DALLAS — The moment George McPhee probably has been dreading for months is here.
With the NHL draft having concluded Saturday and the Golden Knights addressing their distant future with eight picks, McPhee, the team’s general manager, now turns his attention to free agency and the franchise’s immediate future.
Unrestricted free agents can begin contacting other teams Sunday night and sign starting July 1. The Knights have four unrestricted free agents — forwards James Neal, David Perron and Ryan Reaves and defenseman Luca Sbisa — and McPhee said Saturday that the team has extended offers to all four.
“So far, they haven’t been accepted, so we’ll see where the process takes us,” McPhee said. “But there’s a line there. You either have a deal or you don’t.”
Neal, who turns 31 in September, rejected a five-year $25 million offer, according to reports out of Canada. He wants $6 million a year over six years; he made $5 million last season.
Reaves, who made $1.12 million last season, also wants a longer-term deal with an increase in pay.
“We made our offer, and they said they’d circle back,” McPhee said. “They’re looking for a longer term, and if they get it, they won’t be back.”
The Knights also have five restricted free agents, headed by forward William Karlsson, the team’s top goal scorer. Defensemen Colin Miller and Shea Theodore and forwards Will Carrier and Tomas Nosek also are restricted free agents.
The team has eight free agents in the minors, including goaltenders Oscar Dansk (restricted) and Maxime Lagace (unrestricted).
McPhee said the NHL’s hard salary cap dictates how teams do business.
“You have to pay attention to the analytics,” McPhee said. “They really help you make your decisions now. There’s certain things it tells you that you have to pay attention to. It’s really different. But it makes things easier.
“Sometimes you feel a certain way about a player, but the information you have tells you something different. Especially now in the cap world, you have to make some cold, hard decisions.”
Money isn’t the problem. The Knights have about $31 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly.com.
One player they might be pursuing is Islanders star forward John Tavares, who told the New York team on Saturday that he would entertain offers from other franchises. Five teams, including the Knights, reportedly will meet with Tavares and his agent, Pat Brisson, on Monday and Tuesday in Los Angeles.
McPhee would not discuss Tavares, saying it would be tantamount to tampering. But he told the NHL Network, “We’ll talk to whoever we can.”
One potential target came off the market Saturday when forward Ilya Kovalchuk signed a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings. Another possible free-agent target, Washington defenseman John Carlson, reportedly is close to re-signing with the Capitals.
But McPhee is convinced he can sell free agents on playing in Las Vegas.
“I’ve said it on a number of occasions, I think we have a lot to offer,” he said. “Good team. Great owner. Fantastic fans. A fantastic arena. Great city … easy to get around. Great weather. No state income tax.
“We’ll explore it, and whether we do anything or not, I’m not sure. There’s no urgency for us to do anything. We like the model we have. If we can make our team better, we will. It comes down to if it’s a good fit for both sides.”