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McPhee Still Expecting Lots Of Player Movement Before Expansion Draft

The Expansion Draft is a little less than two months away. George McPhee are beyond prepared, but seem a bit on edge about what may happen in those 53 days before they are finally on the expansion clock.

McPhee has been talking about a redistribution of the player pool following the season that will shake up the protection lists of many players. In a recent interview with Leafs Lunch on TSN 1050 McPhee went out of his way multiple times to mention the possibility of seeing his roster change from their mock drafts as teams gear up for the draft.

Early in the season (our mock draft rosters) looked really good. (Now) It’s not bad, which I guess is a real neutral Canadian way to say things. I don’t mind it, I’m happy with what it’s looked liked recently and can only hope it looks like that when we’re done. -George McPhee

With eight teams still competing for the Stanley Cup, and very little movement on the NHL transaction list, McPhee has that “calm before the storm” feel to him, and he definitely appears concerned about what may happen before he ever gets his hands on the protection lists.

You said there’s a good chance of real good goaltenders being available, that’s a good way to express it. It looks that way now, but there could be a big redistribution of players in the weeks before the Expansion Draft. So we’ll have to see what it looks like when all the dust settles. -McPhee

The highest profile moves are likely to come at that goalie position. Everyone is afraid of losing something valuable for nothing, so most teams are going to try and be proactive by moving their assets before the Expansion Draft. It’s the reason McPhee has made it so clear in interviews with AP, the RJ, TSN, and many more that he’s more than willing to entertain any offers.

He wants a skin in the game rather than being left on the sideline. His recent comments about player redistribution feel a bit almost scared rather than what felt like he was accepting the inevitable when he talked about it a few months ago. The comment about the mock draft rosters getting worse and worse appears to have really hit home, and the reality of what his Expansion Draft roster might look like after the last round of shuffling could be a frightening sight, and it’s only getting worse.

It’ll be interesting to see and hear what McPhee looks like a few days before the draft and compare it to what he sounded like today. There’s certainly a level of concern, and more than anything, like an 11th grader preparing for the SAT, I think he’s just ready to get this thing over with.

**Here’s the full interview with Leafs Lunch on TSN 1050.**

Rookie Games Scheduled Against Kings

While we are still waiting on the finalization of the Golden Knights preseason schedule, another set of games just popped up that at least some of those under Vegas’ control will play in. 

LA Kings Insider has learned that the Los Angeles Kings will return to Toyota Sports Center to host the Vegas Golden Knights for a pair of rookie games in mid-September. –Jon Rosen, LA Kings Insider

These very well could be the first games ever to feature Golden Knights wearing Golden Knights jerseys. The two games are going to be played at the Toyota Sports Center, the Kings practice facility in El Segundo, California. 

Rookie games are common in the NHL and are usually stocked with a bunch of young players on training camp roster invites and/or AHL contacts. It will be interesting to see how many of these such players exist for the Golden Knights in year one as they’ll still be trying to figure out how to shuffle what ever is left from the Expansion Draft with their Entry Draft picks and players that acquire via trade between now and September. Non-roster invitees are likely to be somewhat of an after thought, but apparently not too much if these games have made it in to the schedule. 

No matter what the roster looks like, Vegas is on the schedule to play a pair of games in El Segundo against the Kings. I was originally thinking we would have to wait until the end of September to see the beginning of the Golden Knights domination of the Kings, guess now that domination will start with the Reid Duke captained Rookie VGKs. 

McPhee Finds Silver Lining In Protection Lists Being Made Public

The decision by the NHL to make the Expansion Protection Lists public was applauded by media and fans alike, but GM’s around the league were not so thrilled about the idea of having to reveal their “secrets” to the rest of the world. We’re not sure which side the Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee was on during the discussions the GM meetings, but we sure know what he thinks about the lists being public now.

We like it from our stand point because now everyone is going to know what’s going on. We think teams are going to call us and say, ‘You know what that team over there has exposed a guy that we would really like to have. Can we do a deal with you to get that guy.’ That’s kind of the secondary market we are looking at that could be really fruitful for us. –George McPhee to The Rink Rats

That secondary market is one we’ve been talking about for a long time, and is the main asset the Golden Knights have in the Expansion Draft. Despite the many mock drafts out there striving to find the 30 best available players, Vegas is much more likely to utilize every selection from every team as a tradeable asset. The goal isn’t to put a winning team on the ice this season, it’s to build the foundation of the franchise. Whether it’s a deal to take a player, a deal to not take a player, or a deal to give a player to someone else, McPhee and the Golden Knights will be working hard to turn the Expansion Draft into NHL currency. That currency being draft picks and/or prospects, and friendly contracts… not 32-year-old former Stanley Cup winning Captain right wingers.

