If you're Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee, you're looking for every break you can get within the confines of the rules as you build your expansion team.
So it was clever on his part to reach out to the NHL recently to ask this interesting question: Could other teams retain some salary of players taken in the expansion draft by the Golden Knights?
If you think about it, this would certainly make it more enticing for Vegas to select players whose contracts the other 30 teams are trying to get rid off.
Take, for example, Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings. The reality is that the Kings have not decided what they’re going to do with their former captain. He might very well stay put past this season.
But for argument’s sake, let’s pretend they expose him in the expansion draft and hope Vegas takes him in June. He has five more years on his contract past this season at a $5.875 million cap hit. That’s a mighty big commitment for Vegas. But if the Kings were eating some of that money, as rules allow in trades, Vegas might be interested.
In the end, deputy commissioner Bill Daly got back to McPhee last week with the answer: no. Teams will not be allowed to retain salary on players taken in the expansion draft.
However, retaining salary will certainly be allowed in any bona fide trade outside of the draft, just like any other team can.
That is where McPhee is going to have to do his work when it comes to taking on a few bad contracts in exchange for assets and getting teams to retain salary. It just means a little more horse trading on the side.
Speaking of which, the league hasn’t officially set the date on which Vegas can start making trades, but a source said that once Vegas has made its final expansion-fee payment, the team could get the green light to start trading. The plan is for Vegas to complete its final payment around March 1 (which is also the trade deadline), which should then allow McPhee to open up for business trade-wise. This is significant because the trade window would start much earlier than for past expansion teams, which had to wait until around the expansion draft to make their first trades.
Which, as a league source suggested, is exactly the point. No more deals in the drawer that look fishy months later. Instead, Vegas can make the deals expansion teams made in the past, but they have to be legitimate, transparent and compliant with league policies.