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George McPhee’s Has Stood Pat At Deadlines Before; How’d It Turn Out?

It’s trade deadline day, and in a few long hours, we’ll know the roster the Golden Knights will bring into the playoffs on their run for a Stanley Cup in year four of the franchise.

Deadline day is great because it’s one of the few days where hope truly springs eternal for all teams. Winning teams look for their clubs to add the final piece to the puzzle, middling teams hope for the blockbuster that changes the season, and the bottomfeeders wave the white flag and focus on a brighter future.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In Vegas, the deadline has been a day for celebration all three seasons. From Tomas Tatar to Mark Stone to Robin Lehner and Alec Martinez, the Golden Knights have swung for the fences each and every year.

Unfortunately, to this point, none of these trades have been that one missing element to help the Golden Knights lift the Cup, but that certainly doesn’t mean they haven’t had an impact on the team.

This year feels different though. This year the Golden Knights sit in a clear playoff position and have a reasonable argument to stake their claim amongst the league’s elites. They’ve raced out to an impressive 27-11-2 record, hardly ever lose at home, and they have a roster that on paper stacks up with anyone in the league. But, they are also so close to the salary cap that they can’t even afford to replace an injured player without placing him on LTIR. They’ve played multiple games shorthanded and understand that any trade must include money and players going out.

However, history tells us George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon aren’t exactly big fans of sitting on their hands at the deadline. In three seasons with Vegas, they’ve made eight trades either on or within a week of the deadline. They’ve been involved in a headline move four times and have sent away just two players off their every-day starting lineup.

That’s such a short history though, so we wanted to dig a little deeper. Current GM, McCrimmon, has only held this role in Vegas, so we have to focus on the current President of Hockey Operations, McPhee.

He has been in the head seat for 19 previous deadlines. He has made at least one trade in 16 of them. He’s made multiple trades in 12, and 10 of the last 13. However, it’s the other side of the coin we’re more interested in today, the years he stood pat.

He did that with the Washington Capitals three times in 16 seasons at the helm. Those seasons were 2011-12, 2008-09, and 1999-00. We’ll start with the most recent, in which McPhee was quoted after the deadline saying this…

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Fleury To Former GM: “Get Me To Vegas”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

This past offseason most Golden Knights fans thought the face of the franchise would be traded. Based on reports, it almost happened. However, that face, Marc-Andre Fleury, made it known publicly that he desired to stay in Las Vegas and hadn’t asked to be moved. Luckily for the Golden Knights front office, a deal never materialized.

The front office that gifted the Golden Knights with the future Hall of Famer knew long before, that Fleury wanted to resume his career in Las Vegas.

I knew he had lots, lots left in him. In Fleury’s case, when he knew that he was the odd man out he came and met with me and said ‘if there’s any way you can get me to Las Vegas, that’s where I’d like to go.’ So, I made sure I made that happen. I felt like I owed that to him. –Jim Rutherford, former Penguins GM w/ Cam & Strick podcast

Long before his name was called by The Creator in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, Fleury was focused on becoming the starting goaltender for the Golden Knights.

After being drafted by Vegas, the 33-year-old, at the time, went on to have one of the best seasons of his career. After losing his starting position in Pittsburgh, the “I’ll show them” motivation factor was high for Fleury. Sort of like what’s happening this season.

I’m emotionally connected to guys that I win a championship with. The Marc-Andre Fleury trade was the hardest one for me, because I love the guy. He’s a special, very special person. –Rutherford, former Penguins GM

Last night’s 1-0 defeat to Minnesota was only Fleury’s fourth of the season. In those four losses, the goaltender allowed eight goals combined. He’s second in the league with a 2.04 GAA in losses, and number one overall with a 1.57 GAA. Win or lose, the numbers show that Fleury keeps his team in the game more than any other goalie in the NHL.

