this VGK the heartbeat it needs. That doesn’t mean that he needs to be on the first line to do it. In fact, Stone actually skated portions of last season on the third line. So did Bo Horvat who is the Canucks captain. Isn’t part of being the captain doing what’s best for the team? If it means landing Pastrňák, you do it. I don’t think Stone will complain if it means adding that guy to your team. It’s about winning Stanley Cups now.

Truth be told, it’s just a sheet of paper. Let’s not act like Stone wouldn’t get his ice time. Stone’s best quality is the fact that he’s a ghost on the ice. Stone is always the first line penalty kill picking up heavy minutes on special teams every night. Along with the PK, Stone would obviously be on the powerplay too. Even on the third line, the addition of special teams would give Stone the additional ice time necessary to where you know he’s out there.

It’s not like you would have to keep him there all the time either. Injuries happen. Vegas has been plagued by another injury riddled season. Jonas Røndbjerg is skating on the second line right wing right now. That’s not exactly what you want.

Additionally, how much do you really want Stone playing heavy minutes anyway? The other night against Anaheim, Stone just played over 23 minutes. I’d argue that’s almost too many for a guy heading into his 30’s that has a degenerative back issue. It’s probably best if the Knights don’t run him into the ground wouldn’t you say?

Would Pastrňák want to play for Bruce Cassidy, his former coach in Boston, or would Cassidy be a deterrent in the recruiting process? That part remains unclear. You could argue both sides of that coin. It could provide some level of comfort if Pastrňák does decide to leave Boston. Cassidy has obviously proven he can coach lifting Vegas to the top seed in the West. Cassidy might be a hardo but it’s easier to talk yourself into playing for him again when you see that what he’s doing works. Regardless of what you think of Pastrňák’s defense, this current VGK team is pretty good defensively and anything Pasta does forechecking is an improvement over Kessel.

Must watch video of David Pastrňák hating on candy corn.

Look, the odds are that the Bruins don’t screw this up and find a way to extend Pasta. He’s made no secret about wanting to stay there. It just has to be mentioned that we are getting closer and closer to the fact that Pastrňák is about to hit the open market. If and when that happens, you cannot count out the VGK from pulling off this heist.

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