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Expansion Draft

Golden Knights seem to achieve twin objectives at Expansion Draft

Select players to be competitive right away, acquire draft picks to build contender

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- After the NHL Expansion Draft on Wednesday, thousands of fans flooded the floor of T-Mobile Arena for a round table of the Vegas Golden Knights. General manager George McPhee sat onstage and listed the great experiences of his hockey career.

"The Stanley Cup is going to be up there," he said.

Yeah, he said it. He used the "Stanley Cup" and "is" in the same sentence, as if a championship were destined. The fans cheered.


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"This was an intense experience," he said. "We've worked really hard to have success in this first critical stage, and I think we got it right."

But that's all this was, the first critical stage, and it's hard to judge yet if the Golden Knights got it right. It's hard to judge whether some other NHL teams got it right too.

Little more than 13 minutes into the round table, McPhee and assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon stood up and said goodbye. After all the red eyes over the past few days selecting their initial list of players and swinging trades, they were taking a red-eye flight to Chicago.

The NHL trade freeze ends at 8 a.m. ET on Thursday. The 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas is at United Center on Friday and Saturday.

It remains to be seen how many players the Golden Knights selected Wednesday are still with them over the next few days, let alone for their inaugural 2017-18 season, and what they do with their draft picks. It remains to be seen how other teams maneuver.

Video: Breaking down the Vegas Golden Knights' picks

There is more in store.

At first glance, it appears McPhee and his staff got off to a good start on their twin objectives: building a team that will be competitive in its first season to establish itself in the market, and building a Stanley Cup contender through the draft.

The Golden Knights selected 30 players: three goaltenders, 13 defensemen and 14 forwards, a mix of veterans, younger players, prospects and probably some throwaways. They acquired seven other players, a mix of prospects and damaged goods they accepted as part of deals to get something else they wanted. They ended up with 10 extra picks over the next four drafts, including two first-round choices this year.

Thanks to advantageous expansion draft rules, they had an opportunity to control the process, use leverage on their counterparts and collect lots of assets. They took advantage of it. But we still don't know how they view those assets, let alone their plans for them.

McPhee said Tuesday he and his staff color-coded players leading up to the expansion draft.

Video: Jamie and Kevin on Fleury and the Vegas goalies

"Blue in this case was probably a player that we're claiming and keeping and don't have interest in moving," McPhee said. "We used a different color on a player that we were claiming and may have to move."

Let's just say McPhee did not show his true colors after the expansion draft Wednesday. He did not speak to the media.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury almost certainly was in blue. He won the Stanley Cup three times with the Pittsburgh Penguins, starting for two of those playoff runs, and waived the no-movement clause in his contract so he could be exposed in the expansion draft. The Penguins gave the Golden Knights a 2020 second-round pick so he would be selected. He appears to be the face of the franchise.

"He wanted to come here," McPhee told the Vegas fans Wednesday, drawing cheers. "He kept letting us know that he wanted to come here. And so Pittsburgh made sure that it happened. They gave us a pick to make sure it happened, and it was going to happen anyway."

Forward Erik Haula and defenseman Deryk Engelland likely are here to stay; they signed with Vegas as free agents as part of the process. Engelland once played for Las Vegas of the ECHL and still lives in the area.

Video: Kevin Weekes speaks with Marc-André Fleury

Young defensemen Griffin Reinhart, Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore seem likely to stay.

But the rest?

Forward James Neal has scored at least 20 goals in each of his nine NHL seasons and as many as 40; Nashville Predators fans are upset their team lost him. Forward Jonathan Marchessault scored 30 goals last season for the Florida Panthers. Defenseman Marc Methot could be captain material. But for the same reasons they could help the Golden Knights, they could be attractive to other teams in trades.

Same goes for defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, and so on.

"I think as far as depth goes, you're going to see they're going to have a lot of that," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "They're getting some guys, a 30-goal scorer right away. They've got some good draft picks. They've got some different guys in different roles. But I think they're going to be competitive, and it's only going to get better with what they're able to acquire as far as picks and prospects along the way too."

On to Chicago.

Video: VIDEO: Expansion Draft coverage

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