Of course, they’ll be no way to prove it but the handwriting was on the wall for the goaltender and the new franchise. Pittsburgh knew they had to move on, Fleury was aware and the Golden Knights were opportunistic. It was the perfect second marriage, and both parties were excited to form a union of misfits.

I make a lot of trades, I’m not going to get them all right. When I don’t get one right I’m not afraid to say it. I move on. –Rutherford, former Penguins GM

It was set up to be a storybook ending for Fleury in Vegas, but questionable decisions seemed to derail that path, until now. He told Rutherford in 2017, and Golden Knights fans in 2020, the goaltender wanted to be in Vegas and didn’t want to leave Vegas. His performance this season is showing that.

Oh, and make no doubts about it, Fleury has a little motivation to prove them wrong. He didn’t need to but he does nightly.

McPhee On Goalies: “I Hope We’ll Get Back To Alternating Again”

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

At some point, Robin Lehner will return to the Golden Knights and they’ll once again have two legitimate starting goaltending options every single night. Prior to losing Lehner, the Golden Knights had alternated goalies every game and raced out to a spectacular 8-1-1 record, eclipsing the start of the historic expansion team.

I’m sure at the start of the season we’ll look at a 50-50 split to get their games established. Then we’ll go from there and all bets are off. -Pete DeBoer on 1/9/21

Since February 11th, when Marc-Andre Fleury got the surprise start, he’s started all six games for the Golden Knights. During that time he’s posted an impressive .956 save percentage, allowing just eight goals on 181 shots, and recording two shutouts of the Colorado Avalanche.

So, when Lehner returns, what is the plan?

Appearing on the Bob McCown Podcast, Geroge McPhee stated his preference.

In talking about the Lake Tahoe game, McPhee mentioned that both teams were using their #1 goalies. The co-host, John Shannon, later recalled that comment asking if Fleury was indeed the team’s #1 goalie. McPhee nodded in agreement and then added this.

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The Creator Opens Up On His Involvement In Trades, Coaching Changes, And More On A St. Louis Based Podcast

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are fortunate when it comes to ownership. Unlike many NHL cities (see Arizona), the owner in Vegas wants to win and he’ll spare no expense in a pursuit to make it happen.

He said he wanted to make the playoffs by year three and win the Stanley Cup by year six and he’s committed to making that second part happen, seemingly by any means necessary.

He’s constantly around. Watching over practices, sitting in his suite at the games, or hanging out in his office on his fancy computer scouting players on other teams.

The first couple of years I really just listened because I didn’t know the business. Now I’ve learned a little bit more so I’m a little more involved. –The Creator on Cam & Strick Podcast

Appearing on a podcast out of St. Louis, hosted by former NHLer Cam Janssen and local media guy Andy Strickland, The Creator went fairly in-depth not only on his involvement in the Golden Knights but also in his other businesses.

My office is next to Kelly, it’s one down from George. I go to almost all of the amateur scout meetings and all of the pro scout meetings. I’m there for the four or five days before the trade deadline. –The Creator on Cam & Strick Podcast

He continued explaining how his input really ramps up when it comes to trades.

They come to me with their proposals on who to trade, what to do, what we’re going to get, what we’re not going to get. But I try and let the guys in charge, they’ve been delegated the authority and the responsibility to make the decisions. It’s only on maybe trades that I start having some input and I try to be careful about it. If I particularly don’t like one of their ideas I say, ‘I don’t think I can do that, I just don’t know that works for me.’ That’s how I get involved on the hockey side. –The Creator on Cam & Strick Podcast

The Nate Schmidt trade was one he took particularly hard.

I was really worried about (how it would affect the locker room). That was a very difficult decision. Kelly and George convinced me that Petro was going to be a difference-maker for us on our team. Schmidty ended up being the odd-man-out, which really bothered me. –The Creator on Cam & Strick Podcast

Another place he said he’s involved is with the decision on coaching. When asked about the firing of Gerard Gallant, he let out a few interesting nuggets.

