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Sharks Beat Golden Knights in Double Overtime

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Golden Knights players celebrate after center Jonathan Marchessault, third from left, scored on the San Jose Sharks during Game 6 of a first-round NHL playoff series Sunday, April 21, 2019, in Las Vegas.

It was a quiet first week of free agency for the Golden Knights. The league’s teams collectively handed out more than $700 million via new contracts on the first day alone, yet the Golden Knights practically sat back and watched from their deck as all the big fish were reeled in.

Vegas committed a little more than $2.5 million to NHL players while trading away almost $15 million in commitments for draft picks and a prospect. There’s been no splashy addition, and last year’s KHL MVP might be on his way out.

This was all expected, however, as free agency has played out just how George McPhee, soon to be promoted from general manager to president of hockey operations, envisioned.

“We were pretty clear on who we thought we’d have back and who would roll on,” McPhee said.

From a fan perspective, it’s easy to be frustrated in the Golden Knights’ offseason. No one wants to go into the season with a worse team than the one from the previous season, but many in Las Vegas are resigned to that being the case with the Golden Knights.

And they might be right.

Colin Miller and Erik Haula were traded. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan Carpenter signed elsewhere. Nikita Gusev still might be the next big thing, but he might be the next big thing somewhere else.

The two free agents signed were Tomas Nosek and Brandon Pirri, the Golden Knights’ own guys. They also added some minor-league depth.

This is what happens in a league with a hard salary cap. Vegas must submit a roster on the last day of training camp that totals no more than $81.5 million in salary. There’s no luxury tax like in the NBA and contracts aren’t allowed to be resturcted like in the NFL.

The reality is that this year’s biggest move happened in February. If Vegas hadn’t signed Mark Stone to an eight-year deal with a $9.5 annual average value then Miller, Haula, and yes, even Gusev, would still be around.

The Golden Knights are a much better team with Stone. That almost can’t be argued.

The good news is, the salary-cap purgatory looks like it will only extend until next summer. Cody Eakin, Ryan Reaves, Nosek, Nick Holden and Jon Merrill will all be unrestricted free agents at this time next year, clearing more than $11 million in cap space.

And there are also the rookies. Vegas has never dressed a player it drafted, and that will change this season perhaps as early as opening night.

McPhee has been open about expecting a rookie defenseman to be on the roster, whether it’s Jimmy Schuldt, Zach Whitecloud, Dylan Coghlan or Nicolas Hague.

Center Cody Glass has been the Golden Knights’ top prospect since he was taken sixth overall in 2017, and he should also see the NHL at some point.

Vegas needed to lean heavily on veterans the past two seasons because it didn’t have a developed prospect pool to draw upon. Now the Golden Knights are established enough that the younger players are ready to take the next step.

McPhee has often mentioned that many mistakes are made on July 1 with teams overpaying players. The Golden Knights did no such thing.

Instead, they have their core — Stone, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Nate Schmidt, Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb and Marc-Andre Fleury — all under contract for multiple years. Of that group, Stastny is the only former free-agent signing.

“Our team’s in a good place,” McPhee said. “We have some real good players under contract for a long time. All of our core players are set.”

“It’s nice to be sort of invited to the (free agency) party but respectfully decline.”

Article written by #LasVegasSun