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George McPhee hired as Las Vegas franchise's first GM

Longtime Capitals general manager will build NHL expansion team

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

George McPhee intends to waste no time getting to work at his new job.

After being named the first general manager of the Las Vegas NHL expansion team Wednesday, McPhee has a lot on his plate to prepare to begin play as the League's 31st franchise in 2017-18. He planned to "get to work" on it immediately following his introductory news conference in Las Vegas.

"Our mission here is clear," McPhee said. "We're going to build an organization and a team that people in Nevada and Las Vegas will be very, very proud of, and we're going to do it quickly, and we're aiming at the Stanley Cup. That simple."

Things have already been moving quickly for the Las Vegas team since it received the approval of the Board of Governors on June 22. The hiring of McPhee, 58, came exactly three weeks later, culminating what owner Bill Foley called an "exhaustive" process.

Video: George McPhee Named Las Vegas GM

Foley and special adviser Murray Craven interviewed seven candidates initially before narrowing the field down to three finalists who met with them at Foley's home in Montana. Something stood out about McPhee, the former Washington Capitals GM, early in the process.

"I just felt like we had a relationship almost from the first telephone conversation that I knew that I felt confident that we could both be honest and forthright with each other and always transparent, and that's really important," Foley said. "We all want to win and he is going to win for us, but I like to have people that I really get along with and that I can communicate with. We had great candidates. They were all good. I just felt there was a little something extra with George."

McPhee had a similar experience on his end of a telephone conversation with Foley while dropping his son, Graham, a 2016 Edmonton Oilers draft pick, off for summer classes at Boston College.

"[Foley] started talking about everything that Las Vegas has to offer and all the great things they've done, and about eight minutes into it I was hooked," McPhee said. "I was really inspired by Bill and told my son that that's the kind of guy I want to work for."

McPhee spent 17 seasons as GM of the Capitals, but his contract was not renewed after they went 38-30-14 and failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2013-14. During his tenure, the Capitals won the Southeast Division seven times and the Presidents' Trophy in 2009-10, qualified for the postseason 10 times, and reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time, in 1998.

"But all the individual awards and all those titles sort of miss the point," McPhee said. "What you really want to do is win the Stanley Cup. That's the feeling you want to experience. That's what you want to build here."

Video: What's Next for Las Vegas?

McPhee, the 1982 Hobey Baker Award winner while at Bowling Green State University, never was able to win the Stanley Cup during his seven seasons in the NHL as a forward with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. The Guelph, Ontario, native came close as the vice president of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks when they lost to the Rangers in seven games in the 1994 Cup Final.

After being let go by the Capitals, McPhee joined the New York Islanders as an adviser to GM Garth Snow.

"George brought knowledge, experience and tremendous insight to our organization," Snow said. "We are thrilled for him and his family to get this opportunity. His ability to evaluate players and his managerial skills are assets that will serve the new Las Vegas franchise well. It was a pleasure working with him and wish him nothing but the best in Las Vegas."

With the NHL expansion draft coming in June, McPhee believes it's important to put together his management and scouting staffs quickly.

"When we're done here today, I'm going to be calling people about joining us," he said. "So I expect to start adding people next week."

But McPhee is in no hurry to hire a coach. In fact, he might wait out the 2016-17 season to see what candidates might become available.

"We don't have to do anything there right away," he said. "We can take our time with that."

McPhee plans to spend this season scouting professional players for the expansion draft and amateurs for the 2017 NHL Draft.

"We have an opportunity here that other expansion teams haven't had to put a good team on the ice a lot quicker than in the past, and I'm going to do everything I can to make them good real fast," he said. "It's as simple as that. There's no magic to it. You have to find elite players in the draft. You look at any good teams in this league [and] their best players are their draft picks. So we'll get a nice squad together from the expansion draft, but our elite players will come through drafting.

"We'll sign some free agents and that will help, but it always comes down to drafting."

Foley's next order of business is to select a name for his team. He acknowledged that process is more complicated and taking longer than he expected because of trademark rules.

"It needs to be a name that people hear the name and say, 'These guys are tough. These guys are going to win. These guys are dedicated,'" Foley said. "So it needs to have that kind of momentum, that sort of philosophy behind the name. … So, we're working our way through it. I've got my GM. Now, I need to get my name. That's the next step."

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