George McPhee was introduced on Wednesday afternoon as the first ever general manager of the new Las Vegas NHL team.
With that landmark hiring out of the way, he now has focus on the hard part: Building an entire professional sports organization from scratch.
McPhee, who brings more than two decades of front office experience with the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders to the position, called the opportunity a dream job that every general manager wants to experience at least once in their career.
During his time with the Capitals, McPhee had to go through rebuilding phases where he had to tear down established teams and said that process can be “negative fun.”
Now he gets the chance to build an entire team the way he wants.
For as exciting as the opportunity has to be, there is a ton of work to be done before a team can take the ice in 2017. Here is some of what McPhee is facing over the next year…
— He has to assemble an entire front office staff, including an assistant general manager, hockey operations department, scouts, and everybody else that goes into constructing a team. McPhee said those phone calls to other organizations “start tonight,” and he hopes to start adding people by next week.
— McPhee said there is no rush when it comes to hiring a coach, and that he can take his time with that process. Just to give you an idea on when previous expansion teams hired their coaches, Nashville hired Barry Trotz in August of 1997, more than a year before the team began play in 1998-99. The Minnesota Wild (Jacques Lemaire), Columbus Blue Jackets (Dave King) and Atlanta Thrashers (Curt Fraser) made their first coaching hires closer to the team’s actual start dates.
— As far as the style of play that he wants to see, McPhee really seemed to focus on wanting to play an exciting, entertaining brand of hockey that people like. Seems fitting for an entertainment destination like Las Vegas.
— When it comes to building an organization out of nothing, it’s not just about the actual NHL team, either. You also need affiliates at the lower levels of pro hockey. Team owner Bill Foley mentioned Salt Lake City as an “interesting” option for a potential AHL team. There is currently an ECHL team, the Utah Grizzlies, that plays in a Salt Lake City suburb.
— As far as assembling the actual playing roster goes, the NHL’s expansion draft is scheduled to take place between June 17 and 20. Teams must submit their lists of protected and unprotected players by 5 p.m. ET on June 17. Las Vegas must then submit its selections by 5 p.m ET on June 20. The team will also be entered into the 2017 NHL draft lottery and will have the same odds at the top pick as the team that finishes with the third worst record in the league this upcoming season.
— McPhee pointed out that because of the current expansion draft rules and the players teams will and will not be able to protect, he should have more talent to pick from than previous expansion teams did when they entered the league. He also thinks Las Vegas is a team that free agents will want to play for.
— Beyond the expansion draft and the 2017 entry draft, he isn’t quite sure what the team can do as far as other roster moves until this upcoming NHL season is completed. One thing that will be interesting to watch is what he is able to do leading up to the expansion draft, and if he will be able to complete trades with other teams around the league. In previous expansion drafts teams made trades for “future considerations” where the expansion team would get a draft pick or a player if they promised to not take an unprotected player. Nashville ended up with Kimmo Timonen in one of those deals when the Los Angeles Kings traded him to prevent the Predators from taking Garry Galley in that year’s expansion draft. That one worked out quite well for the Predators.
Put it all together and that is one big, difficult job before he even gets to see his vision put into action on the ice.