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Golden Knights fielding ‘a lot of calls’ about trading James Neal and David Perron, per report

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Vegas could be a prime seller at the trade deadline despite its strong start.

Vegas Golden Knights v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights are fielding “a lot of calls right now about” trades involving upcoming unrestricted free agents James Neal and David Perron, reports TSN’s Bob McKenzie in a recent Insider Trading segment.

Those will be two popular names leading up to the trade deadline, given their contracts expire at the end of the season. The Golden Knights are still looking toward the future despite the hot start to their inaugural season, so it’s been expected that players like Neal and Perron would become rental options for other teams.

“At this point in time, unless somebody absolutely blows his socks off, that’s not likely to happen,” McKenzie said of a trade, so Vegas general manager George McPhee isn’t rushing to make any deals. But it would take only one team making the right offer for something to happen, and it seems other GMs are trying.

Perron and Neal are currently the top two point producers on an 11-6-1 Golden Knights team. Perron, who has a $3.75 million cap hit, leads the team with 11 assists and 17 points in 18 games. Neal, who has a $5 million cap hit, leads the team with 10 goals.

We’re still a long way until the 2018 trade deadline on Feb. 26, but these will be two prime candidates to be moved until then.

Why trading Neal/Perron makes sense

The Golden Knights’ strong start shouldn’t dissuade them from continuing to build for the future. This is still an expansion team in need of a lot of pieces, namely star players to build around, and selling high on valuable veterans like Neal and Perron could help expedite that process.

Neither player will command as much as Matt Duchene did given they’re rentals, but if teams are already calling, it’s conceivable that some appealing trade offers will flow in. For a franchise with a thin farm system and a lack of premier young players to build around outside of its top 2017 draft picks, the best plan to win a Stanley Cup still demands forward thinking.

And while keeping Neal and Perron around could lead to a playoff push, what would come of that? The team would lose a chance at a much-needed lottery pick if it made it, and winning a Stanley Cup would be a serious long shot. Risking the future for a fleeting opportunity in Year 1 would be questionable.

Why trading Neal/Perron doesn’t make sense

Knights On Ice, SB Nation’s Golden Knights blog, does a good job of summing up the problem:

“How do you trade one of your best players when you’re sitting in a playoff spot and not even 20 games into the season? Throw in the fact he’s quickly become a fan favorite, and you can see where this decision gets difficult.”

The Golden Knights are trying to build a fan base in Vegas, and trading good, popular players during your first season might not help there. A playoff run in 2018, even if it doesn’t lead to a Stanley Cup Final appearance, would give the team some real momentum going into 2019, both on the ice and in terms of marketing off of it.

Planning for the future is important, but full of risk. Going for it this season would keep giving fans something to get excited about, rather than telling them to focus on a hopefully bright future. Teams would need to offer up a lot to offset that while the Golden Knights are in a playoff spot.

Likelihood

The resolution to this situation likely depends a lot on where the Golden Knights go from here. If they start losing and plummeting in the standings, the odds of Neal and Perron trades go up. If they keep playing well, the decision becomes increasingly complicated.

Vegas could strike some middle ground and trade only one of the players, depending on what kind of offers it receives. But at the same time, once that happens, why not move toward a complete fire sale to chase after potential top pick Rasmus Dahlin?

While it’s hard to say exactly what McPhee will do at this point, the odds seem in favor of some trades going down if teams are already pushing Vegas while it’s several games over .500. Let’s peg the odds at 7 out of 10.