LAS VEGAS – George McPhee tried to get some sleep around midnight on Monday night. But when you’re less than 48 hours away from officially creating the first roster in the history of the Vegas Golden Knights, sleep isn’t easy.
“I woke up at 3:10 a.m. and was like ‘BOING, here we go!’” said McPhee on Tuesday, speaking at the Golden Knights’ corporate offices.
“It’s hard to believe we’re here now. Three days ago, we had a white board with no names on it. Now, it looks like we’ve got a hockey team. And we like the way it looks.”
The final list of players selected in the expansion draft will be submitted “five minutes before 7 a.m. tomorrow,” according to McPhee. He’s continued to listen to trade scenarios on Tuesday after some general managers asked for more time, in an attempt to sway the Knights away from their unprotected players.
McPhee is calling every general manager before settling on a pick, just to see what the alternatives are. He estimates that Vegas has a “half dozen” trades in the bag at a minimum.
His owner, Bill Foley, told Sports Illustrated that the Knights will have draft picks all the way out to 2020 based on some of the moves made this week. He told Vegas Hockey Hotline that, “we’re going see more than one pick in the first round from Vegas this year.”
As the expansion draft process nears its conclusion, we’re starting to get some idea what this roster is going to look like – at least initially, before what’s expected to be a glut of trades by McPhee.
“I think we’ve done well in all the positions. A little more scoring than we anticipated,” he said. “We’re going to have to move some defensemen. Because we’re going to claim a bunch.”
The Knights had to draft a minimum of nine defensemen.
McPhee wouldn’t confirm whether or not the team was going to sign any free agents ahead of the draft, which would count as their pick from a given team. Foley, however, said the team would be financially positioned to do so after the draft and going forward. Vegas had a minimum cap requirement of $43.8 million and a ceiling of $73 million in their draft selections.
“We’re on great on the cap. We’re not going to be close to the top,” he said this week. “We’re going to have plenty of room for free agents if we wanted to go that route. We’re going to have plenty of room for the RFAs that we’re going to be signing. As entry level contracts start expiring, we’re going to have plenty of room to sign them too.”
The Knights are expected to draft several restricted free agents this week, but McPhee cautioned that they may not all end up getting contracts from him.
“I don’t know if the terminology is the right terminology, but there are ‘throwaway picks.’ For some teams, there isn’t a whole lot you can do, so you’re going to take a throwaway pick instead of a big contract you don’t like,” he said. “There will be some of those claims, where we won’t qualify the player.”
(For speculation’s sake, look no further than the Vancouver Canucks and the Arizona Coyotes as two possibilities for “throwaway picks.”)
But not every pick will be a throwaway. Not every pick is made to then flip for other assets. Some of these names are going to be Golden Knights next season and beyond.
McPhee said he would begin reaching out to players on Tuesday afternoon in an effort to get some of them to the NHL Awards on Wednesday and the unveiling of the roster. Foley indicated that between four to seven players could be there, some from expansion draft picks and some from trades.
All of them will no doubt hear the same plan for the Knights as Foley has shared with everyone around the team:
Playoffs by Year 3.
Stanley Cup by Year 6 or 7.
But what about the Knights in Year 1?
“It’s going to be a good team,” said McPhee. “We want to have a club that people enjoy watching play, and then having the draft picks to build towards being a winning team.”
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