Editor’s note: NHL free agency was fast and furious, and the moves that teams did (and did not) make set the tone for next season. All week, we’ll examine the Sharks’ Pacific Division rivals, and whether their free-agency approach put them in better, worse or the same position. Today, we dive into the Vegas Golden Knights.
The 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs can't be talked about without Game 7 between the Sharks and the Golden Knights in the Western Conference first round.
In addition to being the ultimate edge-of-your-seat viewing experience, it gave the rest of the hockey world a glimpse into the bitter rivalry that has very quickly manifested between these two teams.
Despite being around for only two seasons, the Golden Knights have become a force to be reckoned with. And with most of the Pacific Division teams having down seasons, Vegas has emerged as San Jose's biggest competition on the West Coast.
So while the Sharks have a lot to focus on this offseason in terms of their own roster, it doesn't hurt to take a peek at what the opposition is up to, especially a team with no cap space to work with.
Here's a look at what Vegas has been up to since the free-agent market opened up.
Players who stayed
Vegas has been incredibly busy getting its players signed to deals this offseason, keeping important pieces of its roster together. They made the most noise in late June when they signed high-scoring center William Karlsson to an eight-year deal. The top-line pivot ranked second on the team last year with 56 regular-season points.
Vegas also kept some of their depth from last season, locking up forwards Tomas Nosek and Brandon Pirri, and backup goalie Malcolm Subban.
The Golden Knights still have a couple of players hanging out as free agents. But given they currently have zero room under the salary cap, according to CapFriendly, there will be moves made before anyone else gets signed.
Players who left
The lack of breathing room under the salary cap has, as expected, signaled the exit of a handful of players Vegas had on its roster last season.
Defenseman Colin Miller was traded to the Buffalo Sabres and forward Erik Haula was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes ahead of free agency. Center Ryan Carpenter signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks in the first couple hours of free agency, and French forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare became one of many players scooped up by the Colorado Avalanche that same day.
Rumors have also been swirling that RFA Nikita Gusev could be headed to another team given Vegas doesn't have any room left under the cap, but there could also be another trade in the works to free up some money.
While the moves leave roles to be filled on Vegas' roster, it allows some of its promising young prospects to step up. The Golden Knights likely aren't done making moves this summer.
Better, worse, or the same?
Even with some pieces being moved around this offseason, the core of the Golden Knights is still intact.
With no cap space to work with, Vegas probably will make more moves this offseason. The Knights still, however, look like they're going to be the Sharks' toughest division rival for another season.