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Vegas Signs Pietrangelo, Trades Schmidt to Vancouver

On Monday, the Vegas Golden Knights announced they came to terms on a seven-year contract with free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. The former St. Louis captain’s deal carries an average annual value (AAV) of $8.8 million, according to the team, and contains a no move clause, according to CapFriendly.

In a corresponding move, the Golden Knights traded defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL draft. This was, effectively, a salary dump, to make room for Pietrangelo. Vegas likely didn’t want to move Schmidt, but they had to move salary in order to sign their new top defenseman.

Overall, I like this move. The term and the dollars are reasonable for a player of Pietrangelo’s quality. Elite defensemen are hard to come by in the NHL, and elite right-shot defensemen are few-and-far between. Any team who adds a player like Pietrangelo is better off because of it. The flat salary cap hurt Vegas with this signing, however, as they were forced to trade a top-four defenseman on their roster, who signed a long-term contract, for a third-round draft pick. They had no leverage to make a deal and had no chance to get fair value for a player like Schmidt.

Had the Golden Knights been able to find a trade partner to take on the contract of goaltender Marc-André Fleury, Vegas could have kept Schmidt and had arguably the best group of top-four defensemen in the league. This is where my only critique of the Pietrangelo signing lies. Yes, they improved their team as Pietrangelo is a better player than Schmidt. However, how much better is the team when you add Pietrangelo and subtract Schmidt? I would say somewhat better, but the team would have been much improved had they found a way to have both.

For Schmidt, as he moves on to the Vancouver Canucks, I think he will fit in quite nicely. He will jump right in to a top-four role, and he can play both the left and right side, despite being a left-shot. Could the smooth-skating, versatile, two-way defender fit on a pair with young star Quinn Hughes? I would think those two could form a dynamic pairing. Schmidt could also slot in behind Hughes and play on the second pair, allowing the Canucks to have a deeper defensive unit. The 29-year-old has five years remaining on his contract that carries an AAV of $5.95 million. I would expect Schmidt to be protected from the expansion draft prior to the 2021-2022 season and be a part of the future on the back end for Vancouver, making the price of a third-round pick well worth it.

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