For George McPhee, NHL expansion draft isn't personal. It's just business. – Washington Post

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It’s certainly odd that the center of the hockey universe as June nears its end is Las Vegas, where the high Wednesday is projected to be — seriously — 116 degrees. But it might be odder still that the man at the center’s center is a congenial but competitive, unfailingly polite former hockey pugilist who also happens to hold a law degree.

George McPhee is, in a lot of ways, a hockey contradiction. Once a college player of the year because of his scoring touch, he became an undersized fighter in the NHL. So it is striking to hear McPhee, whose collar and manner are both stiff, be quite frank in his current assessment of his standing in his sport.

“We are going to pick our team tomorrow,” McPhee told reporters Monday.

The translation is roughly this: I have 30 other general managers by the throat, and I don’t mind tightening my grip just a bit.

For 16 seasons, McPhee was the general manager of the Washington Capitals. Now, he holds the same position with the Vegas Golden Knights, and his recent actions make you wonder whether he held the “Las” before the team’s name hostage. The Knights haven’t yet played a game and don’t yet have an NHL player, yet McPhee holds all the power.

McPhee forever will be criticized in these parts for some, shall we say, notable moves. (Wait, you’re telling me Nashville protected Filip Forsberg, and Martin Erat hasn’t played in the league since 2015?) But he also shrewdly deconstructed an aging, overpriced team by selling off parts for prospects and picks in advance of an NHL work stoppage. Those players eventually became the core of Alex Ovechkin’s Capitals, a group that, for all its disappointments, has changed hockey in this town.


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