Success is a fleeting thing in today's parity-driven NHL. And for George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights who must live off the fruits of the 2017 expansion draft until his amateur draft prospects are ready to bolster the club's NHL roster, Year Two has proven challenging.
Making it to the Stanley Cup Final in Year One created expectations for the Golden Knights but fresh talent for the roster didn't miraculously materialize. McPhee moved on from a few players and brought in Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. What he didn't get was an influx of inexpensive talent on entry level contracts. Vegas just isn't that far along on its developmental curve.
It's coming, likely as soon as next year, but it didn't happen this season. The best NHL franchises add a player or two each season from their prospect pools. It improves the lineup and allows a team to take a step forward. This opportunity has yet to arise for Vegas and it's proven a challenge for the roster.
The trade deadline is fast approaching and McPhee has decisions to make. The Western Conference is chock full of contenders in Winnipeg, Nashville, San Jose, Calgary and Vegas. Spending assets on rentals is risky. Certainly, it can be justified by winning a Stanley Cup but there's no guarantee that happens. Using assets to acquire a player under contract or to grab a pending unrestricted free agent with the intent of extending him is something altogether.
McPhee and his staff will now wait to see what opportunities present themselves and govern themselves accordingly.
The GM recently gave VegasGoldenKnights.com a few mintues of his time.
VGK.com: How would you assess the season so far?
George McPhee: It's been the challenge we have been looking for; teams played us harder early on this year, naturally, then they did last year. Any team that gets to the Final is really challenged the following season and it's a measuring stick, but it can make your team better if they meet the challenge. We didn't start as well as we had hoped, and that's the business sometimes. We have played fairly well since and we are looking forward to a hard push here for the last 30 games trying to get a little bit healthier and push hard to try and make the playoffs.
VGK: Marc-Andre Fleury continues to perfrom at a high level. Has he exceeded your original expectations?
GM: Well, we thought he would be very good for the team. On the ice, in terms of the goaltending that we would get and great for the overall program that we are building here [in Vegas]. The personality that he brings, the leadership that he brings and what he does in our community, we think he has played terrific for us. We believe that he is going to be one of those athletes that can play a long time. We have extended him, but we expect that he will be able to play beyond that extension as well.
VGK: The argument can be made he's been one of the most impactful players on the planet since you drafted him.
GM: I don't think there is any doubt about that. That is a fair observation. He is everything a new franchise could hope for
VGK: How has Paul Stastny worked out?
GM: Again, another player that is everything that we could have hoped for in terms of ability and commitment to the game and leadership. We all knew that he was a very intelligent player, we didn't know that he was this dialed in, in terms of how he studies the game, prepares and works with his teammates. It's always fun in this business, in the management position, to work with different elite players and find out and learn what makes them different, what makes them effective, and how they play in different ways than other players do. Paul is unique in the way that he plays the game and distributes the puck.
VGK: The trade deadline is coming. What is your strategy?
GM: We typically don't know what is going to transpire until we get there. We don't know what to predict. We'll just stay involved and see what develops.