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Tag: George McPhee (Page 1 of 17)

Diversification Of Potential Talent Was Key In Building Golden Knights

Ask any financial advisor, the best way to build wealth is to diversify your portfolio. With money, that means a 401k, IRA, stocks, bonds, and whatever else that will make money over time. The same rings true in the world of sports, especially when we are talking about a team built from scratch.

The Golden Knights were granted with 30 Expansion Draft selections and seven Entry Draft picks for each season starting in 2017. The task was to build a hockey team that will eventually become the champion of the world’s best league.

There were actually rules set up forcing the Golden Knights to diversify by position (must select 14F, 11D, 3G), by contract status (20 players under contract), and by total dollars spent (at least 60% of the salary cap).

George McPhee made it clear from the get go the goal of the Expansion Draft was to accumulate assets, something he did a lot of both on June 21st and in the weeks following. Now it’s time to take a look at what he actually got, and how diversified the talent on the roster turned out.

Draft Picks

The league gives each team a pick in each round of the draft every year. So over the first four years of the organization the Golden Knights were given 28 picks. In 2017, Vegas ended up selecting 12 times in the Entry Draft, including three times in the first round and six times in the top 65. All 12 players currently stand as completely unproven assets with massive potential upside, especially Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom, and Nic Hague.

They also acquired a bundle of picks for the next three drafts. As of this moment, the Golden Knights have 27 picks in between 2018-2020 including their original three 1st rounders, seven 2nd round picks, and four 3rd round picks.

Non-NHL Ready Talent Prospects

Here we are talking about players like Keegan Kolesar, Jake Bischoff, Reid Duke, Tomas Hyka, and the other free agent signings. These players are essentially Golden Knights draft picks from 2013-2016, drafts they did not participate in… because they weren’t a team yet. They are low risk players than can offer high reward, but the probability of massive success is incredibly slim.

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Blue Line Numbers Game Could Land Shea Theodore In AHL To Open Season

When all was said and done with the Expansion Draft, Entry Draft, and free agency the Golden Knights were left with a total of 42 players under contract. When ranking them by importance for the future of the franchise, 21-year-old defenseman Shea Theodore is either at the top or within the top two or three.

With the team not expected to compete for a Stanley Cup in 2017-18, or likely any of the first few years, the focus is obviously going to be on developing players, Theodore being at the very top of that list. But, like everything in professional sports, it’s not that cut and dry.

McPhee has done well to cut down on the surplus of defenseman, but there’s still a bit of a logjam. The Golden Knights have 14 defenseman on the roster. According to CapFriendly.com, nine of them are one one way contracts, and Nate Schmidt will likely take that number to 10.

Shea Theodore is not one of those 10. Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Deryk Engelland, Colin Miller, Griffin Reinhart, Brayden McNabb, Nate Schmidt, Jon Merrill, and Brad Hunt.

The NHL allows teams to have 23 active players on their roster, but only 20 are allowed to play in a game. Normally, teams use a lineup of 12 forwards, six defensemen, and two goalies. Some teams choose to drop a forward for a defenseman, allowing them seven active defensemen.

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Golden Knights Sitting Pretty In Possible Age Of Offer Sheet Free Agency

If the Vegas Golden Knights are to keep the promise of making the playoffs by year three and winning the Stanley Cup in year six a lot is going to have to go right.

They’ll have to draft incredibly well, starting with the three first round picks they selected in Chicago in late June. They’ll have to have found a few diamonds in the rough in the Expansion Draft, and they’ll probably have to make a few shrew moves in free agency and/or fleece a team or two in trades.

It’s a lot to ask, and it’s understandable for Golden Knights fans to be skeptical. Any person can look down the list of free agents, take a look at recent trade history, and even look at the Entry Draft outside of the top pick and say, there’s just not enough there to take a team from good to great, and certainly not anything on the market to take a team from great to elite. So it’s going to take something special to make the mantra a reality.

But there is one way that George McPhee could strike it rich without using the draft, unrestricted free agency, or fleecing someone in a trade, and it’s something that’s been widely unused in the NHL over the past decade.

One thing a few different NHL executives agree on: Offer sheets are coming. Cam Fowler, Martin Jones, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and (Carey) Price are gone from next year’s unrestricted class. “There simply are not enough impact players available in free agency,” one said. “If you need to improve your team — and fast — it’s going to be your best option.” –Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet.ca

Offer sheets means, restricted free agency, a market untapped since 2013, and one that hasn’t seen a player change teams since 2007. First, let’s explain how it works, and why teams have been so reluctant in the past.

Most fans are used to unrestricted free agency (UFA), where a player is free to sign wherever he wishes. Teams make offers, he picks the best one for him, and he becomes a member of the new team. The old team gets nothing in return.

