LAS VEGAS — A strip mall located next to a golf course is the center of hockey universe. There Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee is selecting his team for 2017-18 season when the new franchise begins play. On Saturday morning here, McPhee gave his daily press briefing as his team began to fall into place.
“Three days ago, we had a whiteboard with no names on it and now it looks like we’ve got a hockey team,” McPhee said. NHL teams released their list of players protected from the Golden Knights Sunday morning.
McPhee will have a glut of players, picking one from each of the other 30 teams. He must pick at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goaltenders. McPhee is always coy with reporters, often toying with them in his public comments. While he wouldn’t get into the exact number of trades he has worked out, he did say there were “at least” six.
The moves the Knights are making are ones where a team gives up young players and/or draft picks to prevent the Golden Knights from taking certain players they were unable to fit on their protected lists. There also could be deals in which the Golden Knights take a player from another team only to flip him to a third team soon after.
McPhee had a self-imposed deadline of midnight Eastern Time for teams to make trades, but extended it into Tuesday because some general managers had travel issues because of storms on Monday night that led to delayed or cancelled flights. McPhee would not say whether he has signed any free agents who were allowed to speak to the Golden Knights even though their rights are still held by other teams. If he signs a player, it will count as a pick from the team the player previously played for.
“We knew that from the start that we were going to claim 30 players, but your roster can only be 23, you can only dress 18 and two,” McPhee said. The last two numbers represent the number of skaters and goalies you can have during a game. McPhee said he would rather make “throwaway” picks, such as selecting restricted free agents he does intend to give a qualifying offer to, from some teams rather than take on an outsized contract.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty good team,” McPhee said of the Golden Knights. “We’re happy that, you know, we got a lot of defensemen, we got really good goaltending, we’ve got a lot of centers, and we’ve got scoring on the wings. Should have good speed, so it’s going to be a good team.”
McPhee expanded on his statement on his future defense corps, saying “we’re going to have to move some defensemen because we’re going to claim a bunch.” That is bad news for the Capitals as Nate Schmidt, a puck-moving D-man who led all six Washington regulars at the position in possession metrics, was left exposed by the team. The other likely Golden Knights pick from the Caps is promising young netminder Philipp Grubauer, but he is stuck behind Braden Holtby on the depth chart and the Capitals have a number of good goaltending prospects in the pipeline.
Vegas has until 7 AM local time on Wednesday to submit its roster to the NHL, which will be announced during the televised 2017 NHL Awards Show later that night.
“I think we’re ready to go,” McPhee said.
Headline photo: Ethan Miller
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