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February 7, 2017 | 11:47am ET
What Happens in Vegas
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 out.

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 the expansion.

"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 More Action

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 "versatile" guy.

"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 club.

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 time.

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 three years.

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 digress.

Knights of the Round Table, Vegas Style

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 time.

Hannah Spraker is the Anaheim Correspondent and a Columnist for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.




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