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Vegas Golden Knights to compile roster beginning Sunday

This time, it’s for real.

Since October, the Golden Knights’ hockey operations staff has conducted several mock exercises for the NHL Expansion Draft. And while it has learned a lot about the process and the results have been different each time, general manager George McPhee and his group will spend the next three days going through the process one final time.

Only now, it counts. No second chances. It’s 30 players, one from each NHL team, and they become the Knights’ property. The team will receive the list of available players from the NHL at 7 a.m. Sunday and will have 72 hours to compile its roster and submit it to the league.

The 30-man roster will be announced during the NHL Awards Show on Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena.

The Knights also can make deals to either select or not take a player. One such move was reported by the Columbus Dispatch on Saturday.

The Columbus Blue Jackets reportedly have sent their first-round draft pick, No. 24 overall, in the NHL Entry Draft on Friday to the Knights, who in exchange won’t take backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, forward Matt Calvert or defenseman Jack Johnson. The Knights also would agree to take on the salary of David Clarkson, who has back issues and is not expected to play again. His salary cap hit is $5.25 million.

The Knights also will enter an exclusive free-agency period coinciding with the draft selection window that allows them to pursue any unrestricted free agent. Any signing would count as the player’s former team’s selection in the expansion draft.

“We’re ready,” McPhee said. “We really believe we know what the other teams are going to do before they know what they’re doing. That’s how prepared I believe we are.”

The deadline for the 30 other teams to make a predraft trade among themselves was noon Saturday and won’t be lifted until 5 a.m. Thursday. Their lists of protected players were due by 2 p.m. Saturday.

The biggest trade saw Arizona send veteran goaltender Mike Smith to Calgary for goalie Chad Johnson, prospect Brandon Hickey and a conditional third-round pick in 2018.

Several teams looking to make moves, such as Minnesota, the New York Islanders and Anaheim, were unable to do so and now must deal with McPhee to try to guard against the Knights grabbing their most valued exposed players.

“Vegas has indicated that they will give all 30 clubs every opportunity to keep their rosters intact if they’d like,” the Knights said in a statement released Saturday afternoon. “This means that before the Golden Knights claim a player off a team’s unprotected list, McPhee and his staff are willing to negotiate deals so the other clubs do not lose a player they would otherwise like to keep.”

McPhee has often indicated he wants a team that can skate fast, move the puck quickly in transitioning from defense to offense, win battles along the boards and in front of the net, play with a bit of an edge and outwork the opposition. He also wants character guys who will keep the locker room positive while being good role models.

“It’s not just on the ice,” he said. “We want our players to be good ambassadors off the ice and be part of the Las Vegas community.”

He might have more money to spend. The NHL Players Association executive board is meeting in Toronto to determine whether it will approve raising the salary cap from $73 million to $75 million. The decision is expected to be announced Sunday.

Majority owner Bill Foley said he’s confident in his staff.

“I’ve sat in those mock draft meetings, and I know the quality of the scouts, (director of player personnel) Vaughn Karpan, (assistant GM) Kelly McCrimmon and George,” Foley said. “These guys are really smart, and they know what they’re doing. I have total confidence that they’re going to come through.”

Contact Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.

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