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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.**

Adam McQuaid Says He Doesn’t Want To Be Drafted By George McPhee

We knew it was coming eventually, but now that it’s here, it hurts just as badly as we thought it might. Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid openly admitted he is not looking forward to June’s expansion draft, and it’s taking everything in me to not want to hate him for it.

It’s totally out of my control, but hopefully, it’s not the case. Adam McQuaid

McQuaid spoke with WEEI in Boston’s Big Bad Blog about the possibility of being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft. Ty Anderson of WEEI asked the eight-year veteran a few questions and you could tell June 21st wasn’t circled on McQuaid’s calendar.

The reality of the situation is they’re picking somebody from every team, so, I hope that’s not the case for me. I’ve won back here and I’ve always said how much I love it back here and I can’t imagine playing for another team. -McQuaid

I reached out to Big Bad Blog’s Ty Anderson and asked him about Darth Quaider’s comments. Here’s part of our conversation we had via text.

It’s somewhat assumed that the Bruins will lose one of Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, or McQuaid to the draft because they don’t really have many impact forwards unprotected, so I just asked him about the possibility of that happening. -Ty Anderson, WEEI Boston

As Anderson mentions in his article, McQuaid’s contract is very manageable at 2years, $2.75M and has the ability to guide a young team. George McPhee constantly talks about players character and strong veteran leadership. McQuaid fits that bill to a tee. The Golden Knights would be thankful to bring in a 30 year-old, right-handed, Cup winning defenseman for under $3M a season. In a way, McQuaid is kind of the perfect fit for Las Vegas. So I pestered Anderson more about McQuaid’s apprehension to play for the Golden Knights.

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Flyer’s Goalie Situation Getting More Interesting For Expansion

The Philadelphia Flyers enter the offseason with four goalies under their control, and they run the gamut in regards to expansion rules. Steve Mason, who started a majority of the games in net last season is an unrestricted free agent. Michal Neuvirth, their backup for most of the year, is under contract at $2.5M until the end of 2018-19. Anthony Stolarz, the 23-year-old former second round pick who posted a 2.07 GAA in 7 games in the NHL is an RFA owed less than $1M next year. And Carter Hart, another 2nd round pick, is exempt from the Expansion Draft.

Most believed the Flyers would allow Mason to enter free agency, at least through the Expansion Draft letting them to protect another goalie. There was some debate over whether or not GM Ron Hextall would protect Neuvirth or Stolarz.

There is a familiarity with George McPhee as he drafted, let go, re-signed, and traded Neuvirth during his time in Washington. Thus despite his disastrous 2016-17 season, the idea of protecting the more experienced Neuvirth due to fear of being left in the dust heading into free agency likely entered Hextall’s mind. The easier choice was to protect Stolarz, the heir-apparant and stay the course for the future.

Now, there’s a wrench in the works. Stolarz had a serious knee injury down the stretch and recently had surgery on his MCL. He’s out at least all summer and likely into early next season. This has led one local beat reporter back to the idea of protecting Neuvirth.

The Jackson, N.J., native (Stolarz) has a long rehab process ahead of him, and the Flyers might not protect him in the expansion draft. It was doubtful that Vegas, the new NHL team, would select Stolarz in the expansion draft before the injury, but the latest development could cement things. That means the Flyers probably will protect goalie Michal Neuvirth. –Sam Carchidi, Philly.com

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Mike Kitchen, VGK Assistant Extraordinaire?

As it stands right now the Vegas Golden Knights are a fully functioning NHL franchise, if you just ignore their roster of one. Vegas is now preparing for the 2017-18 season just like the 22 other teams no longer vying for the Cup. With the head coach Gerard Gallant comfortably in the Zamboni seat, it’s time to add his staff of assistants. The organization will want to add two or three coaches to help direct special teams. Mike Kelly (the other guy in the taxi pictures), Gallant’s assistant in Florida and with the Saint John Sea Dogs, is the leading candidate to become one of those assistants, but there are still other seats to be filled.

In the NHL the assistant coach should be a good source of communication for the head coach and players. A hockey scout explained an assistant coach as the Tom Hagen of the team. The consigliere should always protect the head of the family and be trusted by the soldiers. Consider Gallant as the team Godfather and the soldiers as the players. The assistant coach will communicate the message. The Golden Knights will bring in a coach that should lead by example, communicate clearly and continuously work to improve the club. If that doesn’t describe Hagen, I don’t know what does. He politely told Tessio he couldn’t ‘get him off the hook’ and then sent him off to be killed. Okay, back to assistant coaching, here’s one potential individual who is currently in the sports pages.

Former St. Louis Blues head coach and assistant to Joel Quenneville, Mike Kitchen, was let go yesterday in somewhat of a surprising move.

Sources said Bowman likely fired Kitchen to reassert authority over personnel and send everyone, including Quenneville, a message going into next season. Bowman’s decision to fire Kitchen was also likely a move in self-preservation to pacify a demand for change coming. –Chris Hine, Chicago Tribune

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McPhee’s Lottery Luck

This Saturday the Golden Knights will have a 10.3% chance to win the NHL Draft Lottery and be awarded the first selection in June’s Entry Draft. It’s the first time Vegas will participate in an NHL “competition” against the Original 30, and while we have no clue what kind luck the new franchise will have, we can only hope GM George McPhee’s luck carries over.

McPhee has been a general manger in the NHL for 17 years, six of which is Capitals missed the playoffs and were in the lottery.

