Updated January 13, 2021 - 4:55 pm
The Golden Knights will enter the strangest regular season in NHL history with a unique roster configuration.
The Knights will start with 13 forwards, five defensemen and two goaltenders instead of the usual 12-6-2 plus extras in their season opener against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. The setup allows the team to stay under the salary cap — by a hair — and should provide more opportunities for its top-end blue liners.
Keegan Kolesar will begin the year as the 13th forward, while the defensemen will be Alex Pietrangelo, Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez and Zach Whitecloud.
“When you look at utilizing that group of five, I think that it gives a little bit more ice time for people and allows guys to get into a really good rhythm,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. “We expect that it’s going to work real well for us.”
One reason the Knights are opening the season this way is to keep the team cap compliant. They will enter the year $225,896 under the $81.5 million limit after waiving defenseman Nick Holden ($1.7 million cap hit) and assigning him to their taxi squad. Of Holden’s contract, $625,000 will still count against the cap.
Replacing Holden with Kolesar ($725,000 cap hit) gets the team to the minimum of 20 players while giving them salary cap breathing room. It took all offseason for the Knights to get under the cap to accommodate Pietrangelo’s seven-year, $61.6 million contract and goaltender Robin Lehner’s five-year, $25 million extension.
“There’s going to be some salary cap gymnastics that we’re going to have to deal with,” DeBoer said. “If that means that we can’t have the traditional 12 and 6 that we would normally roll out there, that’s a small price to pay in my mind for what we did in the offseason and the people we brought in here and re-signed.”
McNabb, Pietrangelo’s partner, said there was maybe one time in his career that he started a game with five defensemen, but he doesn’t view it as a big deal. Teams do it all the time when a defenseman gets injured during a game.
The Knights also want to give Pietrangelo and Theodore, who finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Norris Trophy voting last season, plenty of minutes anyway.
“We got a lot of workhorses on the back end,” McNabb said. “(Pietrangelo) and (Theodore), they can play a lot.”
Goalie set for opening night
DeBoer said he’s decided who will start in goal for the Knights opener Thursday but declined to make that choice public. He also emphasized that whether he picks Robin Lehner or Marc-Andre Fleury, both goaltenders will get plenty of games this year because of the condensed regular-season schedule.
The Knights will play 56 games in 116 days and have eight back-to-backs.
“We’re going to need both guys,” DeBoer said. “It’s a strength of our group and we’d be crazy not to use it. I foresee us splitting a lot of the early games here until we get to a point where we’re not going to anymore and who knows when that’ll be.”
Helmet ads coming
The Knights will wear Credit One Bank helmet decals on their helmets during home games this season and sport the Allegiant logo on the road, the team announced Wednesday.
The NHL is allowing teams to place advertisements on their helmets this year as a way to recoup some of the revenue that is being lost from ticket sales.