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How is Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon handling the NHL pause?

Updated March 21, 2020 - 5:30 pm

Kelly McCrimmon’s life follows the hockey calendar, with tasks to accomplish and deadlines to meet throughout the year.

Normally at this time, the Golden Knights general manager would be sweating out the final two weeks of the regular season and looking ahead to the playoffs.

But with the NHL’s season on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, McCrimmon and the rest of the Knights front office is left to maneuver through uncharted waters without an instruction manual to guide the way.

“Monday through Friday was pretty busy, to be honest,” McCrimmon said in a phone interview Saturday. “It’s like anything. You’re going to try to have your organization do its best to navigate this situation and make sure that we stay where we need to be with all the different things that are going to happen here in the future.”

The Knights were scheduled to play at Minnesota on March 12, but McCrimmon said “it got real for everyone” the night before when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus and the NBA suspended its season indefinitely.

The NHL followed suit and paused its regular season, as well.

McCrimmon is adhering to the NHL’s instructions to self-quarantine through Friday and conducts meetings through conference calls.

For amateur scouts, that means compiling preliminary draft lists and discussing prospects rather than watching events such as the major-junior Canadian Hockey League playoffs, NCAA tournament and the IIHF under-18 world championship.

“There’s a real regular dialogue with our scouting staff about the American Hockey League, our team that’s coming to Henderson. We’ve had discussion on that,” McCrimmon said. “Of course it’s disrupted our business, but we recognize this is a very small piece of something that’s more significant and more important in the world.”

To that end, aside from the daily updates he and other general managers receive from the league, McCrimmon is steering through the fog.

There’s no date set for the draft or free agency. Other longstanding deadlines may no longer be applicable.

For instance, the deadline to sign players drafted in 2018 from one of the three Canadian junior leagues normally would be June 1, but the NHL hasn’t determined whether that will be pushed back.

The Knights have three players from 2018 (defensemen Connor Corcoran, Xavier Bouchard and goalie Jordan Kooy) who fit that description and would be eligible for the 2020 draft if they’re not signed.

“We’ll continue working on the different areas where we can,” McCrimmon said. “All NHL teams will have the same questions. The NHL office themselves will have uncertainty as to how steadfast the critical dates remain because they could be in flux. That’s something that could happen.

“With all of the unknown based on the virus, it’s only speculation to guess what might happen with some of those dates. But we’ll be well informed by the National Hockey League and have a chance to react, I’m sure.”

One area in which the Knights can conduct business is college draft picks and undrafted free agency.

McCrimmon dismissed a report that the Knights had signed free-agent defenseman Jake McLaughlin of Massachusetts. Meanwhile, trying to sign Providence sophomore Jack Dugan, who was named one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player, remains a priority.

“We’ll have discussions with his representatives here at an appropriate point,” McCrimmon said of Dugan. “It hasn’t been pressing because there’s no hockey being played. But those are conversations we’ll have here as we move along.”

The Knights had the advantage of being in first place in the Pacific Division when the pause went into effect. The league has not determined its criteria for determining playoff participants should the regular season not be completed.

The time away also allows leading scorers Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone to heal from their respective lower-body injuries.

“As it goes along, there may be direction from the NHL where facilities can be opened, but we’re a long way from that happening yet,” McCrimmon said. “We’ll continue with the self-quarantine and doing our part to being part of the solution with respect to the pandemic.”

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

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