Jason Brough

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 13:  George McPhee speaks after being introduced as the general manager of the Las Vegas NHL franchise during a news conference at T-Mobile Arena on July 13, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Trades galore? McPhee expecting ‘a massive player redistribution before the expansion draft’

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Now that they have a name, the Vegas Golden Knights have to put a team on the ice.

The newly named franchise will get its first 30 players through the expansion draft in June, and Vegas general manager George McPhee and colleagues around the NHL are already deep in preparations and mock-ups.

Even though McPhee ran the Washington Capitals for 17 seasons, GMs around the NHL don’t have any clue how he’ll piece together the Golden Knights.

“I don’t have any inside knowledge what kind of team they’re planning to have, if it’s going to be younger or older – no idea,” longtime rival GM Ray Shero of the New Jersey Devils said by phone Wednesday. “He’s been a GM for a long time in Washington — I don’t think that comes into play at all in terms of where they’re going to be in Vegas and what kind of player they’re going to be looking for. … Maybe his opinion of some players has changed and the game where it is now, who knows.”

McPhee knows. And he knows that even as his front office does monthly mock drafts to prepare, things will change at the March 1 deadline and again before teams must submit their protected lists on June 17.

Read more: Golden Knights looking for an experienced head coach

Vegas won’t be able to pick from top stars like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, and first- and second-year pros like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews are exempt. The NHL also sent out a preliminary list of 66 players who must be protected because of no-movement clauses in their contracts.

Knowing each team’s top six or seven players are off the board, McPhee said the Golden Knights’ scouting staff has certain “bubble players” to focus on. That could be a moving target as GMs make trades and signings to be expansion-draft compliant and not give up a top player.

“There’s going to be a massive player redistribution before the expansion draft in the weeks leading up to it,” McPhee said. “We understand teams are going to try to not give us anything, and that’s the way expansion goes. There are a few teams that have expansion stress and we might be able to get a good player from them, and there’ll be some teams that don’t have anything and rather than take a bad contract we’ll take a throwaway pick.”

That’s one hint from McPhee’s past: He won’t take on burdensome contracts. So don’t expect Vegas to rid the Los Angeles Kings of the final five years and $5.875 million salary-cap hit of former captain Dustin Brown‘s deal, the Devils the final four years and $5.75 million cap hit of center Travis Zajac‘s and the Philadelphia Flyers the final three years and $5 million cap hit of defenseman Andrew MacDonald‘s.

Each team can protect seven forwards and three defensemen, or eight skaters of any position, plus one goalie, and all 30 will lose exactly one player. Even though the best will be protected, it figures to reason that the deepest teams are in the most danger of losing a quality player to Vegas.

Take the Chicago Blackhawks, who have eight players with no-movement clauses they must protect and could lose someone like center Marcus Kruger or young defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk. Or the Tampa Bay Lightning, who will protect goaltender of the future Andrei Vasilevskiy and won’t be able to keep 6-foot-7 pending free agent Ben Bishop, whether he’s traded, taken by Vegas or signed by someone else.

“It adds another team for you, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all,” Bishop said of the expansion draft. “Even if I wasn’t a free agent, there’s just that many good goalies in the league now and there’s only so many spots.”

Chicago, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, which will have to do something with Marc-Andre Fleury to keep 2016 Stanley Cup-winning goalie Matt Murray, and other contenders like Alex Ovechkin‘s Washington Capitals intend to worry about this season now and the expansion draft later.

“I think some of ours is contract related and will we be able to bring guys back or not bring guys back,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said. “We’re constantly looking at it, but we’re not making decisions yet because our immediate priority is having a winning season here.”

One advantage for Vegas is that it’ll be able to acquire draft picks or prospects in exchange for not selecting certain players. That’s right up McPhee’s alley, too, as he tries to make good on owner Bill Foley’s goal to win the Cup within six years.

“It all comes down to trying to build a good base but really doing well in the entry draft and getting our top players from the entry draft,” McPhee said.

Related: Vegas owner wants a ‘younger-oriented team’

 

Werenski learning the rigors of an NHL schedule

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 18:  Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets keeps control of the puck away from Derek Stepan #21 of the New York Rangers during the first period on November 18, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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If Zach Werenski were still at the University of Michigan, he’d have played about half the number of games he’s played this season for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The 19-year-old defenseman is quickly learning that all those additional games — against big, strong NHLers to boot — can be an adjustment for the body.

“I was told at the beginning of the year there would be days when you are tired, days when you are beat up,” Werenski told the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s part of being a pro. I’ve never played this many games in a short amount of time. Each game is hard, each game is physical. It’s the best league in the world for a reason.”

