Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was unable to land the best player on the trading block prior to Monday’s deadline.
He settled for a nice consolation prize.
After reportedly missing out on Ottawa’s all-star defenseman Erik Karlsson, the Knights acquired left wing Tomas Tatar from Detroit in one of two deals McPhee made to bolster the Western Conference leaders.
To land Tatar, the Knights sent their first-round pick in June’s draft, a 2019 second-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick to the Red Wings.
The Knights also dealt wing Brendan Leipsic to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for minor league defenseman Philip Holm.
“We went into the deadline with one thing circled on our board and that was adding one more top-nine forward, and we accomplished that today,” McPhee said on a media conference call. “We’re trying to win right now. You go through things, and I really liked what our team has accomplished so far. And we wanted to keep it together.”
Tatar, 27, had 16 goals and 12 assists in 62 games for the Red Wings. The 5-foot-10-inch, 180-pound native of Slovakia has three straight 20-goal seasons, including a career-high 29 in 2014-15.
McPhee said Tatar was scheduled to arrive in Las Vegas on Monday night, and his status for Tuesday’s home game against Los Angeles is uncertain.
Tatar is signed through the 2020-21 season at an average annual salary of $5.3 million, making him the second-highest paid player on the Knights behind goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
“We didn’t want to trade draft picks for someone that isn’t going to be here after the summer,” McPhee said. “We have lots of picks, and to spread them out over four drafts, was not a problem for us. It was the way we were hoping to do a deal today.”
Following months of speculation, McPhee said he did not consider “flipping” pending unrestricted free agents James Neal, David Perron or Luca Sbisa, despite the seller’s market.
Rather, the Knights made a late push for Karlsson, but were unable to get a deal done for the two-time Norris Trophy winner prior to the noon (PT) deadline, according to multiple reports.
TSN insider Bob McKenzie reported the Knights were in the hardest on Karlsson at the end.
VGK was the team in the hardest on Erik Karlsson in the final hour but did not get a deal done with OTT.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 26, 2018
“I’m not going to comment on specific teams or players. I can tell you that we were very aggressive,” McPhee said. “We had many discussions with many teams over the past three weeks and explored a lot of things. But, as we debrief today, we’re very, very happy with what we accomplished and that our team is improved.”
Leipsic had two goals and 11 assists in 44 games, but struggled to produce on a consistent basis on the Knights’ third line.
Leipsic was a healthy scratch in four of the past five games.
“We wanted to give Brendan Leipsic an opportunity with another NHL team and did so and hope it goes well for him,” McPhee said.
Holm, 26, made his NHL debut Friday in Vancouver’s 6-3 loss to the Knights, and McPhee described him as an “offensive defenseman with some upside.” He was assigned by the Knights to Chicago of the American Hockey League.
Holm posted 11 goals and 18 assists in 42 games with Utica (AHL), leading the team’s defenseman in both categories.
Holm signed as a free agent with the Canucks in May after playing professionally in his native Sweden. He won a gold medal with Sweden at the 2016-17 World Championships.