Who needs Karlsson? Vegas locks up stud blueliner Shea Theodore long-term

Yahoo Canada Sports
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore gives his stick to fans after the Knights defeated the Washington Capitals 6-4 in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore gives his stick to fans after the Knights defeated the Washington Capitals 6-4 in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

It seems like when it comes to making moves this offseason, Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee can do no wrong.

A little more than two weeks after landing Max Pacioretty in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a 2019 second round draft choice, McPhee secured the future of his blueline late Monday night. With the start of the regular season a little more than a week away, RFA Shea Theodore signed a seven-year contract with the Golden Knights worth a lean $5.2 million annually.

Scroll to continue with content

It’s a deal that should have Vegas fans excited because, to put it simply, Theodore is a stud. An offensive defenceman that makes Golden Knights’ games a ton of fun to watch, the 23-year-old has just scratched the surface of his potential in the NHL. Those skeptical about giving this kind of money to a player that has yet to play a full NHL season will be thankful in a few short years that McPhee was able to avoid signing him to a bridge deal.

[Yahoo Fantasy Hockey leagues are open: Sign up now for free]

As Sportnet’s Chris Johnston points out, there any many examples of this type of move working out very nicely in the past.

While names such as James Neal and Marc-Andre Fleury got all of the attention during the Golden Knights’ Expansion Draft in 2017, it was the trade with the Anaheim Ducks for Theodore that caught my attention. I was lucky enough to see Theodore play live when he was competing for a spot on Team Canada ahead of the 2015 World Juniors.

Facing off against a team of university all-stars from the Toronto area, Theodore’s vision and skating impressed me. He clearly saw the ice well and made smart decisions under pressure. The guy also knew how to run a power play and electrified every man advantage with his playmaking from the top of a formation. He’d go on to make the Canadian roster and help them win gold on home soil.

His highlights from that tournament were impressive. They also serve as a strong reminder that Connor McDavid is a filthy hockey player.

Following a couple of seasons in the Ducks’ organization where he split time between the NHL and Anaheim’s AHL affiliate in San Diego, the trade to Vegas finally gave Theodore the opportunity he needed. The Ducks simply had far too much defensive depth and couldn’t give him the true shot that he deserved.

The 2013 first-round pick went on to begin last season with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves and went on a tear. After racking up five goals and 11 points in his first eight games, he got called up to the Golden Knights on Oct. 30 and didn’t look back.

As he continued to prove himself and generate offence at the NHL level, he quickly earned himself more responsibility. By season’s end, his 20:21 average ice time was only behind fellow defenceman Nate Schmidt on the team.

That didn’t change as Vegas marched towards the Stanley Cup. In 20 postseason games, he averaged 21:48 of ice time a night and led the Golden Knights’ blueline in scoring with three goals and ten points.

He also made a bit of franchise history along the way.

Theodore has proved he can perform in big situations early in his career and will only continue to blossom over the next seven seasons. Before Vegas signed Pacioretty, I truly believed that they were the front runner to trade for Erik Karlsson. The Golden Knights were looking for a boost on the back end, they had the cap space to sign the Swedish star, and there was talk near the end of August that a large picture of Theodore had been removed from the City National Arena scoreboard (the team’s practice facility).

Everything seemed to point to a deal between Vegas and the Ottawa Senators involving Theodore and Karlsson. In hindsight, I think this works out much better for the Golden Knights. Theodore has a tremendous ceiling and his cap hit will put Vegas in a nice situation going into the 2018-19 campaign. Their roster is full and yet they have more than $4 million in cap space to work with, according to CapFriendly. It’s a deal where everyone wins and one that the native of Langley, British Columbia, also appears to be quite content with.

The combination of the experience Vegas gained from last season and the moves made by McPhee during the offseason has many expecting the Golden Knights to be a powerhouse once again this year. However, with Schmidt out for the first twenty games of the season due to his PED-related suspension, it will be up to Theodore and the rest of the defensive corps to pull up their socks from the get-go and fill the void Schmidt has created.

Given his track record, I think Theodore will be up to the task.

And for those keeping track at home…

The signing of Theodore means only two RFAs remain with the upcoming season right around the corner — Nick Ritchie of the Ducks and William Nylander of Toronto Maple Leafs.

More NHL coverage from Yahoo Sports

What to Read Next