‘We’re here to win,’ says NHL’s new­est ad­di­tion

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - SPORTS - STEPHEN WHYNO

SEA IS­LAND, Ga. — Seat­tle’s NHL ex­pan­sion team has its roots in Dave Tip­pett’s com­puter.

That’s where the long­time coach­turned-se­nior ad­viser keeps a run­ning list of play­ers around the league who might be avail­able in an ex­pan­sion draft that is still 2.5 years off. It is just an ex­er­cise for now but will be­come a key build­ing block when Seat­tle picks its first play­ers in June 2021.

“Ev­ery year it’ll change a lit­tle bit,” Tip­pett said. “By the time it gets here, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where you think teams are go­ing to fall.”

Long months are ahead be­fore the as-yet-un­named team plays its first game, but work is al­ready un­der­way and the ef­fort can be­gin in earnest now that the NHL Board of Gov­er­nors has of­fi­cially awarded Seat­tle a fran­chise. Ground­break­ing on a to­tal over­haul of KeyArena is Wed­nes­day, and Seat­tle’s front of­fice will spend the rest of this sea­son plot­ting the course for an or­ga­ni­za­tion that has a tough act to fol­low af­ter the Ve­gas Golden Knights reached the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal in their in­au­gu­ral sea­son.

“Part of the DNA of this own­er­ship group is we’re ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive,” said Tod Lei­weke, a mi­nor­ity part­ner, pres­i­dent and CEO of Seat­tle Hockey Part­ners. “We’re here to win. And we want to win. So we’re go­ing to look at th­ese time­lines and how it can be put to our ad­van­tage.”

That means Tip­pett will watch the rest of this sea­son with an eye on the new team’s fu­ture and he will sketch out the be­gin­nings of a hockey op­er­a­tions de­part­ment. He will likely be se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of hockey op­er­a­tions and have a big say in choos­ing the first gen­eral man­ager of the league’s 32nd team.

Tip­pett will likely hire some scouts this sum­mer and move for­ward on the GM search.

“When you’re a year or two out, ev­ery­thing con­tin­ues to evolve,” Tip­pett said. “You con­tinue to mon­i­tor things. It’s an ever-chang­ing world out there right now in the hockey world be­tween coaches and GMs.”

Veteran Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Hol­land is con­sid­ered a po­ten­tial can­di­date, and Ve­gas as­sis­tant Kelly McCrim­mon would know the recipe for a suc­cess­ful ex­pan­sion draft af­ter help­ing Ge­orge McPhee put the Golden Knights to­gether. The same rules will be in place that al­low teams to pro­tect only seven for­wards, three de­fence­men and a goal­tender, or eight skaters at any po­si­tion and a goal­tender.

That means that for $650 mil­lion, Seat­tle will have an op­por­tu­nity to win right away.

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