McPhee makes a great point in saying that if the lists were not public, other GMs wouldn’t be able to see the entire universe of available players and it would limit the deals Vegas could pull off. Of course, George could have simply told his fellow GMs which players are available during phone calls, but there is an element of time involved in this draft and also a level of gamesmanship that would have been involved that’s no longer there. (It’s hard to get a fair deal with someone who has much more information than you do.)

The Creator mentioned in multiple interviews over the past week that he expects his team to end up with plenty of draft picks. Sitting in on the mock drafts, he knows the strategy McPhee is planning on deploying, and odds are, that strategy includes a heck of a lot of wheeling and dealing. The lists being public will hopefully speed up the process and expand that secondary market in a way that majorly benefits the Golden Knights. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again because it’s crazy, but true. For 72 hours at the end of June, the Golden Knights own the rights to every single player left unprotected in the Expansion Draft. A pool of over 400 players. All roads go through Vegas from June 17th to the 20th, the Golden Knights must take advantage of it.

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Who Waited For Whom, And Why It Took So Long To Bring Gallant On Board

November 27th is a date that will forever live in the mind of new Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant. That’s the day he was let go from the Florida Panthers, paving the way for him to make history in Vegas.

But November 27th was 137 days before The Creator and George McPhee announced the knighting of Gerard Gallant. One has to wonder why it took so long, and more importantly, who caused the holdup.

We felt that we had a process that we wanted to go through, Kelly (McCrimmon) and I had discussed how we wanted to do this. I guess there are three issues why we took our time. First of all we didn’t have any players to coach, so we weren’t in a rush to have a coach, and we had so many other things to do. We had to get our priorities in order and take care of some of other things before we got to the coach. The second thing is when you have time in this business you use it. We needed every bit of it. The third reason was there were some people who had requested we talk to them at the end of their seasons. So, we went through the entire process. We did it the way we wanted to, and it worked out very well for us. We got the right person for this team and we did it in the timeline we set for it. -George McPhee

And what did it look like from Gallant’s point of view?

The first time I talked to George about it was probably in mid-December, he gave me a call and asked if I had any interest. I said definitely I had a lot of interest in it. Then I did an interview in mid-January and I flew out here for two days and we met for 3-4 hours with him and Kelly McCrimmon, Misha Donskov, and the owner. From that point on we talked about once every two weeks about the job and the process he was going through to hire his new coach. It was good, it was a long process but it was real good and it was everything I expected when we talked. -Gallant on Hockey Central at Noon

Gallant’s initial interview happened in January. Right around the time rumors started to fly that the Golden Knights may move up their coach hiring. Then, they didn’t, and here we are now, with the same guy that caused the rumors in the first place behind the bench?

When we met him we really liked him and there was an inclination to maybe do this right now because there’s some risk in waiting. But we wanted to be able to come here today and say ‘you know what, we did this right, it was a comprehensive exhaustive process and we took our time and we got the right guy.’ I talked to Gerard about two weeks ago and said when the season ends this is going to happen fast. We have one other person to talk to and when we get through that we will know exactly what we are doing. Throughout the process we kept coming back to Gerard and we felt like he was the right guy, and on Monday night we said, you know what, he’s the guy, let’s go. –McPhee to the Rink Rats

Gerard in the mean time was scooping up interviews himself.

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Watch The Full Gerard Gallant Introduction Press Conference

Our friends over at Fox 5 Vegas live streamed the entire press conference of the hiring of Gerard Gallant from this afternoon.

Here are some of the best quotes of the day.

**Huge shout out to Fox 5 for not only doing a live stream of the entire press conference, but also letting us use it. They are now our new TV channel. Step your game up 3, 8, and 13.**

Gerrard Gallant Named First Coach In Vegas Golden Knights History

Despite the fact that there won’t be an official “knighting” ceremony, former Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant is now Sir Gallant, the first head coach in Vegas Golden Knights history.

