While many of the general managers around the NHL are busy preparing for the opening of free agency, George McPhee packed up his metaphorical rod and reel and hung a sign on his office door for the summer.
“Ideally, you’d like to be in a place with respect to free agency where you could just go fishing,” he said.
McPhee, the Golden Knights incoming president of hockey operations, doesn’t expect to have a line in the water when the league-wide shopping spree commences at 9 a.m. Monday.
With the few holes to plug in the lineup and little to no room left under the salary cap, McPhee’s focus this week appears to be re-signing players.
That may include fourth-line center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, as the team remains in the mix to re-sign the unrestricted free agent, according to a source.
“I don’t anticipate doing a whole lot more. We’re in a pretty good place right now,” McPhee said. “We’ll see what’s out there. As you all know, we’re not big-game hunting. We’re not going to be aggressive in free agency … because a lot of mistakes are made at that time of year because you feel like you’ve just got to have a guy.
“And then it’s more money and more term than you ever imagined at the end of it, and then in October, you’re looking back and going, ‘Why did we do that?’ So, we can sit back and just see what’s available and see what makes sense for our team. If there is, we might do something about it. If there isn’t, we’re fine.”
Last summer, the Knights were busy on the first day of free agency, adding center Paul Stastny and defensemen Nick Holden and re-signing wing Ryan Reaves.
A notably forthcoming McPhee confirmed to the media during development camp last week that unrestricted free-agent defenseman Deryk Engelland is close to returning.
The only contract details yet to be worked out with the Las Vegas resident were performance bonuses. Engelland had a $1.5 million cap hit last season and made another $1 million in bonuses, according to the website CapFriendly.
McPhee also verified that restricted free agent Tomas Nosek was not offered a qualifying offer by Tuesday’s deadline because the team is close to a deal with the 26-year-old forward.
The club made qualifying offers to restricted free agents Jake Bischoff, Jimmy Schuldt and Malcolm Subban.
The lone unresolved issue for the Knights appears to be restricted free agent Nikita Gusev.
McPhee expressed no urgency to get a deal done with the Russian import, who had been expected to sign for an annual average salary between $3 million and $4 million. The playmaking wing is eligible for arbitration, according to CapFriendly, and the cost to sign Gusev ultimately could determine whether the Knights can afford to bring back Bellemare.
Unrestricted free agent Ryan Carpenter reportedly has drawn interest from the Avalanche and Blackhawks during the interview period and is unlikely to return to the Knights. Same for Brandon Pirri, who is a UFA and looking for a full-time NHL job.
“We’re in talks with everybody. We’ve got dialogue going with everybody,” McPhee said. “Again, we’re pretty sure on who’s coming back and who’s not. We’ll just see how the next couple days go.”