It’s been long considered that the first players to ever become Golden Knights will do so during the Expansion Draft in late June. The team will then participate in the Entry Draft on June 24th and 25th and in free agency on July 1st. However, the organization doesn’t appear is if they want to wait all the way until June to begin crafting their roster.
College free agents, 20 year old Canadian Junior Hockey (CHL) players, and even unsigned players from professional leagues in Russia (KHL), Sweden (SEL), Finland (Liiga), and many other leagues around the world, will be available to the Vegas Golden Knights months before the NHL allows them to raid the Original 30 rosters.
For the Golden Knights we can’t sign free agents yet, we are hopeful that we’ll be able to that March 1st when the final payments are made. We’re hoping that we can begin to sign players at that time. -Kelly McCrimmon, Assistant GM
And once that pesky “final payment” is made, McCrimmon doesn’t expect his staff to be hesitant.
It’s going to be a real high priority for our franchise and I think in turn it’s going to provide great opportunity for those players that we are able to sign. We’ve got two people dedicated entirely to scouting free agent players. We are not the only team in that market, but for us with an obvious need for young players and for prospects it’s going to be a real important time for us in terms of that process. -McCrimmon
The much discussed Expansion Draft will stock the Golden Knights with 30 players, at least 20 of which will be under contract, but if history tells us anything, many of them will be flipped for assets within a few days and will never don a VGK sweater. The Entry Draft is huge for the future, but in 2017-18, it would be surprising if more than one player gets a shot in the NHL.
So obviously free agents will be crucial for the Golden Knights. NHL rules allow franchises to have up to 50 standard player contracts. Vegas will probably not come close to that number in year one, but they’ll have to sign a bunch to help fill out their AHL/ECHL rosters. (No, we haven’t heard yet, but we think it’s going to be the Chicago Wolves)
As McCrimmon said, Vegas will indeed provide opportunity for many of these players. There are 23 spots on the big league club, and plenty more who will find their way into the NHL during what’s sure to be a volatile Golden Knights inaugural season roster.
McPhee says agents of college free agent players have been reaching out to him saying they want to play in Vegas.
— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) January 9, 2017
So start the countdown to March 1st, because the history will be made, as the Golden Knights will sign the first players in team history. Unfortunately it’ll likely be a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of.
**Quotes from this story were pulled from Kelly McCrimmon’s interview on The Pipeline Show with Guy Flaming. You can find the entire interview here.**