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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 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.

Analysis: This has a bit to do with “The Pledge” and why Anaheim, Minnesota, the New York Islanders, Columbus, and Winnipeg did not make deals prior to the Expansion Draft. These teams were all clearly cornered, and McPhee was able to prove to them that making a deal with Vegas would be better than making a pre-freeze trade and then losing yet another player in the Expansion Draft. Those five teams, with the addition of Edmonton, New York Rangers, and Boston, whom Vegas took a young player from, will be the keys to judging the success McPhee had on June 21st. Granted, we’ll probably not be able to judge it until 2020 at the earliest.

I think when the season starts we’ll be in the low 60s (million). -McPhee

Analysis: Vegas currently sits at around $66M against the cap. There are still a few contract details that need to hit the books (Oscar Lindberg, Teemu Pulkkinen, Griffin Reinhart, and Schmidt) which will likely have that number pushing $70M. Expect at least another $5-8M to come off via trade in the next seven days. Moving Emelin, Luca Sbisa, and Clayton Stoner would do just that.

We’ve tried to accumulate a lot of picks to hit on one of those (superstars) and sometimes you get that guy in the second round, a Shea Weber or Braden Holtby who we got in the fourth round. We’ll do our best to do it through the draft, if there’s another way to do it, we’ll have to try that as well. -McPhee

Analysis: McPhee has always believed that finding superstars is done via the Entry Draft. He added two 1st round picks to give him three shots in the 2017 Draft. He was also able to acquire six more 2nd round picks in his first four drafts (two in 2017, two in 2019, and two in 2020) to find his “Shea Weber.” Clearly, picks outweighed players in most cases, except for the young guys like Theodore, Tuch, Reinhart, and Colin Miller.

That was not easy (trading Methot). He’d be the perfect guy to play with some of the young defensemen that we have, Theodore, Miller, Schmidt, Reinhart, we’ve got a bunch of young ones, but we ended up having too many players. Interestingly enough when we went through the draft we were looking for those young goalies that maybe we could claim and still get through waivers, and have developed in the AHL, but they were exempt. So that was something that we thought we would be able to get five goalies, two at the NHL level and three working their way up through the minors. But that wasn’t there to do. So we loaded up on defenseman and we had to move some of them, and what was most important in my mind was to play able to play these young guys, Reinhart, Miller, and Schmidt and see what they could do. Becuase Reinhart hasn’t probven himself yet, Schmidt looks like he’s on the cuff, Miller needs more ice time, Theodore needs to play, and so now is the time to do find out if they can do it. We do have veterans who can play with them whether it’s Garrison, Engelland, or McNabb. So, that was not an easy transaction. We don’t really have cap issues, but we do have too many players and as you know if you don’t move them now good luck moving them after July 4th or 5th because everything locks up, there’s no liquidity, and people can’t take anyone. -McPhee

Analysis: Sorry, that’s a long one, but it’s so incredibly telling that we needed it all. Starting with the mentions of Schmidt, Theodore, Reinhart, and most surprisingly, Miller. There’s your future of the Golden Knights defense, at least at this moment before we consider Erik Brannstrom and/or Nic Hague in the mix.

Next up was the mention of Jason GarrisonBrayden McNabb, and Engelland. Looks like you can pencil those three into the starting roster. Which leaves us with a small list of unmentioned players that are likely the next to go. Emelin, Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, and Jon Merrill are the odd men out. McPhee even put a date on when they need to go by as well, July 5th.

The other part of this was the portion about not selecting goalies and selecting more defensemen. The plan wasn’t to go down the defensemen route originally. No real indication of when the revelation occurred, but the later it was the more it makes sense that they were “stuck” with a surplus of blueliners.

We have some deals that we are still talking about. We traded three defenseman between the end of the Expansion Draft and today, and we’ve got a couple more moves to make and then we are in a good place. Lots of people were calling and everybody wants the younger cheaper player and we are not prepared to do that at this point. -McPhee

Analysis: Back to the defensemen situation, there are “too many players,” and McPhee isn’t afraid to admit that. He knows a few must go or they will be lost for nothing when the waiver period rolls around. Yet another mention of not trading younger, cheaper players, pretty much locks Miller into the future of the Golden Knights. You can almost guarantee Emelin and Sbisa are the next to go too.

