Check clears, Golden Knights are ready to deal
The wheeling and dealing is about to begin for the NHL’s 31st team.
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights can begin making trades and signing free agents for next season now that owner Bill Foley’s final payment to the league cleared on Wednesday afternoon.
Foley called it “another significant milestone” in the team’s history.
“On behalf of the board of governors, I am delighted to officially welcome the Vegas Golden Knights to the NHL,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Congratulations to Bill Foley, the Foley family, the Maloof family, the city of Las Vegas and the Golden Knights’ fans as the team embarks on its exciting journey.”
The expansion draft is almost four months away, but the Golden Knights soon could get some clarity — and some assets — now that they’re open for business.
“We’ve been talking with teams here for a few weeks now,” general manager George McPhee said. “Teams are looking for some certainty with their rosters and obviously trying to improve their rosters before the trading deadline and they want to talk to us to see if there’s a player that we could agree upon that for a couple months from now to claim, which would make their life easier.”
Most of the talk about the Vegas expansion draft has centered on teams giving up draft picks or prospects to the Golden Knights in exchange for a “hands off” agreement. Maybe it’s worth it a mid-round pick to the Anaheim Ducks not to lose one of their young defensemen or for the Columbus Blue Jackets to guarantee an extra player is safe because they’ll be forced to protect so many with no-movement clauses.
But if McPhee agrees to take, say, Bobby Ryan from the Ottawa Senators, it keeps GM Pierre Dorion from being nervous about losing someone like defenseman Marc Methot. According to the league, any player Vegas agrees to claim or not claim in the June 21 expansion draft must be done playing this season before the trade can be completed.
Preparations for the draft are an ongoing chess match with many pieces in play.
“Ideally we’d like to see the whole universe of who’s protected and who’s exposed before we have to make decisions,” McPhee said. “But there are teams that want to talk now, so we’re listening.”
McPhee has been listening for a while but can now act by agreeing to trades for draft picks or unsigned prospects since the NHL has received the final installment of Foley’s $500 million expansion fee. It will also allow McPhee to talk future deals in person next week at the general managers meeting.
THE MUMPS RETURN
The Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks reported players being diagnosed with the mumps, the NHL’s second outbreak of the disease in the past three years. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league doesn’t know exactly how the mumps returned but noted that other sports have seen isolated incidents, too.
Daly said the NHL is promoting “education, reinforcement of precautions and booster shots, where necessary” to keep the mumps from spreading.
Filip Forsberg is lighting it up four years after was traded at the deadline from the Washington Capitals to the Nashville Predators. Forsberg had hat tricks in back-to-back games last week and in his past five games has 13 points on 10 goals and three assists.
“He’s the best player in the league right now, the way he’s playing,” Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said. “Whatever he’s doing, I don’t know what it is. Just continue doing it.”
The Colorado Avalanche have lost nine of their past 11 games. The league-leading Capitals , who acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues on Monday as their pre-deadline splash, have 21 wins since Jan. 1 while the Avalanche have 17 all season.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Subban returns to Montreal with the Predators to face former Nashville captain Shea Weber and the Canadiens on Thursday night. It’s also fitting this happens around the deadline after the All-Star defensemen were dealt for each other in a stunning trade in June.
LEADERS (after Tuesday’s games)
Goals: Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), 34; Points: Connor McDavid (Edmonton), 72; Ice time: Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg), 27:27; Goals-against average: Braden Holtby (Washington), 1.95; Save percentage: Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota), .932.