For the first time in franchise history, the Vegas Golden Knights will not be competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On Wednesday, the Knights capped an epic late-season meltdown that saw them lose 20 of their last 34 games — including their last three by shootout, in which they failed to score a single shootout goal in 17 attempts.
The same aggressive front-office strategy that worked through the expansion team’s first four seasons fell flat this campaign.
- In November, the Knights acquired Jack Eichel from Buffalo, giving away Alex Tuch — their third-leading goal-scorer last season. Eichel returned from a neck injury in February but put up just 22 points in 33 games.
- In July, Vegas traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Rangers for a 2022 third-round pick, sacrificing much of the team’s physical prowess.
- The Knights also dealt 2020-21 Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury — who had been their goalie since his selection in the 2017 Expansion Draft — to the Blackhawks.
Both the Reaves and Fleury transactions were cap-clearing moves: The signings of Mark Stone ($9.5M AAV), Alex Pietrangelo ($8.8M), and Max Pacioretty ($7M) in recent years had cluttered their cap space.
The absence of Fleury has been particularly devastating.
Starting goalie Robin Lehner and backup Laurent Brossoit both dealt with injuries throughout the season, leaving rookie Logan Thompson to figure it out on the fly — and resulting in a team save percentage (.906) ranking only 20th in the NHL.