Golden Knights players tuned in as NHL trade deadline looms

Updated February 23, 2019 - 5:27 pm

Hockey should be more transparent with injuries. It absolutely should have a tougher drug policy.

What constitutes goalie interference remains a bigger mystery than Robert Kraft’s choice of where to spend a leisurely afternoon.

Oh, yeah. Gary Bettman has the whole condescending and arrogant act down to perfection.

But when it comes to a trade deadline, the NHL beats all comers.

Low on unnecessary drama, big on immediacy.

“We’re different that way,” Golden Knights defenseman Jon Merrill said. “In some other sports, (trade deadlines) have turned into a sitcom. With our league, pretty much most of the action happens on that one day. It’s pretty cut and dry.

“We definitely watch everything and keep track of it on TV and in the locker room. Everyone is talking about it this week. You want to know what’s going on. Obviously, you don’t want anyone from your own team to be moved, but it’s fun to watch across the league and feel the excitement. It would be sad to see anyone go, but whatever happens, we’ll deal with it.”

Monday will arrive, and we will see what, if anything, Knights general manager George McPhee has done to a roster that sits third in the Pacific Division, still a solid favorite to make the playoffs and yet a team that is terribly inconsistent right now, be it shift to shift or game to game.

I mean, when you’re throwing Ryan Reaves out there alongside the likes of Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson, things seem to be getting desperate at points.

But if anything, McPhee would prove a buyer yet again this season, because even as he continues to have one eye firmly on the future of a franchise that has yet to complete its second season on the ice, those teams likely destined for a postseason in which history tells us the impossible often becomes reality are usually all-in.

And yet it’s doubtful McPhee would rent a big-time player if it meant sacrificing valuable prospects or picks, again balancing the here and now against the coming years, when names such as Cody Glass and Erik Brannstrom are done percolating in lower levels and ready to be served as everyday NHL players.

“If you make the playoffs, you can win it,” McPhee said. “Sometimes, there is nothing out there (at the deadline). You can’t invent a player. … We wanted to be a good team right away and have been. So you’re not in a selling mode.”

It can make for some anxious players in the room, certainly none of the Knights (well, maybe other than the goalie) above the idea that their name couldn’t be involved in a transaction.

No more Misfits

After a 6-3 home loss to Winnipeg on Friday, Knights coach Gerard Gallant mentioned that he hasn’t seen the (Golden) Misfits of last season, an ode to the nickname attached to his team during a march to the Stanley Cup Final, self-described expansion castoffs who delivered a historic run while collectively carrying a chip the size of Prince Edward Island on their shoulders.

But there’s every chance he will never see them again. Different season. Different team. Different level of focus by opponents. The Knights of 2017-18 are over. Done. It’s on current players to change this tide of inconsistency. They need to play better. They need to own it and step up.

Whether that means Monday will arrive and either no changes or some will have found the roster is anyone’s guess, but be assured everyone is watching.

“You know, I’ve said before that I try and stay away from it when I’m gone for the day, because we get enough hockey,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “But at the deadline, yeah, you’re talking about the moves being made. In Washington, I was in a position where you would hear a deal was coming down and think, ‘Oh, no, is that my spot?’ But it’s the nature of the business. I don’t think guys are surprised by much at this time of the year.

“There is no such thing as someone being untouchable.”

Nobody?

“Wayne Gretzky got traded twice,” Schmidt answered. “Greatest player ever.”

I take it back.

McPhee probably would be OK with him as a rental.

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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