Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee had difficulty containing his excitement in anticipation of the NHL’s expansion draft list being released.
“The most fun I’ve ever had in hockey,” McPhee said in a video posted of him driving to the team’s headquarters on Sunday.
And that was before McPhee learned of the high-profile group of players he’ll have to choose from — limited to one from each of the 30 teams — in stocking the Golden Knights roster before submitting his list on Wednesday.
There’s a three-time Stanley Cup champion goalie in Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury available and several 20-plus-goal-scorers in Nashville’s James Neal and Minnesota’s Eric Staal. As there’s a number of top defensemen exposed such as Anaheim’s Sami Vatanen and Ottawa’s Marc Methot.
“The issue for us isn’t going to be, ‘Can we fill out the roster?’ ” McPhee told reporters after the list was released. “It would be, ‘Do we have too many players?’ There are a lot of good players there.”
Vegas is holding all the cards while the rest of the NHL comes to a full stop in awaiting McPhee to determine his selections over a three-day stretch during which the Golden Knights are the only team allowed to make trades and sign pending free agents.
McPhee wasn’t prepared to discuss individual players when specifically asked about Fleury, but noted there were no surprises based on the numerous mock drafts the Golden Knights conducted over the past few months. The one thing that didn’t materialize was a large number of trades happening involving players teams didn’t want to expose.
That benefits the Golden Knights because it maintained a deeper pool of talent available.
“We really like what we’re looking at right now,” McPhee said. “We expect to put a good, entertaining club on the ice.”
Salary cap rises
The NHL salary cap has been set at $75 million for this season in a slight increase over last year.
The league and NHL Players’ Association announced the cap and the salary floor of $55.4 million in a joint statement Sunday. The figures are set by the league’s hockey-related revenue.
It’s an increase of $2 million from the $73 million cap last season, as players elected to use their escalator clause to raise it.
Viva Las Vegas
Notable players left unprotected for Wednesday’s expansion draft:
Patrick Eaves, Anaheim; Radim Vrbata, Arizona; Troy Brouwer, Calgary; Reilly Smith, Panthers; Dustin Brown, Kings; Martin Hanzal, Wild; Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens; James Neal, Predators; Bobby Ryan, Senators; Bryan Rust, Penguins; Brian Boyle, Maple Leafs; T.J. Oshie, Capitals
Sami Vatanen, Anaheim; Zach Bogosian, Buffalo; Jack Johnson, Columbus; Matt Greene, Kings; Matt Dumba, Wild; Kevin Klein, Rangers; Marc Methot, Senators; Nail Yakupov, Blues; Jason Garrison, Lightning
Jonathan Bernier, Anaheim; Jaroslav Halak. Islanders; Steve Mason, Flyers; Marc-Andre Fleury. Penguins; Ryan Miller, Canucks