Friday, Sept. 27, 2019 | 2 a.m.
The Golden Knights had only one choice when Kelly McCrimmon’s name began floating around in connection with other franchises: promote their assistant general manager. Vegas wasn’t about to lose a key piece of its hockey operations staff. McCrimmon was one of the first hires made by then-general manager George McPhee in 2016, and the pair immediately began building the team into a perennial contender.
In May, the team announced McCrimmon’s promotion to general manager, with McPhee taking on the role of president of hockey operations. The duo stayed intact, and the changes became official on September 1.
We sat down with McCrimmon to discuss a number of topics, including organizational changes, team-building philosophies and salary-cap management.
What has changed for you going from assistant general manager to general manager? There are new responsibilities in terms of dealing with other general managers—general-manager meetings, conference calls—those types of things. In terms of the day-to-day operation, we’ve always been very collaborative with respect to how we make our decisions. George was always very inclusive with me when I was the assistant general manager. That extended to our pro staff, our analytics team and our amateur staff depending on the discussion, and that will remain our management style.
Could you have imagined becoming a cap team projected to go far in Year 3—and kind of the envy of the entire league—when you started? Our growth has been very significant, very rapid right from the accomplishments of the inaugural season. Going to the Stanley Cup Final really changed everything moving forward in terms of the makeup of our team, what our objectives were and trying to complement the nucleus here that we had. Last year, that was bringing in a couple free agents, making a big trade before the season started, making a big trade during the season. So now with a real strong team, a cap team, that’s where the good teams end up. That’s part of the process of our team hopefully becoming an elite team.
Last offseason was full of big-name moves. This year was a different offseason. Was it more challenging? There are always challenges that are different from year to year. The previous year we were very dialed in with free agency. We felt that there were some areas of our team that we needed to improve. We felt through the offseason last year, we knew we wanted to add a premier forward. That was the impetus behind the Max Pacioretty acquisition, and this year it’s a different set of challenges where we needed to make moves to become cap-compliant, which we did. I don’t think it’s any more or less pressure than the year previous or the year even before that. You manage different situations based on where your team is at.
Being a cap team means you’ve got really good players under contract. That’s exactly right. What you hope to avoid is being a cap team and then regretting some of the contracts that are on your books in terms of the decisions you made before signing those players. We feel really good about the contracts we have with our players. We have our core guys signed for extended periods of time, which is what we want. There are always different situations that arise, decisions that need to be made, discussions that need to be had as you run a team, but that’s where we are today preparing to head into the season. We’re comfortable with the makeup of our team and where we currently stand.
Do you know what the opening roster will look like, or will it really come down to how these players look in the preseason? Well, there’s going to be new players on our team this year. Preseason’s going to be tremendously important. We’ll give opportunities to a lot of players, and ideally the players make those decisions for you with their play. From there, you piece together your opening day lineup based on fit and based on some other criteria that sometimes come into play.
This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.