We’ll explore the free agent market (hand gesture for “a little”), but right now, we like our team. -McPhee (from press conference in Chicago)

Analysis: Don’t expect to see much from the Golden Knights on July 1st or beyond when it comes to free agency. They have few “needs” at the moment. The main one is to fill the gap between NHL ready players, and recent draft picks. The acquisitions of Jake Bischoff, Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore, Keegan Kolsesar, and William Carrier are a start, but they need to find a bunch more players in that age group between 20-24. Expect to see a number of two-way contracts to help fill the void a bit.

The other need is between the pipes. The Golden Knights have Marc-Andre Fleury and Calvin Pickard to tend the goal at the NHL level, and then three goalies drafted in the 2017 Draft that likely won’t be ready to play even in the AHL for a few years. If there’s one guarantee out of this whole article, it’s that Vegas will sign a free agent goaltender. If they don’t re-sign J.F. Berube (which it’s probable they don’t), expect to see at least one 22-25-year-old goalie sign with Vegas.

I didn’t have an impact, I give my opinion on the players, and then they pick the players. The two players we got from Florida are very good hockey players. Obviously they are both Top 6 forwards. Marchessault had a great year last year 30 goal scorer he’s a great shooter and a good power play guy and he’s going to be a big part of our hockey team. Reilly Smith was a player that when I was at Florida I used him in all situations. Power play, penalty kill, when we were down a goal in the last minute, when we were up a goal the last minute, so he’s a good hockey player, a good 200-foot player, and I really like the player. Emelin, I had him for two years as an assistant coach, he’s a hard guy, a competitive guy, and he plays the game the right way. He’s a big strong defender. -Gerard Gallant (after Development Camp Day Two)

Analysis: There was a stark contrast between the way he was speaking about Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith compared to Alexei Emelin. With the two former Panthers, he gave specific examples of what he likes about them and even went as far as calling them “obviously Top 6 forwards.” On Emelin, he basically just resorted to the cliche machine. Gallant once again prefaced his comments on personnel by undermining his importance in the process, but you can likely read into this as Marchessault and Smith are staying, Emelin is going.


That’s it for what we’ve been able to gather at this point. We are expecting to get a chance to talk to McPhee on Friday and/or Saturday where we are looking to learn more about the selections from Detroit, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and the New York Rangers. If you have things you are still confused/interested about from the Expansion Draft, please post them in the comments.


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  1. Cody

    Good analysis SinBin! Agree with everything! Was sketching out lines and it will be interesting to see which couple of forwards and d don’t make the team, bc there just isn’t room. Kinda seems like a guy like Pulkinnen will be an odd man out (again) simply because other guys will get top line ice time and Pulk will be plumbing on 3rd or 4th tops. :/

  2. PhiSig 150

    Great breakdown. I would like to hear him elaborate on a few things:

    1) It doesn’t appear VGK drafted for any other teams. How many teams approached them to do so and was it a case VGK would rather take the player for themselves?

    2) The early negotiation window was another thing VGK didn’t use in deals with other teams. Did any team approach them to help sign a player?

    3) Does he really see no value in players like Kulak or Shinkaruk or did he not want to violate spirit of the expansion rules by hammering out a deal with Engelland early then waiting to sign him in July?

    4) Did he stay away from Mrazek mainly because he doesn’t fit the culture of the team? Or was it his salary? Or does he just rate Pickard higher?

    5) Why Lindberg over Raanta and why no draft compensation from NY to do so?

    6) Was he anticipating getting more 1sts than he ended up with? Were teams holding onto more tightly to draft picks than he expected?

    7) Why did we have to include a 3rd in the Minnesota deal?

    8) Why Emelin over Hudon?

    9) What role does Bellmare have on this team? He’s 32 so doesn’t look like he fits our long term plans and I don’t see the fit in the short term either?

