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Expansion Draft

George McPhee thinks Golden Knights have 'pretty good team'

Vegas general manager happy with roster heading into NHL Expansion Draft

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

LAS VEGAS -- George McPhee doesn't want to ruin the surprise. The Vegas Golden Knights' first roster and flurry of trades 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).

But you can hear it in the voice of the Vegas general manager and see it in his smile. He's confident, excited, like he's got a secret he can't wait to share.

 

[RELATED: Golden Knights have at least six trades set, GM saysExpansion Mock Draft: Vegas to stockpile goalies]

 

Lots of secrets, actually.

"I guess we'll tally it all up at the end," McPhee said Tuesday, "and you guys can tell us how we did."

I guess he wouldn't say that if he didn't think the Golden Knights will have done darn well.

Some teases:

How good will this team be?

"I think it's going to be a pretty good team," McPhee said, smiling. "We're happy that we've got a lot of defensemen, we've got really good goaltending, we've got a lot of centers and we've got scoring on the wing. We should have good speed."

How many trades are lined up? Half a dozen?

"Certainly at least that," McPhee said. "We've tried to talk to every club before we make a selection, and different things result from that."

Signed any free agents?

"Well, we'll find out [Wednesday] night, I guess," McPhee said. "That's what the show's all about."

Owner Bill Foley and his group paid a $500 million expansion fee, and the NHL designed an expansion process for the Golden Knights that was more advantageous than the processes for teams in the past.

Each of the 30 other NHL teams could protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, or eight skaters and a goaltender. The Golden Knights must pick one player from each team, including 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders. 

The NHL released the lists of protected and available players at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday, the start of a 72-hour window in which teams could make trades only with the Golden Knights and only Vegas could speak to free agents.

It's up to McPhee and his staff to take full advantage of it before submitting their selections by 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday. They want to build a competitive team for the inaugural 2017-18 season to establish their brand in their new market but also want to gather assets to build a Stanley Cup contender through the draft.

"It's really hard to believe we're here now and we're submitting this list [Wednesday]," McPhee said. "Three days ago, we had a whiteboard with no names on it, and now it looks like we have a hockey team, and we like the way it looks."

McPhee had declared Monday would be the last day he would negotiate with teams, some that want to give assets to keep the Golden Knights from taking available players, some that want to trade for a player available on another team.

But three or four GMs had travel problems and requested to speak Tuesday. McPhee said he hoped to wrap that up quickly and pick his team.

At this point it's about finishing touches, like left shots vs. right shots, centers vs. wings.

Some players unveiled Wednesday will be foundational. McPhee said he and his staff color-coded players during the process, and blue represented a blue-chipper, a player they planned to claim and keep.

Video: NHL Tonight initial reaction to Expansion Draft lists

"There are going to be some guys that we hope will be core players for us for a long time," McPhee said.

But others won't belong to Vegas for long. The Golden Knights will select 30 players knowing they eventually will have to cut their roster to 23 and dress 18 skaters and two goaltenders. They will select some with the intention of trading them and others because, well, they had to select one from each team.

"I don't know that the terminology is the right terminology, but people call it throwaway picks," McPhee said. "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. So there will be some of those claims, people that won't be qualified and that sort of thing."

In the end, expect the Golden Knights to have a decent roster for an expansion team, along with picks spread out over the coming years. Expect McPhee to sleep well after he went to bed at midnight local time, woke up at 3:10 a.m. on Tuesday and -- "Boing," he said -- headed back to the office.

"Things are falling into place, so it's worked," McPhee said. "It's kind of like going in for a final exam and knowing you know it. There haven't been that many surprises."

McPhee said he had spoken to Doug Risebrough, GM of the Minnesota Wild when they joined the NHL in 2000, who told him: "You can't plan for everything. There will be some uncertainty."

"But I think we actually planned for everything," McPhee said. "We've done all right."

We'll find out soon.

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