The NHL officially grew by one Tuesday as the Emerald City joined the league as its 32nd team, effective for the 2021-22 season. The price tag? A hefty $650 million, 30 percent more than the $500 million Bill Foley paid to bring the Golden Knights into the NHL in 2016.
The Metropolitans or Totems or whatever they’re going to be called (I’m rooting for Totems, the idea of a Let’s Go Mets!” chant in a hockey arena is not what I want to hear) have a tough act to follow and they know it.
The fan base in Washington State has responded in similar fashion to Las Vegas with more than 32,000 deposits for a 17,000-seat building at the once-again refurbished KeyArena. And they’re going to demand the same kind of success the Golden Knights enjoyed in their inaugural season.
Could lightning strike twice? Sure. If Seattle’s Dave Tippett hires the right general manager and the right coach, if the team drafts well in the Expansion Draft and can pull off a few shrewd moves and have a decent amateur draft, yeah, they could have a memorable Year One.
But that’s a lot of if’s.
Frankly, I’m not so sure they can pull it off for a number of reasons.
Let’s start with the rules themselves.
If you recall, the Knights were able to select one player from each of the 30 existing NHL teams. They were also allowed to make side deals where if you didn’t take a certain player from a team, that team would trade you another player and/or a draft pick.
George McPhee skillfully exploited the rules and took a couple of teams to the cleaners, most notably Minnesota and Florida. He got Alex Tuch and Erik Haula from the Wild by agreeing not to take Matt Dumba. He got Reilly Smith from the Panthers along with Jonathan Marchessault.
Ironically, both opposing GMs, Chuck Fletcher in Minnesota and Tom Rowe in Florida, ultimately lost their jobs. (Fletcher resurfaced Monday in Philadelphia as the Flyers’ new GM.)
I’m guessing Fletcher learned his lesson in Minnesota and will be very wary about dealing with Seattle when it comes time for the Flyers to expose their unprotected list. Dale Tallon’s back in charge in Florida and assuming he’s still there two years from now, he’s not going to repeat the mistakes his predecessor made.
And that goes for the other GMs too. You’re not likely to see a lot of side deals made with Seattle. Better to just lose one player and not perpetuate a gaffe.
The exception? GMGM.
The rules stipulate the Golden Knights are exempt from the Expansion Draft. In other words, they don’t have to risk losing a player to Seattle. They also won’t share in the approximately $17 million in revenue that the franchise fee will be divvied up around the NHL. But the franchise is doing extremely well on the business side. They’re in great shape with the salary cap and I can’t see McPhee having cap issues the way he has built the Knights and how smart he is.
I really don’t want to expose anyone to the Expansion Draft. It’s kinda worth not getting the money. We’re doing well financially. I’m not worried about the money. -Bill Foley
With Vegas exempt from the Expansion Draft, McPhee could try to work a deal with Seattle for one of its amateur draft picks. He will be negotiating from a position of strength, especially given the fact that the nucleus of the current team will still be under contract when the 2021-22 season is played.
When they start, it will be in the Pacific Division, which means four games with the Golden Knights. Arizona will move from the Pacific to the Central as that division’s eighth team.
So how could Seattle get the best of Vegas?
One way is to lure one of McPhee’s lieutenants away. For months, assistant general manager Kelly McCrimmon has been rumored to be in the mix for the Seattle GM job. He had a huge part in building the Knights.
However, he is very loyal to McPhee and Foley. But would the lure of running his own team be too strong for McCrimmon and cause him to bolt to the Northwest?
Vaughn Karpan, another of McPhee’s key staff who oversaw the pro scouting that led to the Expansion Draft bounty in 2017, could be someone Seattle might be interested in as its GM. He too has never been an NHL GM so the promotion might be tempting.
Then there’s McPhee himself. The idea that Seattle could lure him away from Vegas seems preposterous at face value. Sure, Seattle could give McPhee a huge boost in salary, promise him whatever he wants and give him carte blanche over the hockey operation.
But McPhee already has that in Vegas. He is also extremely loyal to Foley. Foley got him back in the manager’s chair. Foley allowed McPhee to build the Knights without interference. And if McPhee’s desire to win a Stanley Cup is as strong as he says it is, where does he have the better chance to do it — Vegas or Seattle?
We know the answer to that one. Besides, you think the other NHL GMs are going to go through the process with McPhee again in Seattle after the last time with the Knights?
Not a chance.
I don’t see that happening. We take really good care of our people, not just the players. I don’t see anyone leaving. But if someone decided they wanted to go, we wouldn’t stand in their way. -Foley
My thoughts on Seattle joining the NHL? I love it. You’ll have the balance in the conferences the league has been striving for. The rivalry with Vancouver will be epic, though I wouldn’t want to be sitting at the USA-Canadian border on game day when they play each other, even with a NEXUS card.
The Knights proved that adding another team didn’t dilute the talent pool. Hockey has been an international game for quite a while now and that pool has grown, not shrunk, over the years. Seattle will put a representative team on the ice. But win 51 games and register 109 points? Probably not.
I think it’s going to be a great hockey city. The fans up there have shown their support and it’s perfect to fill the winter sports void. -Foley
It also means more jobs in hockey for players, executives, scouts, marketing and PR folks, salespeople, and all those who will work at KeyArena. That’s a good thing.
So welcome, Seattle. You’re a beautiful city with a diverse, wonderful population which is going to support hockey. Now, get the NBA to give you back your basketball team.
**Steve Carp is the author of “Vegas Born — The remarkable story of the Golden Knights.” Follow him on Twitter @stevecarp56. All of Steve Carp’s work here on SinBin.vegas is presented to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm. For over twenty-five years, the Jimmerson Law Firm has been widely recognized as one of Las Vegas’s preeminent full-service law firms. Specializing in high stakes business, civil and family litigation, the Jimmerson Law Firm has an unparalleled track record of winning when it matters most. To reach the Jimmerson Law Firm, call (702) 388-7171 and tell them SinBin.vegas sent you.**