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Golden Knights in control ahead of NHL Expansion Draft

GM George McPhee has set his own trade deadline Monday, willing to listen to offers from each team

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- George McPhee is in control. The general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights has set his own trade deadline, telling his counterparts Monday is their last chance to negotiate before the NHL Expansion Draft.

That way they must make their best offers early. That way McPhee and his staff have time to analyze everything. That way they can pick their team on Tuesday and talk to the League Tuesday night, making sure they meet all the requirements and avoid a last-minute frenzy -- the kind of situation that could lead to mistakes and regrets.

"If everything's OK, I'll sleep on it and then just send it in Wednesday morning," McPhee said.

 

[RELATED: McPhee, Golden Knights set own trade deadline]

 

Smart. McPhee is doing this on his terms, dictating the pace of the game, doing everything he can to take advantage of this opportunity. He gets one shot. He has to do it right.

It isn't as simple as it sounds.

Each team was allowed to protect seven forwards, three defenseman and one goaltender, or eight skaters and one goaltender. The NHL released the list of protected and available players at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday. Vegas must pick one player from each team, including 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders, and submit its selections by 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

The results will be unveiled during the 2017 NHL Awards and NHL Expansion Draft presented by T-Mobile in Las Vegas on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).

Video: Johnston gives his input on the Expansion Draft lists

Everything goes through Vegas, because teams cannot make trades with anyone else but the Golden Knights in this window. But there are lots of rules and moving parts, and 72 hours can move awfully quickly if you aren't prepared.

McPhee and his staff were prepared. He said the protected and available lists were pretty much what they expected. McPhee released a statement telling his counterparts he was open for business -- and perhaps putting pressure on them to deal. Want to protect a player you exposed? Want to acquire a player another team exposed? OK. Win the bidding war.

The calls poured in.

"That's why I feel a little more relaxed up here than I anticipated I would be at this time," McPhee said.

Now it's a matter of making the right decisions to receive maximum value. The Golden Knights need to balance building a competitive team for the inaugural 2017-18 season to establish their brand in their new market with collecting assets for the future to build a Stanley Cup-caliber team through the draft.

"The balance is whatever feels right for our team," McPhee said.

That's why it's important to have time to debate and not leave anything, let alone everything, to the deadline. Each time McPhee and his staff contemplate a trade, they contemplate not only the trade by itself but how it affects all the other moving parts. He said they discussed a scenario Monday morning: Do they take a player they really like, or do they take a trade offer they really like instead?

"What's best for our team is keeping the player, so that's essentially how we measure things," McPhee said.

Video: The top-five players who could head to Vegas

From the outside, there is a tendency to make sweeping judgments and concoct grand plans. Goaltenders could net a relatively high return! The Golden Knights should take lots of goaltenders! If they take lots of goaltenders, they will both create a market and corner it!

In reality, it hasn't worked like that.

Asked if any particular group of players was in high demand, like goaltenders or defensemen, McPhee said: "You know, I anticipated that question, and it's really all over the place. Managers have different holes they want to fill, and so the requests have come in. And some of them are interesting, because it's not someone that we were going to claim but it fits for their team."

Asked if he could manipulate the trade market, McPhee said: "Yeah, I don't know if we're smart enough to really complicate things too much, and this is a complicated process."

McPhee has listened to his counterparts. He has gotten a sense of the market and taken it for what it is, not what he thinks it should be. Now he's running an auction. If teams are bidding on an exposed player, or if he is going to take an exposed player himself, McPhee is being direct with the GM of that player's team. Want to keep him? Here's what it's going to take.

"We're basically saying, 'Do you want to hear what's going on with your team, or are you just content to sit and we're going to do what we're going to do?' " McPhee said. "Most of them want to talk about it, and then we tell them exactly what's going on. 'Is there something you want to do about it or not?' "

By the time McPhee and his staff sit down Tuesday, they will have all the data they need to make their final decisions. By the time McPhee sleeps on it Tuesday night, there should be no phone call unmade, no detail undiscussed, no potential deal undone.

He ought to sleep like a baby.

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