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Expansion Draft

'Vegas holds all the cards' in trade talks leading up to Expansion Draft

GMs say Golden Knights in position of power entering selection process

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

BUFFALO -- Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee understands the unique situation he's in.

With the NHL Expansion Draft later this month, McPhee has spent his week at the NHL Scouting Combine meeting with top prospects for the 2017 NHL Draft, as well as with the 30 other NHL general managers.

"We interview the kids and when we get a break we're discussing our latest discussion with another team," McPhee said Friday. "Most of the focus this week for our group has been on the combine. But reality is, GMs are talking to us."

The GMs understand who has the power in those conversations.

"Vegas holds all the cards," Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill said. "I'm talking to Vegas but I don't know who they want or who they like on our team, and same for 30 other teams."

Video: Importance of the NHL Draft for the Golden Knights

The expansion draft will be held June 17-21, with the announcement of the selections to be made at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).

The 30 other NHL teams must submit their list of protected players by 5 p.m. ET on June 17. Vegas will be given the lists at 10 a.m. on June 18 and will have until 10 a.m. on June 21 to submit its selections, one from each team.

"Certainly I think [the expansion draft] is on the forefront of everyone's mind as the days creep closer toward the actual event," Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "Everyone's doing their final due diligence. Having an event like this here; whenever you get everybody in one place, it's always a good opportunity to, whether you're trying to steal a few minutes with the Vegas personnel or try to steal a few minutes with another general manger, it's always good when you know where everyone is.

"The way [the combine] is set up, when you break for lunch or break for the evening, eventually you run into these people and you do have conversations. Sometimes they're planned, sometimes they're not planned."

Vegas can make a deal with another team to select someone, to not select someone, or to package players together. It also is able to sign a free agent prior to the expansion draft at a time when the other NHL teams cannot, with that player counting as the one the team would lose in the process.

"We've been pretty open with it and explaining to everyone that we're not going to just claim a player without having discussions with you about what works for you and what doesn't work for you," he said. "And both sides have been, in most of our discussions, really open … the clubs will tell us what they want to do and who they want to protect, and we'll express our interest in who they have and see how we can get to a deal."

But the other GMs know they're the ones who have to be a bit more flexible.

"If you're talking to George, he's going to squeeze everybody for things and do a real good job, I'm sure," New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero said. "It's a competition and he's going to squeeze out what he can … at the end you just have to know what you're going to pay to protect your player or something like that, and every team is different.

"At the end, George drives everything."

McPhee said he and his staff have a firm idea of the players he wants to build the first edition of the Golden Knights.

"We're pretty fluent in their rosters and knowing what we expect them to do," he said. "So there isn't a lot that we don't know or a lot of drama. We're pretty straightforward in the discussions, and it's just, 'How do we accommodate each other?' There's ways to get there and we're trying to do that with a number of clubs.

"It's been a really positive, enjoyable experience. But now it's real. It's important that we get it right. … We've planned very, very well and we've prepared very, very well."

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