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How Does The Golden Knights' Hockey Ops Staff React To Big Trades?

A look inside the Golden Knights' offices in the moments after the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens made a blockbuster trade centered around Jonathan Drouin

by Gary Lawless @GoldenKnights /

Twenty or so hockey lifers were stretching their legs, making their way to the restroom or grabbing a quick sandwich when the text messages and Twitter notifications began to buzz.

The Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning had made a trade. Carefully crafted lists and charts were about to hit the shredder. Every move in the NHL right now impacts the Vegas Golden Knights. And a blockbuster like Thursday's, which saw Tampa ship Jonathan Drouin to the Habs in exchange for Mikhail Sergachev and a conditional 2018 second round pick, changed perspectives in Las Vegas.

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Half eaten sandwiches were flipped into the garbage, salary cap charts were immediately tweaked and traffic back to the boardroom got congested.

Forgive the pun but it's the most precise description: George McPhee's men are literally Knights around the round table right now.

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It is the exam of a lifetime and the hockey operations department of the Vegas Golden Knights has been preparing for close to a year.

Study time is over for George McPhee and his staff of scouts, executives and consultants. The test has begun.

McPhee will announce his expansion draft selections on June 21st as part of the NHL Awards from T-Moblie Arena on the Vegas strip.

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The Golden Knights will select one player from 30 NHL teams. Each team must submit a protected list on June 18th and McPhee will then choose a player from the remaining eligible players on each team's roster.

Figuring out what each team will do and in turn what the Golden Knights will do in response has been the focus of just about every waking minute of McPhee and his team since their first meeting back in September.

They've watched every team in the NHL and AHL play numerous games and compiled a book on each club. They know which players' skating strides break down with fatigue, which players can shoot off balance and which ones like to fight.

The process has been extensive and has included five mock drafts and seemingly endless discussions.

McPhee and assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon saw every team in the NHL play this season. So did director of player personnel Vaughn Karpan.

From there, the Knights gave each of their scouts anywhere from six to eight organizations to cover at both the NHL and AHL level.


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The mock drafts would start with a pro scout breaking down a team. Then there would be an open discussion with all in the room encouraged to offer insight and opinion. Protection lists would be considered and then predicted. And then McPhee and his group would create a top-3 ranking of the players they would take from that team if conditions allowed.

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McPhee's pro staff is now together until sometime next week. The purpose of these final meetings is to distill lists and to begin working with other teams.

McCrimmon has half the teams in the league while McPhee has the other. The staff breaks down a team and then McPhee or McCrimmon calls that club's GM to negotiate. Some teams want to make a deal right now to alleviate salary cap stress or to have input on how their roster is impacted by the expansion draft.

In all likelihood, McPhee will have a number of deals in place prior to the 18th when protected lists must be submitted. And there will be other teams where consensus won't be struck which is where months of preparation and homework will come into effect.

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