Ve­gas GM owes thanks to own­ers, NFL

Build­ing first pro team, McPhee crafts a win­ner

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - Kevin Allen

LAS VE­GAS – Ve­gas Golden Knights gen­eral man­ager Ge­orge McPhee was named a fi­nal­ist for the NHL’s GM of the year and we don’t need Las Ve­gas book­mak­ers to tell us he’s a pro­hib­i­tive fa­vorite to win the award.

The man has built the best ex­pan­sion team in pro­fes­sional sports his­tory. The Golden Knights are two wins short of qual­i­fy­ing for the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal head­ing into Fri­day’s Game 4 at T-Mo­bile Arena (8 p.m ET, NBC Sports Net­work). They lead the Win­nipeg Jets 2-1 in their Western Con­fer­ence fi­nal se­ries.

The al­ways-gra­cious McPhee will want to thank those who helped him get here, so we’ve tried to be help­ful by filling out “Thank You” cards for him:

Dear Marc-An­dre Fleury: Many thanks for your de­ci­sion to waive your no-trade clause with the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins to al­low us to se­lect you in the ex­pan­sion draft. We wouldn’t be where we are with­out your goal­tend­ing and your pres­ence in the dress­ing room. Your will­ing­ness to pro­mote our team has helped us grow strong roots in the com­mu­nity. Peo­ple said you were a classy gen­tle­man and the per­fect team­mate, but you can’t fully ap­pre­ci­ate those traits un­til you see them up close and per­sonal as we have.

Dear Ve­gas owner Bill Fo­ley: Thanks for every­thing, es­pe­cially the “Golden Knights” nick­name and for say­ing we could make the play­offs in three years and win the Stan­ley Cup in six. We’re not afraid of high ex­pec­ta­tions in Ve­gas.

Dear NHL Com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman: Thanks for sign­ing off on a more gen­er­ous player dis­per­sal sys­tem for the ex­pan­sion draft. This should be a model for fu­ture ex­pan­sion in all sports. When you see how this has helped es­tab­lish our team, you won­der why we were so hard on past ex­pan­sion teams. When McDon­ald’s Cor­po­ra­tion awards a new fran­chise, the com­pany doesn’t in­sist that it launch with in­fe­rior items on the menu. Why did sports leagues do that for so many years?

Dear Florida Pan­thers GM Dale Tal­lon: Should prob­a­bly send you a box of choco­lates along with this “thank you” for the sweet deal you gave us on Jonathan Marches­sault and Reilly Smith. Land­ing Marches­sault to take Smith’s con­tract off your hands gave us twothirds of our top line. For­ever grate­ful.

Dear NFL: Thanks for mov­ing slowly on com­ing to Las Ve­gas, be­cause we’ve been the first to plant our flag and win over this in­cred­i­bly pas­sion­ate fan base. It’s laugh­able now that some peo­ple be­lieved pro sports wouldn’t work here.

Dear Florida Pan­thers: Thanks to who­ever made the fi­nal de­ci­sion to fire Ger­ard “Turk” Gal­lant as coach. (Dale Tal­lon didn’t have fi­nal say at the time.) All that matters is Turk was avail­able to be our coach. He’s per­fect to lead our band of Golden Mis­fits.

Dear Ex­pend­ables: Thanks to all of my play­ers who came in with the at­ti­tude that their for­mer teams were wrong to make them avail­able to us. Wil­liam Karls­son went from six goals for the Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets to 43 for us. Erik Haula went from 15 goals for the Min­nesota Wild to 29.

Dear for­mer Min­nesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher: Sorry you had so many skilled play­ers on your ros­ter that you couldn’t pro­tect them all. You were in a dif­fi­cult position that forced you to give us two qual­ity play­ers (Haula and Alex Tuch) to pro­tect play­ers such as Mathew Dumba and Marco Scan­della, etc.

Dear NHL own­ers: Thanks for in­sist­ing on a hard salary cap in 2005 be­cause that forced teams to give us play­ers they didn’t nec­es­sar­ily want to part with.

Dear Washington Cap­i­tals: Thanks for fir­ing me in 2014. While I didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate it then, I now see it as a lucky break. It led to me be­ing avail­able to take this dream job. I’ve had a chance to build a team from the ground up in a city that wants to cel­e­brate a sport I love. What could be bet­ter?

ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IM­AGES

Golden Knights gen­eral man­ager Ge­orge McPhee has built a cham­pi­onship team with light­ning speed.

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