It was just one week ago when team owner Bill Foley and general manager George McPhee jointly agreed to lock up a key piece of their starting core, signing forward Alex Tuch to a seven-year contract extension and now just matter of days later, it seems as if the two might just be back at it again.
Furthermore, in the early hours of Thursday morning, just a short time following the Golden Knights 3-2 shootout loss to Bo Horvat and the Vancouver Canucks at home, another surprise transaction was made official upon completion as the club announced the signing of defensemen Nate Schmidt to a six-year contract extension worth an AAV of $5.95 million.
Over the lifetime of his new deal which is set to kick in at the beginning of the 2019-2020 season, Schmidt, 27, is set to earn a total base salary of $35.7 million while it will also take him through to the conclusion of the 2024-2025 regular season.
According to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic Toronto, it is a front-loaded deal that the two sides have come to agreement on while it is also set to include a 10-team no-trade clause as a result of the new negotiation.
2019-2020: $8.8 M total ($6.8 M salary plus $2M signing bonus)
2020-2021: $6.1 M in Year 2
2021-2022: $6 M in Year 3
2022-2023: $5 M in Year 4
2023-2024: $4.95 M in Year 5
2024-2025: $4.85 M in Year 6. Again, 10-team NTC.
Schmidt, who is a native of St. Cloud, Minnesota, was banned for the first 20 games of the season back at the beginning of September after violating the NHL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, testing positive for a substance which has not been disclosed by the league ever since.
The suspension has resulted in the blue-liner forfeiting a major chunk of his salary as Frank Seravalli of TSN.ca noted that he will lose approximately $482,258.28 in pay while also missing out on pre-season play. Schmidt, was however, permitted to take part in Golden Knights training camp a week beforehand.
At this time, Schmidt is eligible to return to the team in just over three weeks time on November 18th at which time they will be on the road visiting Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on Canada’s west coast.
A short time following the punishment which he was not fully aware of as to why when first notified of the decision, Schmidt made his appeal to a neutral arbitrator through the NHL, however, it would later end up getting denied.
In his appeal, Schmidt insisted he didn’t intentionally take a banned substance and couldn’t have gotten any performance benefit from the “trace amount” that got into his system.
It was then that he and the Golden Knights released statements disagreeing with the penalty, though neither specified the substance. Schmidt said one of the experts testifying on his behalf at the appeal hearing likened the amount to a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Schmidt joined the Golden Knights organization back on June 21st of 2017 after he was left exposed at the NHL Expansion Draft, making way for his potential selection for Las Vegas. This of course came after four seasons under Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals.
Prior to having made his NHL debut back at the start of the 2013-2014 season, Schmidt spent two years with the AHL’s Hershey Bears after he was signed by the Capitals organization as a free agent back in 2013. At that time, Schmidt was playing with the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the NCAA.
Taking a look now at his performance for the 2017-18 season, Schmidt, who was a key piece of the Golden Knights blue line, recorded five goals to go alongside 31 assists, making for 36 points registered in a total of 76 games played. He also added 16 penalty minutes to his resume for the season.
As for his five-year NHL career now as a whole, Schmidt has recorded thirteen goals to go alongside 66 assists, making for 79 points registered in a total of 276 games played. He also adds 64 penalty minutes, 324 shots on goal and 2 game-winning-goals to his resume.
As noted by Gavin Lee of ProHockeyRumors.com, Schmidt, who was originally scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season, had been practicing with a professional team in Austria before he was prompted with an early return to North America in order to piece the final details of this new contract together and officially put it all into place.
After announcing the terms of the deal via press release on Thursday morning, general manager George McPhee released a statement where he said the following with regards to the transaction, “He’s the kind of defenseman every team in this league is looking for. He’s unique in that he’s become a shut down defensemen, but he also brings offence and pace.”
In speaking about the suspension and any role that may have had impacting this deal, McPhee said it had no bearing in the negotiations to bring this new contract to life. When asked about potential impact of players buying in, McPhee said, “It’s easy for a player to buy in if they get what they want. They want to be here, so the bottom line is if you want to stay here let’s get it done, and get it done now.”
In closing, McPhee went on to say that getting the deals done now will make the team better in the future. He then spoke about the cap going up every year in which he noted how using the space in the next few years will allow them now freedom down the road.
Head coach Gerard Gallant was next to speak about the signing where he said in a brief statement, “He means a lot. He’s a top player for us. He’s done a great job playing defence for us last year. Obviously he got a real nice contract that he deserves, and we miss him a lot. So he’s a big player for our group and we’re happy to have him for long term.”
As noted by Kevin Skiver of CBSSports.com, Schmidt was a key part of the blue-line for the 2017 Vegas Golden Knights and was also a big contributor in the runner-up finish of their inaugural season in the league. Schmidt’s 36 points for the season equal up for 19 more than his previous career-high set the season before in Washington while other notable statistics include 31 assists, 121 blocks and 57 takeaways, two more makings of highs for his career.
With Nate Schmidt now being the Golden Knights latest player to be locked up for the foreseeable future ahead, he joins a list that consists of Paul Stastny, Jonathan Marchessault, Max Pacioretty and Shea Theodore who are also all locked up on long-term commitments to the Golden Knights organization.
With that in mind and the Golden Knights supposedly set for the next few years down the road, perhaps their next priority to target is that of forward William Karlsson. Karlsson is scheduled to become a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the season and with the mindset that Vegas has and their Stanley Cup aspirations, perhaps it’s not a long shot to suspect that he could certainly come next.
Turning the attention back to Schmidt and for just a moment more, he led the Western Conference champions in ice time last season at an impressive 22:14 per game. Taking a look at his postseason performance which is another factor to keep in mind, Schmidt recorded three goals to go alongside four assists as well as four penalty minutes in the making of 20 games played before eventually falling to the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final.
As noted by Ariel Melendez of Last Word On Hockey, signing Schmidt to a long-term extension gives the Golden Knights security on their defensive end and locks up a big part of their team as well.
Schmidt, who is a graduate of St. Cloud Cathedral, has just a little less than a month before making his well-anticipated return to the team and there is certainly no doubt that the team will be happy to have him back as they currently sit with a record of 4-4-1 through nine games.
The Vegas Golden Knights are back in action on Friday afternoon as they play host to the Tampa Bay Lightning at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in the fourth and second-last of a five-game home stand. Puck drop is scheduled for 3:30pmPT and the game can be seen on AT&T SportsNet and TVA Sports. On the radio side, it is available with veteran broadcaster Dan D’Uva who will have the call carried on Fox Sports Radio 98.9 FM/1340 AM.