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Golden Knights expecting active trade market

General manager George McPhee says discussions have picked up in advance of NHL Expansion Draft on June 21

by Mike Cranston / Correspondent

LAS VEGAS -- With trade discussions ahead of the NHL Expansion Draft heating up, Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee said he expects his first trades could be completed as early as next week.

McPhee said Thursday that other NHL GMs are eager to get the Golden Knights to agree to compensation in order to not take an unprotected player.

"There's been a lot of discussion in the past few days and I think it's going to be pretty steady from here on out," McPhee said in Windsor, Ontario, where he's scouting prospects at the Memorial Cup. "Several GMs have tried to make appointments to get together at the [NHL Scouting] Combine next week, so we'll certainly do that."

The Golden Knights, who begin play next season, are less than a month away from stocking their roster. The other 30 NHL teams must turn in their list of protected players by June 17, and the Golden Knights will announce the 30 players they've selected on June 21 during the NHL Awards at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).

"We have a pretty good idea, obviously, what players are on the bubble," McPhee said. "A lot of GMs have been very forthright in explaining to us what they'd like to do, so we have a pretty good feel for what is going on."

NHL teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, or eight skaters of any position and a goalie. Vegas must select one player from each of the other teams, including a minimum of three goaltenders, nine defensemen and 14 forwards.

Video: A look at the 2017 Expansion Draft rules

The Golden Knights completed their final in-house mock draft last week and McPhee acknowledged the results have changed over time.

"Some players have elevated their play. Some players have been in decline," McPhee said. "Some of it has to do with our ability to know the players better after watching them for six months. And then some teams have made changes. So with each cut it changed and it will change again before we get there."

McPhee also confirmed the Golden Knights will have an exclusive 48-hour window before the expansion draft to negotiate with free agents who are left unprotected.

"It's going to be busy, there's no doubt about that," McPhee said. "We will talk to free agents. Who knows whether we'll be able to accomplish anything at this point, but we're certainly going to try."

Many teams have difficult decisions to make, in part because of players who have no-movement clauses in their contract and must be protected. Other teams are squeezed because of the limit on the number of players by position that can be protected. Trades, therefore, are likely.

"It can be whatever works for both parties, because we're going to need a little bit of everything," McPhee said. "We're going to need good veterans. We're going to need some youth. We're going to need some draft picks. We'll need speed, skill, size. And until we see the entire universe of what's available, it's really hard to know exactly what way we'll go. But so far it feels like it's going to be a little bit of everything."

What's helping McPhee is other teams' willingness to reveal who they're not going to protect in order to potentially work out trades. McPhee said he expects to know most of the players who will be left unprotected long before the list is made public June 18.

"There will be a little uncertainty once we head into expansion, but we've done our homework," McPhee said. "And with the disclosures most GMs have made, it's going to make negotiations for everyone a little easier."

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