    10) It’s been said over and over that marketing won’t have a role in roster construction but isn’t drafting a player like MAF primarily for getting a “face” for the franchise? I don’t see how he fits into the 3 and 6, pipe dream, I mean plan.

    • KyleB.

      I think I can help you with the NYR pick. There’s only a certain number of goalies you can have dressed in a game (2), but you can have 3 goalies on your 23-man NHL roster (if you so desire). When you do that, you stress the team’s ability to hold 3 scratched ‘subs’. Usually teams will have 2 forwards and 1 defenseman as the ‘subs.’

      Now, if you have other goalies you’d like to have in your organization, you can place them in the ‘minors,’ in the NHL’s case, that would be the AHL; however, you can’t just send a player down there without recourse. Based on a criteria (and it’s some-what complicated), a player like Raanta and Pickard would have to pass through Waivers before surviving a call down to the AHL. In this case, (in reverse order from last place to first) any NHL team can claim the player for free. Both Raanta and Pickard would not survive a call to the AHL without a Waiver Claim from the other 30 teams.

      I’m going to assume and read between the lines that George preferred Pickard over the other COL unprotected players…at a value greater than selecting Raanta over the unprotected NYR players.

      There’d be no sense in drafting 3 goalies that weren’t Waiver Exempt because you would eventually just lose one of those players. George references that when he explains the goaltender breakdown that he was looking for above (2 goalies in the NHL – one being your Starter/3 goalies vying for AHL spots and developing). The latter goaltenders were scarce based on the NHL rules for protecting players.

      • You are right if the plan were to be to keep them all. But when you see Raanta traded a few days after, you see that there is value in that player and instead, the Golden Knights passed to take a guy like Lindberg. I get the numbers game in net, but there’s an even larger log jam with the defensemen. It was inevitable, so the idea was to get value. Raanta clearly had value, Lindberg is yet to be seen.

        • KyleB.

          I can’t argue with that at all. NYR got an excellent return on him. Typically a guy like Raanta can get a 1st or 2nd rounder. I would’ve preferred to see George acquire that and fill in the roster with some other version of Lindberg.

          • James

            We might regret passing on Raanta – I think he might be the next Cam Talbot – With all due respect, Talbot is better than Marc-André Fleury …

            I also prefer Philipp Grubauer to Fleury, but I really like Nate Schmidt.

    • James

      @PhiSig 150
      9) What role does Bellmare have on this team? He’s 32 so doesn’t look like he fits our long term plans and I don’t see the fit in the short term either?

      Jason Pothier will love this guy. He’s a great leader, but his underlying numbers leave a lot to be desired. In a nutshell, statistically speaking the Flyers were a better team when he wasn’t on the ice

      • Phisig150

        Sounds promising. So we’ll be great as long as his ass is parked on the bench?

        • James

          He sounds like a really great locker room guy.

          I guess it depends whether you believe in analytics – There is some discrepancy between old school and new school perspectives. The new school isn’t really high on intangibles because they can’t really measure it.

  3. KyleB.

    Hey guys! I just wanted to say that I really love the coverage you have on the team. Your podcasts are hilarious (starting off with the giant, “Hellooo…” (you get a cheap laugh every. single. time.)), and I love that you guys are kind of learning the situation and the game just as the rest of the Valley.

    I’ve been following the Kings since I was a child, and the NHL can be a confusing league sometimes (just wait until Vegas is a cap-crunched team…). But you guys use humor and good knowledge to fill in the blanks for many fans.

    I’m a die-hard Kings fan, but my 1B team will be Vegas. I live in LA, so I have to pay for the Center Ice Package if I want to watch the Vegas games (which I will end up doing), but I’ll be following you guys throughout the season too! Keep up the great work! I recommend you to anyone who will take a recommendation.

    • Thanks man. We really appreciate the kind words and it’s so cool to hear that people are enjoying our coverage. We are having so much fun going to all the events, talking to the players, coaches, etc and just following this team. Been a wild ride to this point and it’s only going to get crazier.

    • Phisig150

      You seem ok for a Kings fan

  4. PhiSig 150

    One more. I read an article that said McPhee had big input on the jersey design? You guys need to ask how involved and how much input he really had.

