Bill Foley wants to win. George McPhee wants to win. Kelly McCrimmon wants to win. Chance wants to win, even though he had no business doing so against Gritty in the NHL’s best mascot contest. Talk about some shady mail-in voting.
It might never happen for the Golden Knights and owner Foley and others. They might never win a Stanley Cup. Buffalo. San Jose. Florida. Minnesota. Vancouver. There are 11 franchises that have not done it. Some old. Some young. One owned by loony-tunes Eugene Melnyk.
But if the Knights don’t continue to contend for the foreseeable future, it won’t be for a lack of trying. Wayne Gretzky said that you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. McPhee as vice president of hockey operations for Vegas seems as if he takes 100 a day.
He swung for the fences again and went all Aaron Judge on a grooved fastball, the Knights having signed one of hockey’s five or so best defensemen in Alex Pietrangelo. The term is seven years at an annual salary of $8.8 million. Pietrangelo joins forward Mark Stone as Vegas players with a full no-movement clause, meaning those who can’t be waived, assigned to the minors or traded without approval. No one else with the Knights is totally safe in such a way.
To that end, let’s be clear: Stop with all the nonsense about loyalty. This is the business of sport. It’s cutthroat and should be. People are paid millions of dollars to make the decisions they think give their organization the best chance at winning.
If that means dumping salary with the likes of Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt for next to nothing in return so that you can sign Pietrangelo because you believe he’s the missing piece to winning a Cup, then do so.
McPhee is Dwight Schrute from “The Office,” not the most affable of sorts but someone who wants to get the job done. How successful his moves prove over time, however, is a completely different matter.
It’s one thing to sell lots of paper. But your return better prove worthy.
Of those major trades and signings he has made with the Knights — not including Pietrangelo, because nobody has a clue how it will work out — McPhee has proved more right than wrong.
Trading for Stone at the 2019 deadline has, for the most part, worked. Stone remains the team’s best player from a deal in which the Knights sent Ottawa forward Oscar Lindberg, defenseman Erik Brannstrom and a second-round pick.
I’m only upset that the throw-in player with Stone, prospect Tobias Lindberg, is already gone from the franchise. The only people I know whose name is Tobias and did something of note are Tobey Maguire and Tobias Smollett. One is Spider-Man and the other died in 1771, but penned some damn fine poetry back in the day. Would have been nice to watch a third Tobias blossom.
Trading for forward Max Pacioretty in September 2018 hasn’t been any sort of hat trick. He was hurt more than most realized and played like it in the recent hub city playoffs. It’s also true those whom the Knights gave up have done quite well in Montreal; Nick Suzuki is now a second-line center and Tomas Tatar led the Canadians in scoring in this shortened regular season with 61 points after being second last season with 58.
And, of course, the goalies. Always, the goalies.
Silly Fleury extension
McPhee’s worst move with the Knights — by far — was extending Marc-Andre Fleury for three years and $21 million in July 2018. It made no sense then and has come back to limit what Vegas can do now.
McCrimmon as general manager did some solid spin control this week when explaining why Vegas will keep Fleury even after trading for Robin Lehner at this year’s deadline and then signing him to a five-year, $25 million deal.
The nonspin truth is, they couldn’t find any takers for Fleury at the suggested price. Vegas had no leverage. It has had little in any of these deals.
But the Knights keep trying. They want to win it all like crazy. Cap issues. Dumping salaries. Swinging for the fences. Having to keep a backup goalie who’s making $2 million more than the starter. They will roll with all of it if it means lifting the Cup.
In fact, the only thing that might mean more to some Vegas management types is sticking a sword through agent Allan Walsh’s back with the word “Goodbye” scrawled across the blade.
Alas, he represents Fleury and Pacioretty.
Who are, for the moment, still with the team.
Which around here could mean just about anything.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.