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Gerard Gallant named first coach of Golden Knights

Will lead Vegas during inaugural NHL season in 2017-18 @NHLdotcom

Gerard Gallant was named the first coach of the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday but wasn't ready to predict when they might qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs or win a championship.

Owner Bill Foley said previously the Golden Knights would make the playoffs within three years and win the Stanley Cup within six.

"[The playoffs] are going to happen, we know it's going to happen, but we hope it is on Bill's timetable," Gallant said. "I take it one day at a time. We are going to work hard, we are going to build a strong organization, a strong hockey team here, and hopefully that happens. You look at the NHL today and from first to the worst, there's not a big difference. We are going to get a lot of good hockey players.

"As coach you can't look long-term; you just have to look at the next day and get better every day. When you take care of the little things, big things will happen."

Gallant, 53, is 152-140-31 with four ties in six seasons as an NHL coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers. He was fired by Florida on Nov. 27 after coaching the Panthers to the Atlantic Division title in 2015-16 with a 47-26-9 record. The 47 wins and 103 points are the most in Panthers history.

The Golden Knights will begin play in 2017-18 as the NHL's 31st team. They will participate in the NHL Expansion Draft from June 18-20, with their selections revealed June 21, and will take part in the 2017 NHL Draft on June 23-24 in Chicago.

Gallant said he's not concerned about input in selecting the roster.

"That's their job," he said, referring to general manager George McPhee and the scouting staff. "They are looking at the players every day. As coaches, we are getting ready for players, putting our systems in and stuff like that, so the expansion draft and stuff like that, that's not my department."

The Golden Knights have one player under contract: forward Reid Duke, a 21-year-old from Brandon of the Western Hockey League. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract on March 6 and is playing with Chicago of the American Hockey League.

McPhee said although Gallant was available months ago -- he first interviewed in mid-January -- Vegas wanted to explore all of its options and not rush to hire its first coach.

"We felt that we had a process that we wanted to go through," McPhee said. "We didn't have any players to coach, so we weren't in a rush to have a coach. And we had so many other things that we had to get our priorities in order and take care of some other things before we could get to the coach. ... and when you have time in this business, you use it, and we needed every bit of it. Also, there were some people who requested we talk to them at the end of their seasons. We went through the entire process. We did it the way we wanted to and it worked out very well for us. We got the right person for this team."

Gallant was an assistant with the Blue Jackets from their inception in 2000-01 until he took over as coach on Jan. 1, 2004, when Doug MacLean stepped down to focus on his job as general manager.

"Going forward, it's going to be a lot of fun, the opportunity to coach with this team. I've been involved in an expansion team before with Columbus and it was a great experience and I'm looking forward to the same thing here. We're going to have a great hard-working hockey team and I think the fans are going to be very excited to see our product.

"You look back at that time in Columbus and the fans were excited, the building was excited every night. The team worked hard. We didn't have a whole lot of success early on there, but I know one thing; when we came to the rink, it was fun, they worked hard and competed hard. I think looking forward, we are going to be ahead of that team because of the expansion draft. I think we will have more top-end players than they had at that time."

Gallant said he's ready to turn the page on Florida.

"[George] talked about being excited and ecstatic and I definitely am that today," Gallant said. "I'm very proud to be the first head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights, and I'm looking forward to that opportunity.

Gallant, who was an assistant for Team North America during the World Cup of Hockey 2016, had 480 points (211 goals, 269 assists) in 11 NHL seasons as a forward with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning. His best season was in 1988-89, when he had 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) for the Red Wings.

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