Gerard Gallant listens during a news conference Thursday, April 13, 2017, in Las Vegas. The Vegas Golden Knights have hired Gallant as the first coach of the NHL expansion team. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Las Vegas NHL team ready to deal before expansion draft

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Vegas is ready to deal.

George McPhee, the expansion Golden Knights’ general manager, had such a busy week of trade talks at the NHL’s pre-draft combine in Buffalo that he anticipates formally announcing several trades within the next few days.

“We’re far enough along with a few teams that my plan is to sit on the phone all day Monday, Tuesday to see what we can accomplish,” McPhee said Saturday. “We’ve had some real good discussions and I expect some things will start happening next week.”

That’s a little ahead of schedule for McPhee, who expected attending the combine to focus mostly on assessing the pool of prospects Vegas might consider selecting with its seven picks — starting with No. 6 overall — at the entry draft in Chicago on June 23-24.

Instead, McPhee couldn’t get through his hotel lobby without fielding trade offers in advance of the expansion draft June 21.

“It seemed the other day we go down to lunch, and I ran into a few GMs and the conversations started,” McPhee said. “It’s been a busy week, but certainly productive.”

The trades McPhee is referring to are those he anticipates to make in advance of the expansion draft, when Vegas will select one player off each of the 30 teams’ unprotected lists. Teams, however, can influence the Golden Knights’ decision on which player to pick or avoid by agreeing to trades beforehand.

That leaves McPhee juggling numerous trade options and opportunities to acquire players or draft picks as compensation to address the franchise’s short- and long-term needs.

McPhee’s objective is stockpiling draft picks and he didn’t rule out acquiring them in exchange for players with high-priced contracts from teams experiencing salary-cap issues.

“Most of the guys have been really forthright in what they want to do, who they’ll probably expose and who they’d like to protect,” McPhee said. “And we’re trying to find ways to accommodate each other. We won’t be able to do that with everyone.”

The Golden Knights have been the focus of attention and McPhee on every team’s speed dial because he holds most of the cards when it comes to the expansion draft.

Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treviling went so far as to jokingly refer to McPhee as being some sort of “puppeteer” during an interview with Canada’s TSN cable network this week.

McPhee laughed when informed of Treliving’s remark.

“I’ve been called worse,” he said.

The expansion draft process opens on June 18, when the NHL will reveal the list of players available to the Golden Knights. The players will include pending restricted and unrestricted free agents, which Vegas can consider signing over a three-day period before the team submits its list of selections.

McPhee and his staff have spent much of the past year conducting a series of mock drafts to prepare for the draft. McPhee, however, acknowledged there’s no way of determining what strategy the team takes until the actual list is revealed.

“Until we see everything, it’s hard to know,” he said.

McPhee doesn’t see a need to add a marquee player to generate a buzz and compete for attention in a city renowned for its entertainment excesses.

“The face of our franchise will be our logo. That’s the way we’re going to try and to things and be team-centric,” he said. “We don’t feel the need to go get names.”

That won’t halt the speculation, McPhee acknowledged, particularly regarding his ties to Washington as the Capitals former GM.

One rumour has Alex Ovechkin linked to Vegas.

“It doesn’t surprise me because of our relationship,” McPhee said, before breaking into a laugh. “But I don’t think anything will be happening there. There’s too many jerseys with No. 8 on them in the seats in Washington from moving that player.”

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