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Golden Knights Post-Expansion Draft Trade Grades

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights have never failed to keep things interesting when it comes to the trade market. From the offseason to the deadline, Vegas is always looking to get in on the action. Since the Expansion Draft (where they made 15 trades), George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon have made 17 NHL level trades.

I went back and put three grades on every single one of them. The first grade is the short-term grade which is intended to judge just the season in which that deal was made. Mid-term grade looks two to three years into the future, and long-term grade is four years and beyond. Here are the grades.

October 6th, 2017
Calvin Pickard for Tobias Lindberg and 6th round pick (Peter Diliberatore)

Short-term grade: F
Mid-term grade: D
Long-term grade: B
Salary Cap Driven: NO

Literally a week after the deal went down, Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion and the Golden Knights had to turn to a goalie they had just declared “not ready to play in the NHL” in Malcolm Subban. Then he and Oscar Dansk got hurt and suddenly the net was Max Lagace’s with 19-year-old Dylan Ferguson as the backup. This is on a team that would eventually win the division and reach the Cup Final. The goalie injuries could have derailed the season and Vegas had traded a useable NHLer for peanuts just weeks earlier. Luckily it didn’t, and the pick they got out of it might actually turn into a useable player in Diliberatore, but boy was this a bad trade in the moment.

February 23rd, 2018
Tobias Lindberg and $2 million retained salary (Derick Brassard) for Ryan Reaves and 4th round pick (Slava Demin)

Short-term grade: B
Mid-term grade: C
Long-term grade: D
Salary Cap Driven: NO

It’s well-documented my feelings for the player the Golden Knights acquired in this trade, which is why the grades are so low. If the deal is never made, do they ever sign him to the ludicrous $2.75 million deal? He did score a game-winning goal in the Western Conference Final and then another goal in the Cup Final which makes that short-term grade look good.

February 26th, 2018
Brendan Leipsic for Philip Holm

Short-term grade: F
Mid-term grade: C
Long-term grade: C
Salary Cap Driven: NO

Our sources say this trade was a precursor to an Erik Karlsson deadline trade that fell through. Once it didn’t happen though, Vegas had given away a useable player for an unusable one on a team headed to the playoffs. The only saving grace on this trade is that Leipsic ended up having some off-ice stuff that occurred on Washington’s watch instead of Vegas’.

February 26th, 2018
1st round pick (Joseph Veleno), 2nd round pick (Robert Mastrosimone), 2021 3rd round pick for Tomas Tatar

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2020-21 Pressure Index: Defensemen, Goalies, Coach, Front Office

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Yesterday we tackled the Pressure Index for the forwards, now we move on to the rest of the roster and the front office.

Alex Pietrangelo

The Golden Knights franchise is not new to working in new players, and more recently, new stars. Some have thrived immediately, others have taken some time. With Pietrangelo, he’s going to have to have it figured out pretty quickly or this team is going to struggle along with him. Dealing with the new environment, first time with a new team, and the pressure to perform having signed the mega-deal all add up to the new guy feeling some heat, but he’ll have plenty of built-in excuses plus $61 million to relieve a lot of it. Pressure Index: 5

Brayden McNabb

The likely partner for Vegas’ newest superstar has been one of the steadiest players in Golden Knights history. It’s hard to believe anyone would be a bad match for Pietrangelo but any failures Alex has early will be blamed at least in part on his partner. Throw in the fact that as a pair they’ll be playing against the opposition’s best players every night and likely starting a majority of their shifts in the D-zone and it’s a tall task for anyone. Simply put, McNabb has to have a great season or his place as VGK’s most reliable defensemen will be lost quickly. Pressure Index: 6

