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July 28, 2017

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Analysis: In NHL expansion draft process, McPhee’s Vegas Golden Knights have all the power

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AP Photo/John Locher

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee attends a news conference Thursday, April 13, 2017, in Las Vegas. The Vegas Golden Knights have hired Gerard Gallant as the first coach of the NHL expansion team.

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee has the rest of the NHL by its strings.

During the 72-hour expansion draft window, McPhee and his team are fielding trade offers from many of the NHL’s other 30 teams. While some of the offers are better than the others, Golden Knights officials are operating with the understanding that they are in power: If you want to keep a player, give Vegas an offer it can't refuse.

After Sunday’s reveal of the other clubs’ protection lists it became evident most teams stood to lose a lot of talent for nothing in return during this week’s expansion draft process.

Teams like the Minnesota Wild, who exposed two of the best young defensemen in the league in Marco Scandella and Matt Dumba, or the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers who exposed top scoring threats in James Neal and Jonathan Marchessault.

McPhee may not be Don Corleone, but he is the actual godfather of Matt Moulson’s wife, and the Buffalo Sabres are unable to protect Moulson from the Golden Knights grasp if they choose to go that direction.

Instead of racehorse appendages in his bed, McPhee hopes to wake to first round draft picks this morning. That is, if he even goes to sleep.

McPhee is in the midst of the busiest transaction period in NHL history and he is the center of it all.

“There was a certain intensity to the last two or three days because we were trying to keep an eye on all the other clubs and it certainly changed today,” McPhee said yesterday morning, only three hours into the expansion draft period. “It’s a different phase. We have some control over what’s happening now, but now we’re on the clock.”

There are already reports of trades being finalized by teams to keep players they were unable to fit into the protected lists. The Columbus Blue Jackets are reportedly sending a first round pick (24th overall) to the Golden Knights to protect young players. The Islanders may be giving the Golden Knights yet another first round pick (15th overall if it’s this year’s) to protect their forwards after putting five defensemen on the protection list.

“Every team in this league has a chance to protect their roster,” McPhee said. “We will not make a claim with any club before we talk to the club.”

The Golden Knights can also make three-way trades during this period if teams want players that have been made available by other teams.

There appears to be an overabundance of young, talented goaltenders available and McPhee can use it to his advantage. Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins has made most of the headlines, but the Detroit Red Wings exposed Petr Mrazek, 25, the Washington Capitals left Philipp Grubauer, 25, and the New York Rangers Antti Raanta, 28.

McPhee must take at least three goalies but there is no maximum limit, meaning he could draft all four of these (plus more) and trade them for assets.

“Yeah, we expect that that will happen,” McPhee said. “In fact, it’s already started to happen. People have identified people on other clubs that they’d like to have and we have to establish the value for that and whatever you want to give us has to be better than what we can claim from that club.”

He makes it sound so simple — just give him a call and you’ll work it out. But McPhee isn’t nearly as compensating as he makes himself out to be. This is all about building a winning hockey team in Las Vegas, and McPhee will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

“We’re going to go to that club and say ‘We have interest in this player. There’s another club that has interest in this player. How do we want to do this? How can we protect your roster? You can negotiate your way out of this if you wish.’”

You can negotiate your way out of this if you wish? If that doesn’t sound like something Don Corleone would say, what does.

McPhee has yet to pull the trigger on any deals yet, but in the coming days they’ll be fired off at a machine gun rate.

“We’re really pleased with what’s available and this, as I’ve said, has worked out very well for the Vegas Golden Knights,” McPhee said. “We expect to put a good, competitive, entertaining club on the ice. We really like what we’re looking at right now and then, again, we thought it was important to get those picks to help us draft our way to a championship.”

Jesse Granger can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Jesse on Twitter at twitter.com/JesseGranger_.

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