The Vegas Golden Knights captured the Stanley Cup in their sixth season of existence in 2022-23. One of the toughest tasks in professional sports is repeating that championship success, but the Golden Knights definitely have the ability to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup once again in 2023-24.
Only 16 teams have repeated as Stanley Cup champions, most recently the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 and 2021. It's a feat that's only been accomplished twice (Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017) over the past 25 years.
The Golden Knights are a strong contender to join that list as they return the majority of the same roster that won it all. Vegas ended up re-signing winger Ivan Barbashev to a five-year, $25 million contract, while also bringing back goaltender Adin Hill.
Vegas was up against the salary cap, though, so veteran forward Reilly Smith became a casualty due to the team's financial situation. The Golden Knights shipped Smith to the Penguins in exchange for a 2024 third-round pick.
With the Golden Knights still expected to be one of the top contenders in the Western Conference, here's exactly do they need to do to repeat.
Stellar goaltending play must continue
The Vegas crease was a well-populated place throughout the 2022-23 season to say the least. Before the season even got underway, it was revealed that Robin Lehner needed hip surgery and would miss the entire year.
With a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the position, Logan Thompson rose to the occasion with an All-Star first half and registered a 2.65 goals-against-average and a .915 save percentage in 37 games. However, Thompson suffered a lower-body injury and missed the majority of the second half of 2022-23.
That's where Adin Hill entered the picture. Hill became the Golden Knights savior after Laurent Brossoit began the postseason with some mighty struggles. After replacing Brossoit, Hill began playing like a man possessed. During the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Vegas netminder posted a 11-4-0 record, a 2.17 goals-against-average and a .932 save percentage in 16 games.
The talented goalie also excelled throughout the Stanley Cup Final, as he tallied a 2.40 goals-against-average and won four of his five starts.
The Golden Knights acquired Hill in exchange for just a fourth-round pick, and Hill made just $2.675 million during the 2022-23 season. Considering the impressive postseason run Hill had, he received a considerable pay raise to the tune of a two-year, $9.8 million contract.
Hill and Thompson should give the Golden Knights a stellar one-two punch in net during the 2023-24 season. It's unclear if or when Robin Lehner would factor into the equation, but when he does, that gives Vegas three very good netminders. As long as both Hill and Thompson can produce like they did in 2022-23, the Golden Knights will be in great shape from a goaltending standpoint.
Eichel must continue to produce
Back when the Golden Knights traded for Jack Eichel in 2021, it was a move that was expected to put the franchise in contention for a Stanley Cup. That ended up being the case as Eichel became one of the top producers that catapulted Vegas to a Stanley Cup.
Eichel has showcased his ability as an elite offensive producer over the course of his eight-year professional career. In back-to-back seasons (2018-19 and 2019-20), Eichel recorded 82 points and 78 points, respectively. After a pair of down years in which he was affected by a neck injury, the former No. 2 overall pick compiled the third-highest point total of his career with 66 (27 goals and 39 assists), while shooting 12.1 percent, the second highest clip of his career.
While it wasn't the highest number of points he's recorded in a single season, Eichel really took his game to the next level during the 2022-23 campaign.
Under first-year coach Bruce Cassidy, the Golden Knights' new system was one built around defense and intensity. With that in mind, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Vegas blue-liners Alec Martinez and Brayden McNabb finished one-two among the league's top shot blockers.
In addition to the team's defensemen beefing up their presence, Eichel also became a more productive two-way player in his first season playing under Cassidy.
The Golden Knights star registered new career-highs in both blocked shots (56) and takeaways (47) during the 2022-23 regular season. That didn't change when the Stanley Cup playoffs rolled around, as Eichel recorded 30 blocked shots, 25 hits and 19 takeaways in 22 contests.
Eichel has taken his star to the next level and reestablished himself as an elite player at his position in his first trip to the postseason. If he can continue to lead by example, the Golden Knights definitely have an opportunity to be crowned Stanley Cup champions again this upcoming season.
Mark Stone has to stay healthy
Throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs, it was evident just how essential Mark Stone was to the Golden Knights success. Stone tallied 24 points (11 goals and 13 assists) during the postseason and was one of four Golden Knights to register at least 20 points.
When he's on the ice, the Golden Knights captain has been a big-time producer. However, health has been the caveat when it comes to Stone.
Stone has been limited to just 80 regular-season games over the past two years. The Vegas star has dealt with back injuries over the last calendar year and has had two back surgeries during that stretch. Stone missed the last three months of the regular season before returning for Game 1 of the Golden Knights' opening-round series against the Winnipeg Jets.
Once Stone returned to the lineup, he logged the third-most points on the team, while also shooting 22.4 percent. His offensive prowess is something to behold when he's able to be on the ice. If Stone can stay healthy throughout the bulk of the season, and that's a big if, the Golden Knights will be a force to be reckoned with.