Golden Knights’ owner Bill Foley wants to win now, and he’s showing it with his checkbook.
The Golden Knights acquired bruising winger Ryan Reaves and a fourth-round pick from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, in a trade in which they gave up next to nothing.
Vegas served as the middle-man in a deal between the Senators and the Pittsburgh Penguins, retaining $2 million of Ottawa center Derick Brassard’s contract to help him fit into the Penguins’ salary cap.
In the end, Pittsburgh acquired Brassard and sent defenseman Ian Cole, goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson and draft picks to the Senators. The Golden Knights gave up American Hockey League prospect Tobias Lindberg, which is just a formality.
Simply put, Foley essentially bought Reaves and a draft pick with cash.
There are five teams in the NHL with more cap room available than the Golden Knights, including the Coyotes and Hurricanes who have more than double Vegas’ space.
Any of those teams could have improved with the same deal Vegas made, but not all owners want to spend to the $75 million cap.
Foley clearly doesn’t mind.
“Our owner is a guy who wants to win and he made that clear from the beginning of the year,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “
The Golden Knights’ cap flexibility allowed them to take on Brassard’s contract, but there are plenty of teams in the NHL with room. The difference is not all owners are willing to shell out millions of dollars to make their team marginally better.
Reaves, 31, is a powerful forward who isn’t afraid to be physical, which could come in handy for the Golden Knights in the playoffs.
“He’s a big body that can skate, go to the net and create havoc,” Gallant said. “He’s a guy that other teams will respect. He’ll come in and fit well with our hockey club. He will definitely help us.”
The Golden Knights have plenty of speed and scoring at the forward position. (The top two lines are among the highest-scoring in the NHL.) At 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, Reaves can fill a checking-forward role similar to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare or William Carrier, both of whom are currently on injured reserve.
He’s notched only four goals and four assists in 58 games for the Penguins this season, but was averaging only 6:45 of ice time. No matter where he fits into Gerard Gallant’s lineup, if he’s dressed he will undoubtedly see more minutes than that in Las Vegas.
“He’s a unique player,” General Manager George McPhee said. “Tough guys in this league, many of them have been rendered obsolete because they can’t play, but this guy can play.”
McPhee doesn’t think the move will have a negative impact on the Golden Knights’ excellent locker room chemistry. If anything, he thinks it may improve it.
“I don’t see it as something that will change chemistry in any way,” McPhee said. “This is the type of player that most players on teams welcome, to bring in that kind of size and grit. Most players like that.”
David Perron was Reaves' teammate for four years with the St. Louis Blues.
“He likes chirping and we do a lot of that in the (locker) room and I think that makes us close,” Perron said. “I’d give him about two days and he’s going to be right in the mix, and probably the one chirping the most.”
At best, the Golden Knights have added a veteran forward who will help them as the physicality increases in the postseason and a high fourth-round pick (originally from the Vancouver Canucks who have the fourth-worst record in the NHL).
“The respect level from other teams with us having (Reaves) and Deryk (Engelland) will allow guys to play their game and be confident in any type of game,” Perron said.
At worst, they gave up Lindberg, who had eight goals and 10 assists with the Chicago Wolves after coming over from Toronto in the trade that sent Calvin Pickard to the Maple Leafs.
The trade has little-to-no downside but was only possible because Foley will pay what it takes to win now.
“I think his plans have changed since the summer and it’s a great thing,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “We feel confident going into every game and when you see confidence from the front office and the GM to help us out is big. It means a lot and I think it shows where we’re at.”