It is the reality of a salary cap world that good players get traded. There's only so much money to go around and when a management team begins to look at where they can allot dollars, hard decisions get made.
Another reality is good players on good contracts are attractive to other teams. All of this brings us to the Vegas Golden Knights trading Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday for center Nicolas Roy and a conditional 2021 fifth round pick.
While this deal has salary cap implications it is also a hockey trade as Vegas solves an issue at center ice bringing in a young, up and coming player in Roy, who looks ready to play in the NHL on a fourth line, but has the potential to grow as a player and move up the lineup. He was dominant for Team Canada at the 2017 World Junior Championship and was again earlier this spring in the Calder Cup playoffs. He can play a physical game but has also produced with a pair of 80-points plus seasons in junior hockey.
Haula was an original Golden Knight scoring 29 goals in the club's inaugural season. He played just 15 games last season suffering a knee injury in Toronto. The 28-year-old has one season left on a contract which pays him $2.75 million.
Vegas finds itself well above the salary cap for the coming season and GM George McPhee admitted on Tuesday he would have to move salary out.
"We are going to have to make a few moves, we planned for that and we are going through that exercise right now," he said.
Roy is on his entry left contract with an average annual value of $815,000. So McPhee gets $1.94 million closer to the cap. He needs to shave more but this is the start. At least one more move of this fashion should be expected.
Vegas is deep at center with William Karlsson, Paul Stastny, Cody Eakin holding down the top three spots. Incoming 22-year-old Roy is 6-4 and plays center as does pending RFA Tomas Nosek and prospect Cody Glass.
Haula established himself as a top six center with his breakout 2017-18 season but there's only so much room at the inn and Karlsson and Stastny currently hold the center spots on the top two lines in Vegas. Eakin is a versatile third-line center who scored 22 goals last season and Haula certainly doesn't fit on the fourth line.
So McPhee needed to fill a spot farther down in his lineup than Haula could be expected to play. Bringing in Roy gives Vegas a younger and less expensive option. Roy will have the opportunity to earn a spot at center on the fourth line and continue to develop as an NHLer.
Roy had six goals and 15 points in the Calder Cup playoffs leading his Charlotte Checkers to the championship. Charlotte defeated the Golden Knights primary affiliate the Chicago Wolves in the final. McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon as well as several other VGK executives got a close look at Roy. He was a force in the series and a lot to handle for Golden Knights prospects playing for the Wolves.