The new Las Vegas expansion NHL team is rolling the dice with George McPhee as its first general manager. Prior to serving as an adviser to New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow, McPhee had been a longtime general manager of the Washington Capitals, replaced by Brian MacLellan prior to the 2014-15 season.
Owner Bill Foley picked McPhee out of seven candidates, according to the Associated Press. The Las Vegas team, which hasn’t been named yet, was selected as the NHL’s 31st franchise in June before the league’s annual awards ceremony in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas franchise will begin play in 2017-18.
“Our mission here is clear,” McPhee said at a news conference Wednesday in Las Vegas. “We’re going to build an organization and a team that people in Nevada and Las Vegas will be proud of, and we’re going to do it quickly and we’re aiming at the Stanley Cup. It’s that simple.”
McPhee was named general manager of the Capitals in 1997 and guided the team to its first and only trip to the Stanley Cup finals the following spring. Under McPhee, the Capitals won seven Southeast Division championships and a Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top regular season team in 2009-10.
But repeatedly failing to advance past the second round of the postseason with stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and missing the playoffs in 2013-14 led to McPhee’s dismissal after that season. He was also responsible for a lopsided trade that sent prospect Filip Forsberg to Nashville in exchange for Martin Erat and Michael Latta, both of whom are no longer in the Capitals organization, while Forsberg scored 64 points for the Predators last season.
One of McPhee’s top priorities will be assembling a front office staff from scratch, as compiling a team through an expansion draft next summer will be critical. With McPhee having hired most of the Capitals’ front office, there could be a ripple effect that impacts Washington. He told reporters at his press conference that he intends to add to his staff next week.
“Here you come in and it’s a clean slate and you get to pick everyone in your organization,” McPhee told reporters. “This is what every GM wants to experience at some point in his career.”