vgk exodus

Kelly McCrimmon said it was the price to pay for the Vegas Golden Knights winning the 2023 Stanley Cup, albeit a year late.

The Vegas general manager saw an exodus of players on the opening day of NHL free agency Monday and will be revamping his roster for the 2024-2025 season.

“Days like this are tough for fans,” McCrimmon said Monday. “The fans think they know our players and I know our players better than our fans do. I’ve got relationships with each of these guys, and you have to respect their rights as unrestricted free agents that’s the collective bargaining agreement. We didn’t trade these players, we tried to retain them.”

After not being able to come to terms on a new contract with Vegas, forward Jonathan Marchessault signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract ($5.5 million average annual value) with the Nashville Predators.

Marchessault, 33, was selected by the Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft from the Florida Panthers. In seven seasons with Vegas, he had 417 points (192 goals, 225 assists) in 514 games and leaves as the team’s all-time leading scorer. Marchessault had a franchise-best 75 points (36 goals, 39 assists) in 95 playoff games, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2023.

Vegas had four other forwards depart; William Carrier signed a six-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, Chandler Stephenson signed a seven-year, $43.75 million contract ($6.25 million AAV) with the Seattle Kraken, Michael Amadio signed a three-year, $7.8 million ($2.6 million AAV), contract with the Ottawa Senators and Anthony Mantha signed a one-year contract with the Calgary Flames.

Defenseman Alec Martinez signed a one-year $4 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Goalie Jiri Patera, who spent most of last season with Henderson of the AHL, signed a two-way contract with the Vancouver Canucks and Logan Thompson was traded to the Washington Capitals on Saturday for third-round picks in the 2024 and 2025 NHL Drafts.

“A year ago we became Stanley Cup champions and we were fortunate enough to have two UFAs on our team at that time, that we wished to retain in Adin Hill and Ivan Barbashev, and led to one move of Reilly Smith being traded, and we were fortunate that the remainder of our team was under contract and intact,” McCrimmon said. “This year, we went into the season with five UFAs; Chandler, ‘Marshy,’ Will Carrier, Michael Amadio, along with Alec Martinez on our back end. The reality of winning the Stanley Cup took place this year as opposed to more so than last year, when you would expect.”

McCrimmon said he tried to sign all the players who were pending unrestricted free agents with the exception of Martinez, who they decided to wait until the end of the season.

“We made, I thought, what were real reasonable, fair offers and I would think they would say the same,” McCrimmon said. “They had a chance to do something different and they chose to do that. There aren’t guys that we had a bullseye on them that we wanted to trade out of the organization. Every one of those guys is a Stanley Cup Champions and when you win a Stanley Cup you’re going to have a connection with those people for the rest of your life, not just for six months or the next year. Those are people that you will walk with forever.”

Vegas pushed to re-sign Marchessault once the Golden Knights season concluded with a loss to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs but could not come to an agreement on the length of the contract.

“In the case of Marshy, it was really important for him to get the term of five years, that wasn’t something that we were comfortable with and quite frankly the data doesn’t support (it),” McCrimmon said. “He’s going to be 38 years old in that final season -- and Marshy can (contribute offensively), because he’s proved people wrong his whole career -- but it wasn’t a position we were comfortable with, the five-year term. That’s where it got to, and we couldn’t bridge that gap. He moves on, we wish him well.”

Vegas signed goalie Ilya Samsonov to a one-year $1.8 million contract, signed restricted free agent forward Pavel Dorofeyev on a two-year contract with an average annual value of $1.835 million, and restricted free agent defenseman Kaedan Korczak on a two-year contract with an AAV of $825,000.

It also signed forward Victor Olofsson to a one-year contract worth $1.075 million on Tuesday. Olofsson scored an NHL career-high 28 goals for the Buffalo Sabres in 2022-23.

“We expect in the case of Pavel to really continue to blossom and the opportunity that he’s going to now have on our team,” McCrimmon said. “Kaeden Korczak will be a full-time NHL player this year based on what we saw in his time with our team last year. We think he’s more than ready to step into an NHL lineup.” independent correspondent Paul Delos Santos contributed to this report

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