LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Dealing Max Pacioretty was strictly a salary cap move, Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Thursday to no one’s surprise.

The trade of the high-scoring left wing to Carolina “was designed to create space on our salary cap and enabled us to make some corresponding moves,” McCrimmon said one day after the deal that also included promising defenseman Dylan Coghlan. Cost for Carolina: future considerations.

But moving Pacioretty, an elite goal-scorer begs the question: Who picks up the slack? Where will the goals come from?

McCrimmon said young players, a healthy Mark Stone (back surgery) and reviving an impotent power play are ways the Knights can make up for the loss of Pacioretty. The GM also defended the team’s management of the salary cap at a news conference that also included the announcement of Reilly Smith’s three-year contract worth $15 million. Smith’s deal was reported weeks ago by several news outlets, including

Most teams that are shooting to make the postseason “are at the cap,” McCrimmon said.  “The flat cap just continues to tighten on teams. It hasn’t changed. And as young players across the league are paid and get more money … it just makes it that much tougher.”

So teams often are forced to part with valuable players.

As an example, McCrimmon pointed to the Tampa Bay Lighting’s July 3 trade of defenseman Ryan McDonagh to Nashville in a cap-cutting move. The Lightning, with McDonagh as a major contributor, were shooting for a third consecutive championship but lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Colorado Avalanche.

“You build your team and you know what it needs to look like,” McCrimmon said. “You want it to be championship caliber, and there’s no guarantee that that’s going happen. … you need breaks along the way.”

But why move Pacioretty, who has scored 20 goals or more eight times and 30 or more six times, including 32 in 2019-20 with the Knights?

Most deals in the past month or so were made because of salary cap implications, and lots of factors were involved in the decision to move Pacioretty, McCrimmon said without being specific.

“It’s a real challenging aspect for teams across the league,” he said. “And that’s how we chose to manage it. … If you look at our roster, we needed to create some flexibility to sign some young players that have become big parts of our hockey club.”

The trade allowed for the re-signing of Smith, a versatile right wing, and a new deal that kicks in for defenseman Zach Whitecloud. Teams must pay the young and improving players, as McCrimmon said.

As for Smith, “for me, it was pretty simple. I knew I wanted to play here,” he said. “My No. 1 goal was to stay here and play here.”

Smith, 31, is an original Knight, so he wears the tag of “misfit” that was applied to players on arguably the most successful expansion team in league history.

McCrimmon called Smith an “exceptional two-way player. He represents everything we stand for.”

The Knights also announced Thursday the signing of wings Sakari Manninen and Spencer Foo, each to one-year deals at $750,000. Both most recently played professionally in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Manninen, 30, a 5-foot-9 inch wing is a power-play specialist who scored the gold-medal winning goal for Finland in the 2022 Olympics.

Foo, 28, a right wing, turned pro in 2017 when he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Calgary Flames.