YearFinish (to last)Lottery OddsPick NumberDraft Selection
19995th8.1%*7thKris Beech
200212th0%12thSteve Eminger
20043rd14.2%1stAlex Ovechkin
20064th10.7%4thNicklas Backstrom
20074th10.7%5thKarl Alzner
201414th0.5%13thJakub Vrana

*In 1999 the Thrashers joined the league. The Internet struggled back then, so finding exact odds was tough. If anyone finds them, let me know

Hopefully McPhee is partying like it’s 2004. With just a few percentage points more than the Golden Knights will have this year, McPhee hit the lottery and jumped up to get Ovi. 

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“Dirty” Players Who Could End Up As Golden Knights

The NHL postseason is emotional for players and fans alike. Players are so charged up and are giving everything they have. Off the ice, rabid fans are losing their voices in packed NHL arenas. The intensity is so high players are throwing their bodies around at full speed, which is why you see occasional dangerous and sometimes nasty hits. In the playoffs these incidents get amplified because of the possible impact. Nazem Kadri’s low check on Alex Ovechkin was the perfect example.

Many, including myself thought the hit was strategic and unjust. Watching it over and over left me furious with Kadri’s obvious motive.

So what do we do if players with a tainted reputation end up in Las Vegas? How can we root for dirty players that potentially suit up for the Golden Knights? Some players made mistakes and have cleaned up their acts and others continue to cheapshot. Let’s be glad Matt Cooke is out of the league.

Matt Calvert

Calvert’s name has made multiple mock drafts, including Fox Sports earlier this month.

If you didn’t know Calvert before the playoffs, I’m sure you do now.

His late attack on Tom Kuhnhackl was clearly malicious and deserved the suspension. Emotions got the better of him, but overall he’s not a repeat offender. Calvert is a decent NHL player and Vegas fans shouldn’t find it difficult to root for.

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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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Expansion Draft Reveal Combined With NHL Awards At T-Mobile Arena

UPDATE 2 (10:47 AM 4/27/17) : A team source tells us tickets will go on sale for season ticket holders on Friday April 28th at 10 AM. Prices will start at $15 per ticket. 

UPDATE (10:33 AM 4/19/17) : Per The Creator via email, ticket prices for the event will range from $20 in the upper deck to $40 in the best seats in the lower bowl. There will also be premium “floor seats” which are controlled by the NHL. They are expected to be priced in the $150-$300 range like previous Awards Shows.

Also, the team is working hard to ensure jerseys will be for sale at this event, but “it’s all being driven by Adidas and their timing.” It won’t be Vegas’ fault if they aren’t there for general sale on June 21st.

***

We’ve been reporting this for months now, but today the Golden Knights and the NHL finalized plans to combine the NHL Expansion Draft and the NHL Awards Show into one event at T-Mobile Arena.

The event will take place as expected on June 21st at 5PM PST and will be televised on NBCSN and SportsNet.

“We are thrilled to be in Las Vegas again for the NHL Awards. To be able to pair this perennial show with the excitement of the Expansion Draft for the Vegas Golden Knights is a unique event that we think our fans will greatly enjoy. -Steve Mayer, NHL Chief Content Officer and Executive Vice President

To recap, the protection lists are due to the NHL on Saturday June 17th at 2PM PST. They are expected to be make the lists public either Saturday night or Sunday morning. The Golden Knights must finalize their 30 selections by June 20th at 2PM PST. Then, at 27 hours later at T-Mobile Arena, we’ll learn fill in the blanks of the names we don’t find out prior to the big reveal.

During this 72 hour period, Vegas has exclusive negotiating rights with all unrestricted free agents (UFAs) and can make qualifying offers to restricted free agents (RFAs).

June 21 will be an incredible day for the city of Las Vegas and our fans. The anticipation around the Expansion Draft has been building for months and that excitement will continue to grow as we get closer to Draft Day. By combining the draft with the NHL Awards, Golden Knights fans will get to experience a monumental day in our team’s history while enjoying one of the premier NHL events that features the game’s biggest stars. -The Creator

Tickets will be available for season ticket holders to this event “in the coming days” and are NOT free like originally expected when the Expansion Draft and NHL Awards were separate. The arena will likely be set up like a concert, so approximately 15,000-20,000 tickets should be available. Prices have yet to be announced. Brace for impact though cause the NHL Awards Show tickets have ranged from around $100-350 or so a piece. Obviously these will be cheaper due to it being in an arena rather than a theatre, but don’t expect them to be cheap.

Tickets will go on sale to the general public at 10AM PST on May 3rd.

This is also the event in which the team is expected to unveil their home and away jerseys.

Neal Pionk Going Pro; Golden Knights Appear In The Mix

NCAA runner-up Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Neal Pionk finally announced his intentions to forego his college eligibility and turn pro. After weeks of deliberation the sophomore decided to leave Duluth to pursue a career in the NHL.

We profiled Pionk last month after the Golden Knights had reportedly shown interest in the college free agent. He went undrafted in the Entry Draft ultimately because of his 5’11″/181 pound stature. Now, after dominating on the NCAA level, teams are looking past height and more on Pionk’s high level skill. As a two-way, puck moving defenseman with a hard shot, NHL teams are ready to make offers.

He’s good in his own zone. But when you watch him, what stands out is how good his shot is, and he can score with it. He’s got a Shea Weber quality to him with the shot. Just got a missile. – Dave Starman, ESPN College Hockey analyst and scout

Vegas has the opportunity to take a risk on a player that was passed over by all 30 clubs. Last week, I asked Kelly McKrimmon a few questions about Pionk and other college prospects. He wouldn’t comment directly, but confirmed they’re still on the scouting trail of college free agents.

I know that we’ve had real good coverage. We’ve targeted a very small number. To be honest with you, we haven’t cast a wide net. -Kelly McKrimmon, Assistant General Manager

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