Sunday, May 5, 2019 | 2 a.m.
If the Golden Knights had a captain, many would point to Deryk Engelland as being the guy. He is the oldest player in the dressing room as well as one of the most respected. The 37-year-old has also worn the “A” on his jersey.
The former Las Vegas minor leaguer immediately became part of Golden Knights’ lore with his emotional speech before the inaugural home game during the ceremony to honor the victims of the Oct. 1 mass shooting. He also scored a goal that night in the victory.
Engelland had called Las Vegas home since the early 2000s when he played for the Las Vegas Wranglers, reaffirming that he is one with the city through his actions in the Oct. 1 massacre aftermath.
But will sentimentality be enough to keep Engelland with the franchise for another season? Of all the questions the team faces in free agency and with its roster, what to do with the beloved Engelland is near the top of the list.
He had a career-best 18 assists and 23 points in 2017-18 as his penalty minutes dropped to 24, the lowest since his rookie year. But he took a step back in production this year with 12 points, his fewest since 2015.
Why the Golden Knights will keep him
There is not a player more weaved into the fabric of the city than Engelland. He isn’t as popular as Marc-Andre Fleury and doesn’t get the fans fired up like Ryan Reaves, but the history of hockey in Las Vegas can’t be told without him.
He also wants to be here.
“I sure hope so,” Engelland responded when asked if he anticipated playing next season in Vegas. “We’ll see what happens. I did my job this year and we’ll see what came out of it.”
The back of his hockey card doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence with two goals, 10 assists, 12 points and a minus-3 rating in 2018-19, but Engelland did lead the team with 152 blocked shots. He was also part of the team’s defensive backbone.
During the playoffs, he led the team in ice time, and during the regular season he was third. Engelland also helped the Vegas goalies’ save percentage more than any other defenseman, as they had a .924 save percentage while he was on the ice.
Then there was his work on the penalty kill. He averaged 3:12 of short-handed ice time per game, more than second-place Brayden McNabb by 24 seconds, to lead an 80.9-percent penalty kill to rank sixth in the Western Conference.
Why the Golden Knights will move on
Engelland is fifth-oldest defenseman in the league. Of those, only Brooks Orpik had fewer points than Engelland last season.
Engelland struggled at driving possession at 5-on-5, especially in the attacking zone. He had a 50.15 percent Corsi and opponents scored 53.76 of the goals at 5-on-5 while he was on the ice, both worst among team defensemen. He also generated the fewest scoring chances per 60 minutes of any blue liner.
Vegas has plenty of depth at the position, with six defensemen already under contract for next year. That doesn’t include restricted free agent Jimmy Schuldt or prospect Nic Hague, both of whom could make an impact in Vegas next year.
Engelland plays one more year in Vegas. He signs a one-year deal at a lower cap hit than the $1.5 million he had last year.