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.
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 Garrison, Brayden 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.