Restricted free agency is much different. When a player is an RFA his rights are still technically owned by his current team. There are plenty of options of how the players next contract will be agreed upon, but that’s for another day. In restricted free agency, other teams are able to make an offer to a player, and essentially steal him away. Let me explain using a current example in RFA from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Connor Brown. (He’s good, and young, and the Golden Knights would love to have him, but don’t worry about that right now)

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Taking Nate Schmidt Caused Change In Plans On Grubauer For Washington

Doubt this reminder is necessary, but here it is anyway, George McPhee was the general manager of the Washington Capitals for 17 years from 1997-2014. He was fired at the end of the 2014 season because the seemingly championship quality roster just couldn’t get over the hump and win the Stanley Cup.

McPhee moved on to work with Garth Snow and the New York Islanders, Team Canada at the IIHF Worlds, and eventually, take the job in Vegas. The Capitals are well, still the Capitals.

So when the Expansion Draft rolled around, to many, Washington was one of the most interesting selections of the 30 McPhee and Vegas were to make. Most believed the pick would be Philipp Grubauer, the backup goalie who was drafted by McPhee in the 4th round in 2010. Grubauer was one of the league’s best #2 goalies in 2016-17 and appeared to be the perfect option to fill the same role behind Marc-Andre Fleury as a Golden Knight.

But no, instead, Vegas picked Nate Schmidt, the 25-year-old defenseman that went undrafted out of University of Minnesota and signed with Washington (McPhee) in 2013. Schmidt had a +22 rating last season and is +34 in the past two seasons, his first full seasons at the NHL level. Schmidt came over as a restricted free agent whom Vegas clearly had future plans.

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Better Find A Center, Otherwise The Struggles Will Start And Never End

It’s not hard to see George McPhee believes in strength down the middle. He made that clear by drafting five centers in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Unfortunately, that talent is undeveloped and unavailable. As for 2017-18, the unit will contain five centers, Vadim Shipachyov, Oscar Lindberg, William Karlsson, Cody Eakin and Jonathan Marchessault. The Golden Knights aren’t expecting much success this season, but for the future, one of those five needs to turn into a top line center.

Shipachov will likely start the year as the top center but currently, he has no NHL experience, and like most KHL imports, is a great unknown. The other possibility is Lindberg. He skates in with 134 games played and just over 850 face-off attempts. The 25-year-old Swede will have the chance to make a serious impact with Vegas.

Oscar loves New York and he loves winning, but he also loves ice time… He’s going to have a great opportunity to play major minutes and a major role in Vegas. Claude Lemieux, Lindberg’s agent

Lindberg’s career TOI average will certainly increase from 11:30 minutes per game. His effectiveness in all three zones will prove his value.

Karlsson’s impressive flow and off-the-puck play could help him climb the charts too.

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A 2018 5th Round Pick For…

There’s an old saying, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” There’s another saying, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” There’s even another one that goes, “you can only see the tip of the iceberg.” Then there’s a trade in which the Vegas Golden Knights acquired Marcus Kruger for “future considerations” on Sunday and a 2018 5th round pick for Marcus Kruger on Tuesday. All of that belongs in one paragraph, believe me.

Prior to the Expansion Draft the Chicago Blackhawks were one of the many teams that appeared to be in a bit of a pickle. They were hampered with seven NMCs and a salary cap situation that needed to be resolved. So, George McPhee and Stan Bowman got to work.

An agreement was made, Vegas would select Trevor van Riemsdyk at the Expansion Draft, trade for Marcus Kruger afterwards, and the Blackhawks would take “The Pledge” to not make a move get in the way of any of it. It took some time to complete the process, because of a $2M bonus in Kruger’s contract that was to be paid by Chicago, but on Sunday night the deals were done and Vegas and Chicago’s interaction with expansion was over.

George McPhee then flipped both players selected to the Carolina Hurricanes. In the end, here’s what happened…

Vegas Golden Knights receive 
2017 2nd Round Pick (Jake Leschyshyn)
2018 5th Round Pick

Carolina Hurricanes receive
Trevor van Riemsdyk
Marcus Kruger
2018 7th Round Pick (from Vegas)

Chicago Blackhawks receive
Expansion Draft Considerations
Future Considerations
(Cap relief)

There are so many ways to look at what went down here, and all fans/armchair GMs are free to look at it which ever way they please because you as you know, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

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Nikita Gusev Still A Year Away

On the night of the Expansion Draft, the Golden Knights agreed to select Jason Garrison from the Tampa Bay Lightning. In exchange, Vegas was to be sent a 2nd round pick in 2017, which the Golden Knights eventually traded for Keegan Kolesar, a 4th round pick in next year’s draft, and a 24-year-old forward from Russia, Nikita Gusev.

Gusev has been playing in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg since 2015, and has played on the same line as Vadim Shipachyov for a majority of the time. Gusev also played in the IIHF World Championships, again on the same line as Shipachyov, where he scored seven goals and had seven assists in 10 games in route to winning a bronze medal.

But since the trade that sent his rights to Vegas, we haven’t heard much about the Golden Knights’ future plans of the left winger.

Gusev was a seventh-round pick in 2012. He is a playmaking wing who has one year left on his KHL contract with SKA St. Petersburg in Russia. Gusev has no immediate plans to return to North America, his agent, Dan Milstein, said. Yzerman said he didn’t know if Gusev ever would return. –Joe Smith, Tampa Bay Times

He has one year left on his contract in the KHL, and his agent has made it clear he would like to play in the Olympics.