There is a great deal of excitement in the hockey community regarding what is happening with the Golden Knights and I am glad to now be a part of the team. We have a state-of-the-art practice facility being constructed, a world class home arena and from what I’ve heard, a very passionate and engaged fan base. I look forward to seeing that enthusiasm first hand and will work with George and the rest of the hockey operations staff to ice a team that Golden Knights fans will be proud to support. -Gallant in Golden Knights Press Release

Gallant was fired just 22 games into the season with the Florida Panthers with the reason cited as “philosophical differences.” Most believed it was due to disagreements over the use of analytics in deciding ice time and playing style, but Gallant denied that a few weeks after being let go.

Prior to his gig with the Panthers, Gallant spent four years as the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. That was widely considered an unsuccessful tenure, which led Gerard to take a job QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs. Gallant led the Sea Dogs to back to back titles and went on to win the Memorial Cup as well in 2011. This renaissance thrust Gallant back on to the scene.

One of the key players on his Memorial Cup winning team was a big reason why Gallant found himself standing behind an NHL bench once again. The Panthers selected Jonathan Huberdeau with the 3rd overall pick in 2011. Gallant was instrumental in getting Huberdeau that far, and then was able to reunite with him in the NHL in 2014.

The saga surrounding Gallant’s release in Florida made international headlines, as did these two pictures (1 and 2). Following a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, Gallant was fired and left to take a taxi with assistant coach Mike Kelly (remember that name) who was released as well. But the oddity doesn’t end there. Normally when coaches are fired following an NHL game, it’s done immediately following the game and the media never gets a chance to speak to the coach. Well that was not the case with Gallant. However, no local media traveled from Miami to this particular game in North Carolina, so the Panthers allowed Gallant to speak to a few AP writers before making him aware of his release. The whole story is broken down in this excellent article from CaneCountry.com. It says a lot about the state of the Florida Panthers organization, but also about what kind of person the Golden Knights just hired.

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Head Coach Gerard Gallant Bio

Name – Gerard Gallant
Born – September 2nd, 1963 (53 years old), Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Nickname – Turk (His brother called him Turkey), Spuddy (Prince Edward Island is known for potatoes), or Sir Gallant (Knight reference)

Playing Career

1980-1981 – Sherbrooke Castors
1982-1983 – St. Jean Beavers
1982-1983 – Verdun Juniors
1983-1985 – Adirondack Red Wings
1984-1993 – Detroit Red Wings
1993-1995 – Tampa Bay Lightning
1994-1995 – Atlanta Knights
1995-1996 – Detroit Vipers

Highlights 

  • Drafted #107 overall in the 6th round of the 1981 Entry Draft
  • NHL All-Star Second Team in 1988–89
  • Silver Medalist of Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships in 1989 with Team Canada
  • 615 career NHL games, 211 goals, 269 assists
  • Elected into QMJHL Hall of Fame in 2014

Coaching Career

1998-1999 – Fort Wayne Komets (Assistant)
1999-2000 – Louisville Panthers (Assistant)
2001-2003 – Columbus Blue Jackets (Assistant)
2003-2007 – Columbus Blue Jackets (Head Coach)
2007-2008 – New York Islanders (Assistant)
2009-2012 – Saint John Sea Dogs (Head Coach)
2012-2014 – Montreal Canadiens (Assistant)
2014-2017 – Florida Panthers (Head Coach)

Highlights

  • All Star Game Coach in 2015-16 of Atlantic Division
  • Runner up for Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year) in 2015-16
  • Back to back QMJHL League Championship 2011 and 2012
  • Memorial Cup Championship in 2011
  •  Assistant coach of Gold Medal winning Team Canada in 2007 Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships
  • 328 career NHL games coached. 152-141-35 overall record
  • One playoff appearance in 2015-16

Personal

Daughter Melissa is married to professional hockey player Darryl Boyce, and son Jason played four seasons in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League.

Golden Knights Find Their Radio Home

Time to set your presets in your car to 1340 AM and 98.9 FM, cause they are the new home of the Golden Knights on the radio. That’s Fox Sports Radio in Las Vegas and they are owned by Lotus Broadcasting, the same company that owns ESPN Radio and NBC Sports Radio in Vegas (Yes, it’s weird, but it’s true).

The plan is to have the Knights on Fox Sports Radio, which has signals on AM (1340) and FM (98.9). There will be no pre-empting of the broadcasts, which was a key element for the hockey team. Lotus’ inventory of stations allowed it to guarantee a permanent home for the NHL, and with the FM signal will guarantee reaching all parts of the valley. -Steve Carp, LVRJ

Lotus broadcasts UNLV Rebel football and basketball, and carry Las Vegas 51s games for the 11 people that listen to AAA Baseball on the radio. Lotus is also the home of the most local sports talk shows with hosts including Mitch Moss, Michael Pritchard, Steve Cofield, and Seat Williams. There’s no debating, Lotus is the undisputed sports radio powerhouse in the valley.  So from that perspective, this is the right place for the Golden Knights, and it’s obviously a great add for Lotus.

