What Happens in Vegas
February 7, 2017 | 11:47am ET
By Hannah Spraker
ANAHEIM, CA -- The Vegas Golden Knights are going to take the NHL by
storm in these next few months. The expansion draft is in the back of
everyone's mind and fans, media and franchises alike are wondering
which players will be packing their bags for Sin City.
This expansion draft is throwing everyone for a loop. The Vegas team's
selections will partly dictate how this next month is going to play
While the expansion draft does not officially begin until June 17 --
Vegas has until June 20 at 5pm ET to make its selections, which will
be announced the next day -- Golden Knights GM George McPhee is
expected to be active much earlier than that.
How can he do that? I'm glad you asked.
It's all about the money, per usual. Basically, Vegas is not
considered an operational franchise until the expansion fee of $500
million is fully paid. Once owner Bill Foley makes his final payment,
the Vegas Golden Knights will be able to make some moves, possibly as
early as later this month.
Let's be clear: full payment and clearance, Vegas can make moves. No
money, no moves.
So, exactly what moves can they make?
Vegas can begin to stockpile draft picks, and make deals with other
NHL teams regarding future transactions.
In a nutshell: Teams can do a little sweet talking and give picks or
prospects in order to make sure Vegas does not select "player x" in
"We're hoping by March 1, which happens to be the trading deadline,
that we could maybe get involved in some things at the deadline to see
if the clubs that want to do something that are worried about us
[potentially selecting one of their players in the expansion draft],
that if they want to do something it can be done," McPhee told Prime
Time Sports. "We can agree to some deals."
You better believe negotiations will be active -- if unofficial
conversations haven't already happens -- perhaps that why as we
approach the trade deadline, not many moves have been made. One has to
assume teams are prepping to offer Vegas a little somethin' somethin'
for not selecting a certain exposed player come the expansion draft.
Furthermore, the Golden Knights will be able to sign college athletes
come the conclusion of their season, as well as players in Juniors and
other leagues over the age of 20.
The one thing they cannot do is sign or acquire any active players
playing in the 2016-17 season, including those on LTIR. So this puts
unsigned free agents up for grabs.
A Little Less Conversation, A Little
Vegas scouts have been spotted all over the NHL, and McPhee is not
going to skip a beat.
He has scouts out and about and his Director of Hockey Operations,
Misha Donskov, is doing plenty of behind the scenes stuff.
McPhee has done nothing but sing Donskov's praises of being a
"He's a coach. He's a manager. He's is a scout. He can be whatever he
wants to be," McPhee said of Donskov to the Vegas Review Journal.
"Analytics is just part of what he is. I've used the term 'Swiss Army
Knife' to describe Misha, and it really fits. There isn't anything on
the management side that he can't do. He's that versatile."
Analytics -- a polarizing idea these days. Donskov is an aficionado
of, dare I say it, Corsi.
"Analytics for our organization is another piece of the puzzle," he
said. "We view it as another golf club in our bag to either support
what we are seeing, or use it as a gap tool assessment to say, we need
to dig deeper on this specific player or team and peel back the onion
another layer. It is not used simply as a stand-alone decision-maker."
McPhee's staff was present at the World Juniors, and the early payment
of the expansion fee may be a huge asset to this up and coming hockey
They recently hired a former Cirque Du Soleil trainer Jay Mellette as
Director of Sports Performance and Head Athletic Trainer. Is that not
the most Vegas thing you've ever heard?
Starting an NHL team from the ground-up requires an immense amount of
work. There are many moving parts in place right now to prep this
hockey club for an outstanding first year; more positions are being
filled, ongoing talks of radio and TV deals, etc.
Interviews for the Head Coach position will be ongoing, with a new
candidate added to the mix today, and we could see one named before
the conclusion of the season.
Gerard Gallant, Jack Capuano, Ken Hitchcock and Claude Julien are
among those who will receive attention from McPhee and his staff.
McPhee has made a point that he wants a veteran NHL experienced coach
with a win-now mindset. All four of these guys fit the bill, with
Julien likely at the front of the line, and seeing as they were all
recently fired, they're looking like top candidates at this point in
What about an All-Star Game?
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the media at the All-Star Game
in Los Angeles recently.
"I think our intention is at some point in the earlier days of the
franchise as opposed to 20 or 30 years down the road," Bettman said.
"I think we could have fun in Las Vegas with an All-Star Game."
We can expect to see an All-Star Game come to Vegas within the next
What about an AHL Affiliate?
In all the hustle and bustle of the NHL team, the AHL affiliate has
flown under the radar. Vegas has not made any agreements with an AHL
franchise at this time, but we can possibly expect an announcement
within the next few weeks.
Golden Knights ownership will be seeking out AHL teams who are not
owned by an NHL team to strike up an agreement with. The only
plausible one, at this point in time, is the Chicago Wolves.
The Wolves are ending their three-year deal with the St. Louis Blues,
with the Blues seeking to expand in Missouri. While the travel time
might not be ideal for sending guys up and down, this is the best
short-term bet for Vegas, who will eventually seek a long-term
solution closer to town.
Can I point out the irony of Vegas and the "One Man Wolf Pack?" ... I
Knights of the Round Table, Vegas
You just pictured a bunch of Knights around a poker table, didn't you?
Well, you're not far off.
These next few months will be all about calls, bluffs, bets and going
all-in. Teams might have to fold, and teams might do whatever it takes
to protect their high cards. On the other hand, Vegas is going to have
play their cards right to ensure they have a Royal Flush come game
Hannah Spraker is the Anaheim Correspondent and a Columnist for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.