Who will be Las Vegas NHL team’s first general manager?

GettyImages-482152883
GettyImages-482152883

Las Vegas owner and president Bill Foley has his brain-trust assembled in Montana this week to figure out the next steps for the NHL expansion team. That includes its continuing work on a name, logo and colors with the League – although we doubt “Neon Knights” will get much traction.

That also includes finding the team’s first general manager, as Foley told the Las Vegas Review Journal that they want a short list of three to five candidates set and start scheduling interviews.

From Steve Carp:

“We talked to the NHL last week, and we were explained how the protocol works when it comes to contacting other teams,” Foley said. “We want to play by the rules and not make any mistakes. The NHL told us what we have to do, and we’re good with that.”

Foley is overseeing the search. Former NHL player Murray Craven, Foley’s adviser on hockey matters since he began his quest to acquire a franchise 2½ years ago, will have input. But Foley will make the final call.

“My hope is we’ll have our general manager on board no later than Aug. 1,” Foley said. “We’ve had a lot of people reach out to us, and we’ve got some people we’re interested in who we’ve yet to speak to. We hope to identify who we want to speak to from these meetings.”

Bill Daly, deputy commissioner of the NHL, said that the League isn’t “actively recommending people” for positions with the organization. Yet Foley told Vegas Seven that “the league has got names for us they want us to talk to, and we’re going to present names to the league that they clear, and then we can go to the teams and get clearance to talk to those individuals.”

So apparently, as they have for other new owners, the NHL is helping to create their front office.

“A number of candidates have reached out to the Las Vegas group. Probably far more than they’ll be able to interview, much less consider. The people they have working with them already will come up with a list and ask for our views,” said Daly.

Who might make that short list? A few speculative suggestions:

Jason Botterill

At 39, he might be one of the youngest names on any short list. He’s now worked with Ray Shero and Jim Rutherford with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and has been long considered one of the rising stars in management. (And his rise continues to hit a ceiling in Pittsburgh, as Rutherford re-upped for three years.) Do you turn the keys over to a newbie? Maybe, if you trust his vision and surround him with veteran hockey minds.

Mike Futa

The Los Angeles Kings VP of hockey operations has been sought after by other teams, with the Kings reportedly refusing to allow him to interview in places like Vancouver. He’s got the goods and would be an excellent choice, although he’s never run his own show. Strong scouting background, though, and this is a gig that certainly requires strong player development credentials.

Don Maloney

The former Arizona Coyotes general manager has over 20 years front office experience and proved adept at running a tight, effective ship from 2007 through 2016 with the financially strapped Coyotes. One concern: The Coyotes didn’t exactly have the greatest draft history with Maloney. But he’s well-respected around the league, which helps. As does, we imagine, his “good solider” status with the Coyotes’ former owner, Gary Bettman.

Norm MacIver

The former NHL defenseman and current Chicago Blackhawks assistant general manager has been mentioned for several gigs, and is certainly cut from that Steve Yzerman-esque “learning from the best” mold having worked under Stan Bowman for several years. One to watch.

George McPhee

Currently a special advisor to the New York Islanders, McPhee was the general manager of the Washington Capitals from 1997 through 2014. His greatest selling point is infrastructure: The guy helped build a thriving minor league and scouting system for the Capitals that produced loads of prospects and successful franchises. His trade history is spotty – do we really need to mention Martin Erat again? – but he’s exactly the type of guy you want at the top of the food chain for a new team. Also, has a relationship with Craven.

Scott Mellanby

The Montreal Canadiens assistant GM deserves a mention because of his connections with Craven. Probably too green for this gig, but one could see him as part of the front office.

Dale Tallon

His “promotion” within the Florida Panthers organization from general manager to president of hockey operations put him in a “lesser role,” according to Tallon. He’s found success in Chicago and in Florida, building two dynamic young teams and seeing the former win the Stanley Cup after his departure. If he still has the hunger, it wouldn’t be out of question to see him as the choice.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.