 

We do have our questions however about how great of a choice this really is for the Golden Knights?

Luckily, there’s a press conference this afternoon that may give us some of the answers. So, rather than go on and on about it now, only to find out the reasons for our reservations have been solved, we shall wait. But believe you me, we’ll have much more on the impact of this decision later tonight or tomorrow, and odds are, it’s not going to be pretty.

There is other positive news from the Lotus announcement though…

The team also is expected to announce its games will be broadcast in Spanish on ESPN Deportes, a Lotus station located at 1460 on the AM dial. -Carp

How many people will actually listen? Who knows, but honestly, who cares. This is an excellent move for the Golden Knights. 25% of the Las Vegas population primarily speak Spanish. Reaching that quarter of valley residents is crucial. It was a clear priority for the Golden Knights, and ESPN Deportes offers it.

The press conference is scheduled for 3:00 PM.

Roster Move All But Confirms Chicago Wolves As AHL Affiliate

The plan is still to wait until the Chicago Wolves season ends to make the announcement that the Golden Knights will become their new parent club, but sometimes hockey logistics get in the way of a good plan.

With Reid Duke’s WHL season ending last week, we have explored opportunities and options for him to play additional games this year. The Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League – who are currently the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues – agreed to take Reid on a professional tryout agreement. Reid will be available to play for Chicago beginning Friday. We are appreciative of the Wolves organization for affording Reid this opportunity, which will be beneficial for his development as a player -George McPhee in Press Release

Duke’s WHL season wrapped up on the 29th of March when the Wheaties were swept by the Medicine Hat Tigers. Duke scored three goals and racked up eight penalty minutes in the four game series.

But now, the 21 year old is left with no where to play. Normally, an undrafted free agent like Duke would find his way to the AHL or ECHL for the final few games of the season. If he’s promising enough, he may even find his way on to the NHL team. Well, Vegas doesn’t have any of those, so they had to find something to do.

It was originally reported back in January that the Golden Knights and Chicago Wolves were in discussions. Then in February a team source told us the deal is done but nothing could be confirmed until the AHL season ends. Finally, during George McPhee’s Q&A with the fans in March the GM confirmed Vegas would have complete hockey control over their AHL affiliate.

Add it all up, and this is not a favor the Chicago Wolves and St. Louis Blues are granted the Golden Knights. This is the first transaction Vegas is making with it’s AHL club… despite what the team says.

The Golden Knights AHL affiliation discussions are still ongoing. We will announce those details after the affiliation agreement has been finalized and confirmed. -McPhee in Press Release

This is a move any NHL club would make with their minor league affiliate, just Vegas has to call it something different… for now.

Understanding The NHL Draft Lottery

The first time the Vegas Golden Knights will officially participate in an NHL sanctioned “competition” will be at the NHL Draft Lottery on April 29th. With a little help from TSN’s finest Frank Seravalli, the math wizards at HockeyViz.com, and this thing called Twitter, we unearthed the exact odds the NHL will be using for the 2017 lottery.

For those who are new to the NHL, the lottery is a system that was implemented in 1995 to curb the appeal of tanking. Rather than awarding the team with the worst record in the league the first overall pick (like NFL and MLB) the league instead gives them the best chance to win the lottery. All non-playoff teams are entered into the lottery with their odds to win corresponding to their record; worse the team, better the odds.

The NHL Lottery is actually a series of three lotteries using identical odds to determine the top three selections in the NHL Draft. After the lotteries decide the first three picks, teams are slotted in to the draft order based on their record. Therefore, the worst team can select no lower than fourth in the first round, and are guaranteed the first pick in the second round.

Still with me?

Now let’s move into how the Vegas Golden Knights fit into this year’s lottery.

The Las Vegas franchise will be given the same odds in the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery as the team finishing with the third-fewest points during the 2016-17 regular season. –NHL Expansion Draft Rules

Thus, two teams have better odds than the Golden Knights. After the lotteries, Vegas is technically the third worst team meaning they can select no worse than sixth (will explain how in a moment), and are guaranteed to pick third in the second through seventh rounds.

NHL Draft Lottery Odds (courtesy of HockeyViz.com)

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