Las Vegas Expansion Approved, Operations Questions Remain

New Las Vegas NHL franchise owner Bill Foley and commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League pose for a photo during the Board of Governors Press Conference prior to the 2016 NHL Awards at Encore Las Vegas on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Las Vegas Expansion Approved, Operations Questions Remain
Philip Wischmeyer

The Las Vegas expansion is officially happening.

Yes, we’ve known for a while now, but with yesterday’s announcement by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, it is officially a lock. The league’s board of governors voted unanimously to approve the transaction, and with a $500 million entry fee paid, Las Vegas owner Bill Foley will now begin to work on building his operations staff.

“We’ve been an employed staff of two for the past couple of years, working with the NHL to make (Las Vegas expansion) happen,” Foley said during yesterday’s press conference in Vegas. “Things will begin moving quickly now as we start hiring hockey operations people.”

While there is no definitive time table on when the team will have it’s operations staff in place, many expect a president, general manager, and scouting department to take shape within the next month or two.

Top GM Candidates

Don Maloney

The recently fired Arizona Coyotes GM is the first name that comes to mind. He served as the New York Islanders general manager from 1992 to 1995, then went to the New York Rangers’ vice-president of player personnel and was also Assistant GM to Glen Sather from 1996 to 2007. In 2007 he was hired as the GM of the Coyotes where he did an excellent job drafting young talent like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Connor Murphy, Michael Stone, Max Domi, Jordan Martinook, Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Brendan Perlini, and goaltender Louis Domingue. He’s my bet to win the job, but could be a possible candidate for president of hockey operations as well.

Laurence Gilman

Gilman has been the assistant GM for the Vancouver Canucks since 2008. He has a law background which can be very valuable as a GM in contract negotiations, and he played 13 seasons in the NHL as well. He has been a rumored GM candidate for several years, and with his knowledge of the league and players he would be an excellent choice to help build Las Vegas’ roster

Paul Fenton

David Poile and Fenton have been the GM and assistant GM in Nashville since the team’s inception in 1997. Fenton has experience as a player, and also serves as the GM to the AHL Milwaukee Admirals. He has an in depth scouting database and has been around the league his entire life. He seems to be comfortable in Nashville, but the right offer could lure him away.

Darcy Regier

Regier was the GM of the Buffalo Sabres from 1997-2013, and is now a senior vice president and assistant general manager of the Arizona Coyotes, as well as the general manager of the Springfield Falcons. Regier is another guy, like Gilman and Fenton, who has been in the league a long time and has an intimate network of professional connections. Regier would be valuable not only for building a roster, but also for constructing the coaching and scouting staffs.

Pierre McGuire

Pierre is currently an analyst for NBC, but has been a head coach and assistant coach in the past. His knowledge of NHL players would make him a decent choice, but the main reason would be the marketing potential. McGuire is a big name that would bring lot’s of good PR, and would help to grow the game in Sin City.

Scott Howson

I consider Howson a dark horse to win the job. He is a retired player, current Senior VP of Hockey Operations for the Edmonton Oilers, and former GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets. In Columbus, Howson selected successful high draft picks such as Ryan Johansen, Boone Jenner, Ryan Murray, Joonas Korpisalo, Jakub Voracek, and Derick Brassard. He also found late round gems like Anton Forsberg, Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, and David Savard. His trade of Rick Nash was highly criticized at the time, but the return of Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first round pick proved to be beneficial in building Columbus’ team.

The common theme during the expansion process has been making the Las Vegas team competitive immediately. Of course Bettman and Foley are going to preach that the team will be able to compete right out of the gate, but even several NHL GM’s have stated that they think this could be the best expansion team the league has ever seen. Several rules regarding the expansion draft have been put into place to help this.

The full list of rules pertaining the Las Vegas expansion can be found at NHL.com.

Philip Wischmeyer

NHL editor and contributing writer for Along The Boards. Semi-frequent guest on The Charity Strike sports podcast. I love to write and talk about hockey and have been doing so for over two years now. I often play the role of reliable realist, and do well to keep my views as objective as possible.

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