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Golden Knights turn offseason attention to NHL draft

The NHL’s roster freeze following Seattle’s expansion draft ended Thursday, allowing the Golden Knights to reopen for business after five days.

But there were no deals announced involving the Knights. And none of the team’s unrestricted free agents, namely defenseman Alec Martinez, inked a new contract, either.

That made for an anticlimactic day ahead of Friday’s first round of the NHL draft, which often sees a flurry of trade and signing activity.

“When there’s news, we’ll talk to you about it at that time and we (aren’t) going to talk about it prior,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon chided during his media availability Thursday.

Re-signing Martinez remains a priority for the Knights, and a person familiar with the situation indicated there have been discussions between the sides on a new contract.

TSN reported Martinez, who turns 34 on Monday, is mulling over whether to re-sign with the Knights for less money or walk when free agency opens Wednesday. A contending team such as Boston that is looking for help on the left side of defense could offer Martinez a significant raise on the open market.

Forwards Mattias Janmark and Tomas Nosek also are unrestricted free agents, though Saturday’s acquisitions of Nolan Patrick and Brett Howden in separate trades appear to make each surplus.

“We’ll be a (salary) cap team again, that I can tell you,” McCrimmon said of his offseason plans. “Exactly what that looks like as it plays out remains to be seen and still depends on some of the decisions we make between now and opening day.”

With little activity taking place on the trade and contract front, McCrimmon’s attention is squarely on the draft that takes place virtually Friday and Saturday.

The Knights own six picks overall, including No. 30 in the first round. That selection will actually come one slot earlier, as Arizona forfeited its pick (No. 11) as part of sanctions handed down by the league for violating combine testing policy. They also have the fourth choice in the second round (No. 36 overall), allowing the scouting staff led by assistant director of player personnel Bob Lowes to focus on a cluster of players on their draft board.

Unlike the 2020 draft, when the Knights were headquartered at Rock Creek Cattle Company in Montana, they will set up shop in Las Vegas. The second through seventh rounds of the draft are Saturday.

“I can tell you our staff are extremely excited about the players in our wheelhouse,” McCrimmon said. “The guys are really dialed in on the players that are going to be available in and around that pick.”

Buffalo owns the No. 1 overall selection, and University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power is widely regarded as the top prospect from a draft that lacks sizzle and has several unknowns because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Two of the three Canadian major junior leagues played abbreviated schedules, with the Ontario Hockey League season wiped out entirely. Some top prospects headed to play in Europe, while others saw limited action, making it more difficult for scouts.

McCrimmon noted that at midseason he expected there to be more variability on draft boards than usual because of fewer in-person viewings. But as the process went along and amateur scouts used video and other tools to fill out reports as they would in a normal setting, McCrimmon became less concerned. In some areas, the Knights may even have better coverage and find talent other teams undervalued.

“I said it to our staff at different times, the more uncertainty or the more chaos there is around the NHL draft, the better I feel because I have that much confidence in the experience of our staff to sort that out,” McCrimmon said. “I think if there are challenges or opportunities for competitive advantages, I think this presents that for us a little bit.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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