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Las Vegas–Now that the Stanley Cup Finals are done and over with, the Vegas Golden Knights look toward the future after losing to the Washington Capitals in 5 games.

One of the things that happened in the Stanley Cup Final series against the Capitals was that the Golden Knights blueline was an area that had been exploited by Washington over those 5 games.

According to Dailyfaceoff.com, Vegas’s d-pairs in that series were Brayden McNabbNate Schmidt as the top pair, Deryk EngellandShea Theodore formed up the 2nd unit, and then Colin MillerLuca Sbisa were the 3rd d-pair.

Of that group of defenseman for Vegas, McNabb, Theodore, Miller, and Engelland were a combined -9.

Schmidt and Sbisa were the only two that broke even in the plus/minus department during the finals.

With Schmidt over the course of the playoffs and finals had solidified himself as Head Coach Gerard Gallant‘s go to defenseman in terms of logging the big minutes.

In the opening round of the playoffs against the Kings, Schmidt logged an ATOI (Average Time on Ice) of 27:56, that was then followed up by another solid showing in the 2nd round series vs. San Jose at 24:02. When it came to the Western Conference Finals, he recorded 23:26 and finally in the finals against the Capitals he averaged out at 23:04.

Those were big time minutes coming from a player like Schmidt who when he was a member of the Washington Capitals have never done before.

In his two playoff appearances with the Capitals, the highest minutes that Schmidt logged were in the 2016-17 run where he recorded a playing time on average of 16:39 and that was only thru 11 games.

So why is Erik Karlsson even the main attraction of this piece, well it goes back to when General Manager George McPhee tried acquiring him during last season’s NHL Trade Deadline window.

The problem with the deal that did not get done was the fact that the Ottawa Senators wanted McPhee to include the franchises top pick in center Cody Glass who was chosen in the 2017 NHL Draft at 6th overall.

With the Golden Knights trying to build out their prospect pool, giving up Glass as a key piece in landing Karlsson from the Senators at the deadline would have been a mistake as the Winnipeg native is part of the future core with Vegas in the years ahead.

In Karlsson the 2-time Norris Trophy Winner is a proven quarterback specialist when it comes to the power play and is a top flight defenseman and is widely known around the league as a great blueliner.

He also understands and has no problem with logging the heavy minutes that teams require night in and night out over the course of the regular season and in the playoffs.

Over the last 7 season’s, Karlsson has logged an average of 25 minutes or more, with his highest in that span at 28:58 during the 2015-16 campaign. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Karlsson is very comfortable playing in the 25-30 minute range.

Back when the Golden Knights played against the Senators just days removed from the deadline I had the chance to ask Vegas defenseman Theodore what makes Karlsson so effective on the blueline for Ottawa.

“He’s good, he moves the puck really well. He keeps our guys backed up because he can beat so many guys with a pass. He’s a good player.” Theodore on the Senators Captain.

Adding a player of Karlsson’s caliber will make the Golden Knights blueline so much deeper given how much of a versatile player he is and what he has to offer and with McPhee being the former GM of the Washington Capitals he’s well versed on #65.

The benefit of potentially getting Karlsson from Ottawa would be a huge bonus for Vegas as they need another right handed shot defenseman. Among the current group of blueliners with the Golden Knights, Engelland and Miller are the two that shot right handed.

Now what will be the cost to lure him to the Golden Knights given that he still has one year left on his current deal with the Senators. The cap hit on Karlsson according to Capfriendly.com is $6.5 million for the 2018-19 season. His M-NTC that is still in effect and gets washed out when his contract expires next season.

McPhee does not have at 1st round pick for this season to dangle as he used it in acquiring forward Tomas Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings at the deadline. He does however have both his 2019 and 2020 1st rounders still intact.

In terms of the prospects in the system along with Glass are Nick Suzuki (13th overall pick), Erik Brannstrom (15th pick), and Nic Hague (2nd round selection) are key pieces for the future of the organization so McPhee will try to stay away in using those players as bait to land Karlsson.

He’s going to have to get somewhat creative in not mortgaging the future of the franchise. This will not be an easy one to made as this will be a tough and thought out decision over the coming weeks.

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  1. Drew Doughty has another year on his deal with the Kings before he becomes a free agent. That said, I really could not see the Kings trading Doughty to a team that is quickly becoming a major in-division rival.

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