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Golden Knights ready to make trades, but not for Alex Ovechkin

Vegas GM could make first move 'Monday or Tuesday,' unlikely to pursue Capitals forward or Ilya Kovalchuk

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

BUFFALO -- With two weeks to go before the NHL Expansion Draft, Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee appears close to being ready to make their first trade, which could happen in a matter of days.

But one player the Golden Knights are unlikely to trade for is Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, who McPhee knows well from his 17 seasons as Capitals GM from 1997-2014.

"It doesn't surprise me because of our relationship," McPhee said Saturday when asked about acquiring Ovechkin, "but I don't think anything will happen there. There's too many jerseys with No. 8 on it in the seats in Washington to be moving that guy."

On Tuesday, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said of Ovechkin, "Maybe at some point if there's a legitimate hockey deal that came available, but I don't know if that's where we're at right now."

McPhee also was asked about the possibility of acquiring forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who has said he would like to return to the NHL after playing four seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. Kovalchuk's NHL rights are held by the New Jersey Devils, who would have to be the team that signs him and then trades him.

"We haven't had any discussions that I'd imagine would go down that path to talk to a player like Kovalchuk," McPhee said of the 34-year-old who scored 417 goals in 816 NHL games before playing in the KHL. "We'll be looking for younger players and people that will be with us three, four years from now."

The 30 other NHL teams have until 5 p.m. ET on June 17 to submit their list of protected players, and McPhee has been busy fielding trade offers from teams trying to avoid losing a player they may not be able to protect. Vegas is allowed to select on player from each team.

"We're far enough along with some teams that the plan is to sit on the phone, probably Monday or Tuesday, and work the phones to see what we can accomplish," McPhee said at the NHL Scouting Combine. "I didn't want to do anything prematurely. I wanted to see everything that might be out there and talk about what might be available before we started making commitments.

"We have a lot of teams that are offering us some big contracts, and I know what it's like to be on the other side and be tight on the [salary] cap. It's hard to move contracts, so they're looking at us like an opportunity to move a contract, and we'll take a few of those for the right price."

Video: A look at the 2017 Expansion Draft rules

Vegas will be given the protected lists at 10 a.m. on June 18 and will have until 10 a.m. on June 21 to submit its selections.

Teams can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender. Vegas must fill a roster that includes at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies. The Golden Knights must have a minimum of 20 players under contract for the 2017-18 season.

The Golden Knights also can sign any restricted or unrestricted free agent left unprotected by his team from June 18-21, but McPhee said he isn't putting a priority on acquiring high-profile players.

"The face of our franchise will be our logo," McPhee said. "That's the way we'll try and do things and be team-centric. We'll get as many good players as we can, but as we all know it's about building the right team and the right chemistry and all those clichés, but that's real. So we don't feel the need to go get names."

McPhee knows the expansion draft and the 2017 NHL Draft, June 23-24 in Chicago, will be crucial to building a team that can improve from within. He said he will look to stockpile picks to build up Vegas' prospect base.

"I'd certainly like to be in a surplus situation for a few years, and based on the way discussions are going, we're going to get some picks [via trade]," McPhee said. "So I'd certainly like to load up if we could.

"[The 2017 draft] is going to be our most important draft. We've got to get better players out of the entry draft than the expansion draft if we want to be a good team and compete for a [Stanley] Cup one day. We're going to have to be really good at the entry draft."

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