George McPhee is alternately running on fumes and adrenaline. Every couple of hours he feels gassed, out of energy. Then the enormity of the moment comes back into focus and a surge hits him.
"I got to bed about 12:00 last night and I woke up at 3:10 a.m. and I was like 'Boing, here we go. I've got to go.' I was up and came in," McPhee told reporters at Vegas Golden Knights headquarters on Tuesday.
It's been a year-long process which all comes down to now as McPhee and his hockey operations staff make their final selections for the NHL Expansion Draft.
McPhee must submit his selections by 7 a.m. PT on Wednesday. He'll reveal those choices, one player from each of the NHL's other 30 teams, as part of the NHL Awards show on Wednesday.
McPhee has said he'll look back at this procedure as one of the "golden years of his career." The signature McPhee moment, when he unveils what he and his staff have accomplished, is almost upon us.
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"It's really hard to believe we're here now and we're submitting this list (Wednesday). Three days ago, we had a whiteboard with no names on it, and now it looks like we've got a hockey team," said McPhee. "And we like the way it looks and we've got a few things to move around and change, but it's interesting that the debate has gone from 'What are we doing with clubs?' to now, we have a couple of things to wrap up, but now we're entering that phase where, you know, what kind of flavoring do we have to add to the team? What other things do we need to do here? And it's all about what we look like and do we have left shots or right shots or do we need to move a center to a wing and we're going to have to move some defensemen because we're going to claim a bunch and so things of that nature."
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McPhee's goal has been two-fold from the start. To ice a competitive team for the 2017-18 season and to collect excess draft picks to bolster his team's prospect pool. McPhee will likely trade or walk away from as many as 10 of the players he selects. He's arranged deals with teams to lay off certain players and will receive compensation in the form of picks, prospects or roster players for doing so. The matrix he and his staff have constructed is complex and multi-layered.
"We knew that from the start that we were going to claim 30 players. But, your roster can only be 23 (players), you can only dress 18 (skaters) and 2 (goalie). But, we understand and I don't know that the terminology is the right terminology, but people call it 'throwaway picks.' There are some teams where there isn't a whole lot to do and you're going to make a throwaway pick rather than taking on a contract that you don't like," he explained. "So, there will be some of those claims, people that won't be qualified, and that sort of thing."
McPhee and assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon developed a strategy for the expansion draft and then crafted a massive blueprint right down to the details of day-to-day scheduling.
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There's an expression sports executives use which McPhee has lived by during this exercise. "If you have time, you use it." Nothing has been rushed or panicked.
"We worked really hard at this, as you know. We've needed the whole year to do it. We've talked to a lot of people about how to do it. We've done a lot of planning, we've had a great blueprint. And it's worked very, very well," he said. "We've gotten through this process. I had some concerns yesterday about 1 p.m. about whether we were going to have enough time. It was kind of overwhelming, but we were handling it. And then we sort of looked up at the clock at 4 p.m. and said, 'You know, we're going to be alright. We're going at a good pace and things are falling into place.' So, it's worked. It's kind of like going in for a final exam and knowing you know it. There haven't been that many surprises. Doug Risebrough said six or eight months ago when we met, you know, 'You can't plan for everything, there will be some uncertainty.' But, I think we actually planned for everything. We've done alright."