Last week, we wrote about how it would be a while before the Vegas Golden Knights actually have an identity in the form of a professional roster. But the future of this organization could begin to take shape far sooner than the June 21st expansion draft. Not only will Vegas be able to make roster moves soon, but with the recent dismissal of Claude Julien and Ken Hitchcock, the adjective used to describe the head coaching market could be the same one used to precede Knights, golden.
Along with the 35 combined years of NHL coaching experience Julien and Hitchcock enter the market with, there is also the intriguing option of recent Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant. The 53-year-old helped turn the perennial doormat into a playoff team last season, before his unceremonious dismissal earlier this year.
Whether Vegas wants to lock up one of these great candidates or wait and see what else the market yields (Michel Therrien perhaps?), that won’t be the only decisions the team faces.
Once Bill Foley makes his final payment for the team – which is supposed to come before or at the March 1st trade deadline – the Golden Knights can begin signing undrafted free agents and swapping draft picks. They’ll also have the ability to make conditional trades: agreeing not to select certain unprotected players at the expansion draft in exchange for assets.
With a few teams needing to make moves at the trade deadline in order to better position themselves for the expansion, dealing directly with Vegas could actually prove easier. The Golden Knights may end up being the belle of the deadline ball.
Busy season is coming fast for Vegas general manager George McPhee, and we’ve got the odds for what exactly he’ll be up too.
Julien wasn’t deserving of being let go in the first place. He squeezed the most out of a talent depleted Bruins squad, and had them a point out of the playoffs at the time of his firing. Perhaps GM Don Sweeney was just looking for the newly fired coach surge that came for teams like the Blues and Islanders?
Either way, Julien is a proven winner in this league, and the grind-you-down-style of hockey he coaches could be a perfect fit for what this roster will end up looking like. McPhee has probably left him 50 voice messages since Monday.
Gallant could already have the inside track for the job though, considering he’s been in the unemployment line since November and there’s reports he’s already had an interview with the Golden Knights.
Hitchcock was supposed to be retiring after the season, so even though his resume is impressive (he’s one win behind Al Arbour for third-most coaching wins all-time), he may have a tough time convincing anyone his heart’s really in it. At 65 years old, the Golden Knights wouldn’t be hiring a coach for the next decade in Hitch.
Finally, there’s Capuano, who is… meh. There’s nothing overtly wrong with the guy, but leaving this coaching market with him is like going to the world’s best steakhouse and just getting a salad.
By the sounds of it, most GMs around the league aren’t too high on the upcoming entry draft class, meaning they’ll easily part with picks. With teams like the Rangers and Ducks in bad shape heading into the expansion draft, and certain to lose a low-cost productive player, giving up a glut of picks would be a fair price. Most teams would be thrilled if a late first round pick turns into Jakob Silfverberg: if you already have one on your roster, wouldn’t you give up that pick to keep him?
As important it is for Vegas to land quality players in the first year, stockpiling draft picks is how you build a championship team. Hopefully they exercise their first right of refusal while they still have it.
Photo Credit: Dan4th Nicholas (Flickr: 080920 Head Coach) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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