Monday was going to be difficult for George McPhee, even under the best of circumstances.
The Golden Knights general manager was charged with informing several players that their NHL dream was over for now. But given the events of late Sunday when a gunman perpetrated a mass killing on the Strip, McPhee’s burden grew heavier.
“When your phone starts to ping, you know there’s something wrong,” he said. “But all our players and staff were safe.”
Amid the backdrop of a city trying to come to grips with tragedy, McPhee was the bearer of bad news during the day as the Knights looked to reach the NHL roster limit of 23 players. The team had 29 players after Sunday’s 5-3 preseason finale loss to the San Jose Sharks at T-Mobile Arena.
One move made was with Teemu Pulkkinen, the forward who had been acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in the NHL Expansion Draft. Pulkkinen was placed on waivers despite two goals and an assist in four preseason games.
The other move was assigning forward Tomas Hyka to the Chicago Wolves, the Knights’ American Hockey League affiliate. Hyka was second on the team in scoring during the preseason with four goals and an assist in five games.
“Tomas played very well,” McPhee said. “He deserves to get some games here, and we look forward to making that call to bring him back up.”
McPhee said the other moves will be made Tuesday morning. But he wouldn’t say what they are.
“We’ve made some final decisions,” he said.
The team still has 11 defensemen and plans to keep seven, eight at the most. Brad Hunt had a strong training camp. But was it enough? Will Shea Theodore stay in the NHL? Or will the fact he still has nonwaiver options ultimately put him in the AHL with the Wolves?
One player who was waiting to hear his fate was forward Brendan Leipsic. He appeared in two preseason games after injuring his shoulder Sept. 21 and missed five days of training camp.
“I think I got a fair chance,” said Leipsic, who was taken from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the expansion draft. “You always want to make the team. But it’s also a business.”
The Knights open the season Friday at the Dallas Stars. And while they will turn in their roster Tuesday, they might not announce all their moves at that time.
McPhee also said the team is combing the waiver wire. “But right now, we’re not planning on doing anything,” he said.