A quarter of the way through the season, Werenski is a strong candidate for the Calder Trophy. His 15 points (5G, 10A) are tops among rookie defenseman, and he’s helped turn the Blue Jackets’ power play into a lethal unit.

But it will be interesting to see how he progresses as the season wears on. His coach, John Tortorella, is famous for riding his top players. Monday against Colorado, Werenski logged 25:04 in a 3-2 overtime defeat. Two days later, it was 23:22 in a 2-0 loss to Calgary.

The Jackets (10-5-3) have three games left in November, starting tonight in Tampa Bay. Their December is going to be a serious slog, with 14 games in 31 days.

The Wolverines, meanwhile, only have six games in December, with a nice long break for Christmas.

Welcome to the NHL, Zach.

No ‘first-termers’ need apply: Golden Knights looking for an experienced head coach

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 13:  George McPhee (L) and majority owner of the Las Vegas NHL franchise Bill Foley take questions from members of the media after Foley announced McPhee as the team's general manager during a news conference at T-Mobile Arena on July 13, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Whoever the Vegas Golden Knights name as their first head coach in franchise history, hockey fans will probably know the name.

That was the only clue the team’s owner, Bill Foley, would provide Wednesday on the Prime Time Sports radio show, adding that general manager George McPhee has “a list of six or seven candidates” for the position.

“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”

Foley didn’t list any names, for obvious reasons. But just to throw a few out there: Bob Hartley, Kevin Dineen, and Ralph Krueger. And if the Boston Bruins miss the playoffs for a third straight year, Claude Julien could certainly become available.

“The coaching situation will probably not resolve itself until after the regular season,” said Foley.

Related: Vegas owner wants a ‘younger-oriented team’

Flames call up Jankowski, their first-round pick in 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 22: Mark Jankowski, 21st overall pick by the Calgary Flames, speaks to media during Round One of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 22, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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The Calgary Flames have called up forward Mark Jankowski from the AHL’s Stockton Heat.

Yes, the same Mark Jankowski that former assistant GM John Weisbrod once compared to Joe Nieuwendyk.

Jankowski has three goals and nine assists in 13 games for the Heat. This is his first full season as a professional, after spending four years at Providence College.

Read more: Flames sign Jankowski, who was ‘very much a project’ when he was drafted

A first-round pick of the Flames in 2012, Jankowski could have become a free agent this summer, a la Jimmy Vesey. But despite the opportunity, he saw no reason to sign elsewhere.

“Honestly, there was no looking around,” he told the Calgary Sun in March.

The Flames play tonight in Boston, but Jankowski is not expected to draw into the lineup. Their next game is Sunday in Philadelphia, and then they finish their road trip Monday in Brooklyn.

Pre-game reading: On Patrick Sharp’s scary concussion experience

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— Up top, does Artemi Panarin ever score an ugly goal? Another beauty one-timer last night in San Jose, albeit in a losing effort.

Patrick Sharp on his latest concussion: “Most injuries you can circle a date, but the injury I suffered was a day-to-day thing I thought I had experienced in the past, but never quite like this. … The type of injury that I had, you hear some scary stories from around the league. … I’m thankful I was able to come out of it and feel healthy and strong.” (Dallas Morning News)

— Following the unveiling of the Vegas Golden Knights, the Hockey News takes a look at the top 10 expansion logos of the modern NHL era. The winner? The Vegas Golden Knights, apparently. (Hockey News)

Martin Hanzal is a very important part of the Arizona Coyotes, both as a player and rode model for the team’s many youngsters. But the big center is also a pending UFA who’s had his name bandied about in trade rumors. So his situation is definitely worth monitoring. The Coyotes are already seven points out of a playoff spot. If they don’t re-sign him, you have to think they’ll trade him before March 1. (Arizona Republic)

— What’s it like to be the first NHL goalie from Denmark? The story of Frederik Andersen, who’s rebounded nicely after a tough start for his new team in Toronto. (Canadian Press)

Matthew Benning has some solid NHL bloodlines. His father, Brian, played over 500 games in the league as a defenseman. His uncle, Jim, was an NHL d-man too, and is currently the GM of the Vancouver Canucks. Now it’s Matthews’ turn to play — and play pretty well, apparently — as a rookie defenseman for the Edmonton Oilers. The 22-year-old was originally drafted by the Boston Bruins, but opted not to sign with them, due in part to all the young d-men in their system. (Edmonton Journal)

— TSN’s stats guy, Travis Yost, asks the question: Why has Joe Thornton stopped shooting the puck? To which we’d like to know: When did he ever start? (TSN)

Tweet of the Day

OK, fine, that was an old tweet, but Hutton signed a contract extension today, so you know he’s gonna bust out some moves.

Enjoy the games!