Shea Theodore

No one has higher expectations for the 2020-21 season than Shea. After a masterful postseason most believe Theodore’s name should be in the mix for the Norris trophy this year. The statistical expectations most have for Theodore are probably unrealistic though. He was able to post 19 points in 20 games in the playoffs which leads many to believe he should be pushing 80 points in the regular season. His career-high is just 46 in 71 games. Maybe he can reach the insane numbers he’ll be projected for, but more than likely he’ll be looking at about a 50 point season with 10-15 goals. He needs to drive offense consistently for this team to succeed. There’s no reason to believe he won’t, but the weight of expectations will be heavy. Pressure Index: 8

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Golden Knights Building Dangerous Reputation Concerning Loyalty

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights are on the verge of landing the biggest fish in NHL free agency, Alex Pietrangelo. The former Stanley Cup-winning captain of the St. Louis Blues is expected to make his decision at any moment and it would come as a shock to the entire hockey world if he ends up anywhere but Las Vegas.

Like they did with Robin Lehner, Mark Stone, and Tomas Tatar at the last three deadlines, or Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny in prior offseasons, the Golden Knights will have made a splash in the name of bringing Vegas one step closer to winning the Cup.

However, as Isaac Newton taught us, with every action comes an equal and opposite reaction.

I worry about the Vegas reputation now. They are trying to win, which is admirable, but if they are getting a reputation for being a place that talks you into coming, what do you think the free agents today that are watching these guys get shipped out are saying to themselves? ‘That can be me in two years if I go there.’ There’s a fine line between trying to win and having some organizational loyalty. –Brian Burke, former Stanley Cup winning NHL GM

That reputation might end up getting even stronger after the fallout from the Pietrangelo deal too.

As Burke said, it’s all done in the name of winning, which is great, but when dealing with highly-paid professional athletes with families, that loyalty piece has to be kept in mind.

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What The Golden Knights Look For In A Draft Pick – 2020 Edition

The Golden Knights are set to participate in their fourth NHL Entry Draft. This year Vegas enters with just five picks including a 1st and two 3rds which make it their lightest draft ever. In 2017 Vegas selected 12 players then followed it up by picking eight in each of the previous two years.

Thus, the Golden Knights have made 28 draft picks to help us get a feel for exactly the type of players they prefer. The Vegas front office remains untouched but we might see a bit of variance this year with a new head coach behind the bench. First, we’ll dig into the style of player the Golden Knights prefer. (Here’s last year’s edition of this same article.)

6 – Skilled Forward (Suzuki, Elvenes, Dugan, Kruse, Dorofeyev, Donovan)
5 – All-Around Center (Glass, Morozov, Cotter, Krebs, Primeau)
5 – Two-Way Defenseman (Hague, Corcoran, Bouchard, Korczak, Ahac)
4 – Offensive Defenseman (Brannstrom, Campoli, Demin, Diliberatore)
4 – Goalie (Zhukov, Patera, Kooy, Saville)
3 – Defensive Forward (Leschyshyn, Rondbjerg, Jones)
1 – All-Around Winger (Kallionkieli)

Last year Vegas opted for two skilled forwards, two all-around centers, and a pair of two-way defensemen. They shied away from both offensive defensemen and defensive forwards for the first time. Vegas has selected a goalie in each draft.

Next we move on to the “word cloud” which helps illustrate the traits the Golden Knights looks for in draft picks. These are descriptions used from our two draft favorite Draft guides (NHL Black Book and Draft Recrutes). Only positive terms were used for this portion.

The most commonly used terms are skill (14), two-way (11), hockey sense (11), strong (10), skating (9), quickness (9), and long-stride (8). The Golden Knights also seem partial towards players who are good in transition (7), have good sticks (8), play in all situations (6), are physical (5), and have a high work rate (5).

When it comes to negative traits, the most common one we see is inconsistent which showed up on five different players. The term we rarely find, literally has been mentioned as a negative for just two VGK draft picks, is skating.