    • A Fan

      I’d bet little to none on the jersey. If Mr. Foley had got his wish with the Black Knights, the jersey would look exactly the same.

      *off topic* I want to go on record as suggesting that we don’t throw dead fish or whatever else dead on the ice. We’re Las Vegas. (sorry, Vegas lol) We need to throw out a large pair of dice, fuzzy or plastic or whatever. Let’s be more creative then the others, we’re Las Vegas afterall!!

      • I’m sticking with my idea of blowup dolls.

        • A Fan

          C’mon Ken, you can get more original than that. Although there are a lot of the live versions of the doll strolling on the Strip I’m sure. *wink wink*

        • Phisig150

          Keep it classy Ken. Mr. West Point is not going to like blow up dolls. I say fish wrapped in newspaper as a nod to our mafia roots also easy to clean off the ice.

      • Phisig150

        I read this whole article where it said he was very very involved. Strange to me that’s why I wanted to hear him speak more about it

        • A Fan

          Sure George was very, very involved.

          “Hey George, what do you think of these black, gray & gold colors?”

          “Great Mr. Foley, love em.”

          “Hey George, what do you think of the Knights helment?”

          “Fantastic Mr. Foley, wish I had thought of that.”

          “That settles it then. Great job George, thanks for all of the input!”

          “Anytime Mr. Foley.”

        • James

          I have heard him say that it was his idea to add red to the socks …

        • Phisig150

          Not sure that link works but it was a Greg Wyshynski article on Yahoo about Addidas design

          • James

            Thanks for sharing.

            ‘The idea of a dark gray jersey appealed to all involved, as the NHL and Adidas pushed the notion that it would immediately make the team distinct.’

            I’m just not sold on the dark gray. Doesn’t exactly scream Las Vegas, looks kind of dull

  5. Michael

    I hope we have an interesting goal horn too. I saw a ‘Behind The Ice’ where they were having a conference and talking about being original, and then for the goal horn they were just listening to all of the others around the league that basically sound the same except for different pitches. For the Aces, an air raid siren would have been awesome, but seeing as we are the Knights, how about a sounding trumpet or bugle playing a battle tune?

    • A Fan

      I know I just said we have to do something different as far as what’s thrown out on the ice. We have to have some hockey tradition here though. I’m for keeping the train (?) goal horn. Some do sound better than others, I know the sound when I hear it, similar to Boston or Minnesota.

  6. James

    @Ken Boehlke
    ‘Starting with the mentions of Schmidt, Theodore, Reinhart, and most surprisingly, Miller.

    Next up was the mention of Jason Garrison, Brayden McNabb, and Engelland. Looks like you can pencil those three into the starting roster.’

    It is worth noting that Miller and Engelland shoot right-handed. It’s become no secret that Babcock has tried to construct his defensive pairings with both a left-handed shot and a right-handed shot on each contingent. I read that Gerard Gallant is of similar mind. I would like to hear McPhee and Gallant’s view on the subject….

    I’m also interested in the X’s & O’s of hockey. I haven’t heard Gallant talk X’s & O’s since being introduced – I would like to hear Gallant explain why he has a preference for the 1-2-2 Forecheck, and the reason behind using the Overload and Zone in the defensive zone. I read that Gallant has a preference for the Umbrella on the power play – Why not the 1-3-1?

  7. Willy702

    I think Pickard has value in a mid season trade if someone gets hurt. Rantaa would have had even more.

    It’s one of a few questionable calls made, but that’s what makes the release of the lists fun. Imagine how boring if GMs didn’t disclose and all we got was the announcement at the show. We still would have heard the picks pre-show because they were calling them earlier in the day, but it would have given a lot of cover to GMGM. Interesting I don’t think there were too many players who should have hurt feelings over being exposed either.

    As for questions the last big one we haven’t mentioned in a while is what the heck on the Wings. I get Mrazek being passed on, he’s about to get paid and only been so so. But Nosek still seems quite bizarre. I mean is he even getting signed? Wouldn’t Oulette fit in better? That’s really got me baffled

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