Golden Knights back to work after Stanley Cup win and short off-season
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Vegas Golden Knights went from hoisting the Stanley Cup, to a victory parade on the Strip, to a summer of celebrating, to now getting down to the business of playing hockey again.
A short offseason is a good problem to have, but still an issue.
“That’s part of why some teams maybe have trouble going back to back with the championships," general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Thursday as the team opened training camp. "There's tremendous energy and excitement around our team right now. I’ve always felt that if you play until the end and you win, you don’t mind that short summer. If you play to the end and you lose in the final, then the summer does seem short.”
The Knights, who defeated the Florida Panthers in five games to win the Cup, hope to become the latest team to repeat as champions. The Tampa Bay Lightning accomplished that feat just two years ago, and the Pittsburgh Penguins did it in 2017, the only teams to do so in the salary-cap era.
Vegas opened camp with nearly the identical roster that won the championship just more than three months ago. Reilly Smith, who was traded to the Penguins to free up cap space, is the only one who played in the final not back with the team.
The Knights, a club usually known for making a big splash in free agency, also didn't add any players until signing forward Max Comtois on Sept. 12. But Comtois, who played parts of the past five seasons for the Anaheim Ducks, was signed to training camp and not assured of a roster spot.
Most of the Knights' offseason attention was given to locking up goalie Adin Hill and forward Ivan Barbashev.
That created a locker room full of familiar faces.
“You know what to expect,” center Chandler Stephenson said. “You know how everybody operates and how everybody plays, the systems and everything like that. It’s just kind of fluid. You can kind of pick up where you left off."
Coach Bruce Cassidy established the tone early of making a repeat the priority, leading chants at the victory parade of “back to back!” It didn't rise to the level of the guarantee Pat Riley made at the Lakers' parade in 1987 — Los Angeles indeed went on to repeat — but was still a pretty bold statement not even a week after winning the title.
“We feel like we're returning a lot of players to give us that opportunity,” Cassidy said. “We're in that age range right now where it wouldn't be just this year, either. All those things are going well for us. I said it at the time sort of tongue-in-cheek, but you're asking me now. We've got as good a chance as anyone. That's just the way I feel where each player is in their career and where we are as a team, but until you get out there, it's wide open.”
The odds don't favor going back to back. Vegas is listed at FanDuel Sportsbook as the sixth-most likely team to win it all, tied with the Dallas Stars at 13-1. The Colorado Avalanche, who won the Cup two seasons ago, are the favorites at 8 1/2-1.
Not being the favorite isn't new to the Knights. They weren't the top pick going into last season's playoffs, with teams such as the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers receiving more attention.
But after opening the postseason with a 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the Knights went 16-5 the rest of the playoffs.
Now they're back to work, hoping this season ends like the most recent one.
“We felt like we had something to prove (last season) not only to ourselves but to everyone else in the league having missed the playoffs the year before," center Jack Eichel said. “I think this is another great chance to prove ourselves."
IN ENEMY TERRITORY
Eichel is from near Boston, and he took the Cup with him to Chelmsford, Massachusetts, when he had his day with the trophy. That region had hoped the Bruins would be the ones celebrating after they put together a record-setting regular season only to be eliminated by the Panthers in the first round.
“A lot of (Boston fans) said after they were knocked out, they were rooting for me,” Eichel said. “Whether it was true or false, everyone was very respectful.”
LEHNER STILL OUT
Goalie Robin Lehner remains on long-term injured reserve. He missed all of last season after undergoing hip surgery about six weeks before camp opened. Being on LTIR means the Knights can exceed the cap up to $5 million, which is Lehner’s salary.
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