That’s at least a year away, we knew they when we traded for him it might be a year away. But he came for a little bit and we think he liked what he saw, but we’ll have to revisit that next spring. -McPhee

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Breaking Down McPhee’s Expansion Draft Interview With Sportsnet

Since Wednesday when the Golden Knights made their 30 selections from the Expansion Draft and subsequent transactions, GM George McPhee hasn’t been answering a ton of questions, especially with local media. Luckily, the guys from Prime Time Sports had McPhee on the phone for 20 minutes and asked a lot of the unasked questions.

Since there’s so much in the interview (and a few others), we transcribed the most important quotes and offered our analysis on what it means about the Expansion Draft, upcoming trades, and the future of the Golden Knights. Here it is.

(There were) only one or two teams we didn’t get a deal with that we thought they would want to have a deal to protect their roster. -McPhee

Analysis: Best guesses would be Ottawa, Nashville, Montreal, and/or Washington. Clearly seeing both Ottawa and Montreal going back after Marc Methot and Alexei Emelin proves they were unable to reach a deal during the Expansion Draft. Washington makes sense because most expected Philipp Grubauer to be selected and Vegas ended up taking Nate Schmidt. A deal may have been talked about and never reached… and/or McPhee wanted to stick it to Washington. Nashville lost James Neal, hard to believe they were okay to just let that happen.

The rules were better for us, but we were dealing with some things that hadn’t been dealt with in the past like free agents. It didn’t make a lot of sense for us to claim free agents when they were going to be free in two weeks. Unless it was a throw away pick. -McPhee

Analysis: Wait, what? So what was Deryk Engelland? He hinted at it a bit in a previous presser to a SinBin.vegas question saying there were some things to not like about Calgary’s list, but this really cements it. Calgary had nothing else at all to claim in the eyes of McPhee, so they went ahead and essentially threw the pick away by signing a player they certainly would have gotten on July 1st. (Engelland’s surprise to getting handed a contract during the Expansion Draft further confirms this.)

There were some teams where if you just looked at their situation there weren’t many ways out. If we didn’t do a deal with them, and they traded a player and lost a player, then they lose and we lose too. We thought it was better to get a deal done rather than claim the second best player or third best player.

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No Tradebacks! Wait, No, Tradebacks Are Fine

Must select one player from every team, must select at least 17 forwards, must reach at least 60% of the salary cap, must select at least 20 players under contract, cannot buy players out until the end of 2017-18 season, and no trade backs until January 1st, 2018.

Those were just a few of the regulations the Golden Knights had to follow during the Expansion Draft. They were widely reported by hockey media before the draft (here and here are two of the best sources) and then the NHL put out a rules list the day Vegas was awarded a team. Reported by many was the rule prohibiting the Golden Knights from trading a player back to their original team. However, when the NHL released their rules, it was nowhere to be found.

Now, it appears that rule was on the books, but it had an important caveat.

LeBrun tweeted this prior to the Marc Methot trade, and then later confirmed McPhee did indeed have discussions with the Senators on trading the blueliner back to Ottawa. Of course, it did not happen.

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Expansion Draft Created Supply Outweighing Demand For Defenseman

Since the moment the Expansion Draft rules were released George McPhee found himself on a thin balance beam. One one side there’s the allure of picking the best 30 players available and stockpiling NHL ready talent that can not only win on the ice but also bring in high-level assets via trade. On the other side, there were ransoms being thrown out to lay off certain players, take on bad contracts, or completely give a team a pass in the Expansion Draft.

McPhee knew this was a difficult dance the whole way. They ran mock drafts and they saw what type of team they could put on the ice in year one. They had conversations with opposing GMs to see exactly how rich those ransoms were to turn a blind eye towards certain teams. And every chance he had, McPhee talked about the importance of staying upright on that balance beam.

Well now the Expansion Draft is over, the Entry Draft has come and gone, and free agency begins in less than a week, and at the moment McPhee and the Golden Knights are trying to maintain their balance, but there’s a clear wobble in the direction of taking on too many NHL contracts, specifically defenseman.

On June 21st the Golden Knights selected 14 defensemen. They ranged in talent from clear Top-4 to borderline NHLer, but all 14 were on NHL contracts. Vegas had created a surplus and it was time to start cashing in via trade.

A day after the draft a pair of defensemen were sent away. Trevor van Riemsdyk brought in a 2nd round pick from the Hurricanes and David Schlemko netted a 5th from Montreal. On its face, fine returns to begin trimming off the surplus of blueliners. But like in any form of commerce, demand must meet supply. Initially, it appeared that demand was high and the Golden Knights held the supply to make the most out of their 15 picks. But then Friday came and went, Saturday, Sunday, and it wasn’t until late Monday that the next defenseman was shipped away.

Marc Methot, the undisputed best talent of all the defensemen selected in the draft was sent to Dallas. The return, a 2nd round pick in 2020 and a goalie prospect the Golden Knights chose not to select 12 times while on the clock in Chicago.

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