Next, we move to the league in which players come from. The OHL remains atop the leaderboard with the USHL and WHL right behind it. In the 2019 Draft, each of Vegas’ first two selections (Krebs and Korczak) were from the WHL.

6 – OHL
5 – USHL
4 – WHL
3 – Sweden
3 – US High School
2 – BCHL
2 – Russia
1 – NCAA
1 – QMJHL
1 – OJHL

Through three drafts, the Golden Knights have still never selected a Brandon Wheat King, the team Kelly McCrimmon previously owned, managed, and coached. The connection remained strong though as Marcus Kallionkieli joined the Wheaties after being selected by Vegas in the 2019 Draft.

As for size, the Golden Knights have continued to run the gamut hitting all shapes and sizes. Though they do seem to love kids that are exactly 6’2″ as 10 of their 28 draft picks hit that exact height.

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The Inevitable Goalie Controversy Has Arrived For The Vegas Golden Knights

(Photo tweeted by Allan Walsh, Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent)

Goalie controversy, this is the Vegas Golden Knights. Golden Knights, goalie controversy. It’s been six months in the making, but the time has now come for you two to get acquainted with each other.

The inevitable was put into place on February 24th when the Golden Knights traded then back-up goalie Malcolm Subban for starter-to-be Robin Lehner. Despite the words of positivity coming from the front office and head coach about Fleury’s place atop the Golden Knights goalie depth chart, his role changed on that day, and it’s devolved ever since.

Today, one day before the Golden Knights begin their second round series with the Vancouver Canucks, what went from a potential hazard lurking in the distance stormed into the forefront and is now here to stay.

That’s a tweet from Allan Walsh, Marc-Andre Fleury’s long-time agent. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this one really only needs to be worth four.

Fleury is not happy.

This isn’t a new move from the Walsh playbook though. He’s always been very active on Twitter and has even used the platform to stand up for another one of his clients in a nearly identical situation.

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McPhee: 30 Players Expected To Skate At City National Arena This Week

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

City National Arena was re-opened a few weeks ago with the beginning of Phase 2 of the NHL’s return to play plans. It called for only six players to be on the ice at a time and the facilities to be under strict safety protocols.

Despite the rough news over the weekend regarding positive cases, it was reported this week that the number of players allowed in the building is being increased to 12 as the league continues on the path towards the opening of training camps on July 10th.

The Golden Knights confirmed early on that six players, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Nick Holden, and Deryk Engelland, participated in a skate the very first day of Phase 2. Since, they’ve sent out a couple more videos showing the exact same group of six players.

However, with most players in town, and a few others confirming they’ve skated, it’s been clear that the total number of players heading to skate each day was larger than six. Speaking on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central yesterday, George McPhee confirmed that nearly the entire roster is back.

We had I think 24 players skate the first week, 28 the second week, and we’ll probably have 30 this week. –McPhee on Hockey Central

To make matters even better, he also gave an update on the overall health of the team, which was seemingly a bit more dire than it appeared over the course of this season.

Everyone (is healthy). I don’t know what players that you were aware of that were injured. We weren’t public with all of them but they are all healthy. We had a couple of those high ankle sprains that take forever to heal and sometimes you need the summer for them to heal and we’re fortunate that we’ve had this kind of time for them to heal. –McPhee on Hockey Central

The expectation is that the league will allow teams to carry 28 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies when play resumes at the hub cities. Meaning for Vegas, just about everyone who will play is back to training and for the most part, has been for the last two weeks.

Kelly McCrimmon confirmed last Monday that the organization has not experienced any positive tests for Coronavirus.

All in all, it’s looking good for the Golden Knights as they prepare to return to the ice for real and accomplish what they couldn’t in years one and two. It might look even better by the end of the week too as SinBin.vegas sources indicate the players have been told the current plan is for the Golden Knights to stay in Vegas and play at T-Mobile Arena.


The Golden Knights have sent out three videos showing the six players mentioned above one the ice. Here’s the latest of those videos.

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