Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee may have some hard decisions to make come February.
McPhee has all along made clear his intentions to take a long-term approach to building a contender in Nevada, but a surprisingly hot start by his team has some wondering whether the expansion franchise could make the playoffs in its inaugural season.
The Golden Knights enter Saturday’s play with an 8-4-0 record, good for second place in the Pacific Division, and the longer they remain in playoff position, the harder it’ll be for McPhee to ship off assets for futures come this season’s trade deadline.
“If they are on the bubble for an eighth slot … what do you do with James Neal?” asked Gare Joyce on the Sportsnet Hot Stove.
(Discussion of Vegas begins at 3:45 in the player below)
Neal is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and is off to a strong start with seven goals in 12 games. The 30-year-old would make an easy sell to teams at the deadline that are looking to add a scoring punch to their lineups, but convincing Vegas fans that the Knights are better off without the one-time 40-goal-scorer would be a bit more difficult.
“It’s problematic though with a first-year team, there is the matter of appearances,” said Joyce. “I don’t know that you’re sending a great message to your fans if you say, ‘Against all odds we’re contending and maybe we’ll make the playoffs but we’re going to try doing it without this guy and we’re pointing to the future.'”