Freelance: Inside the Vegas Golden Knights
A look at the NHL's newest franchise
The Beginning: Meet the Ownership
Per the official Vegas Golden Knights' website, the mission of bringing the game of hockey to Las Vegas began over two years ago: February 10, 2015—barely more than a handful of staff members and a 300 square-foot office space. Owner Bill Foley set the wheels in motion with a season ticket drive to see if there would be an audience for the sport in a desert climate.
The people of the city proved him to be correct.
More than 13,000 season ticket deposits were made resulting Las Vegas winning the bid for a proposed expansion team over Canada's Quebec City in June of 2016.Quebec had hoped to bring back the famed Nordiques of yesteryear in similar fashion to the Winnipeg Jets.
Foley (a billionaire businessman and former attorney who made $40 million from the stock market while still attending the West Point military academy) would name the team would name the team the Golden Knights out of respect for the academy's Black Knights, making a subtle change in the name due to legal issues.
Despite fan criticism, Foley did not wish to have blatant references to the city's gambling culture in the new team's branding.
"Our logo and our name is really going to exhibit the highest element of the warrior class — the knight," Foley said to the public at the name and logo unveiling in 2016 according to the Chicago Tribune. "The knight protects the unprotected. The knight defends the realm. The knight never gives up, never gives in, always advances, never retreats. And that is what our team is going to be."
"I'm very proud of our name, and I'm very proud of our logo," Foley said.
It had already been announced that the Paradise, Nevada-based Golden Knights would begin play at the start of the 2017-18 NHL season. The team became the first anchor tenant of the T-Mobile Arena that was built for $375 million and opened on April 6, 2016.
They have already established business relationships with Toyota for sponsorship and retail partner Rank + Rally for merchandise operations within their home venue. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in January of this year that the Golden Knights are still in search of a television partner but have entered into discussion with Fox Sports West as well as Las Vegas' 720 KDWN.
History in the Making: Reid Duke
After paying a $500 million expansion fee to the other team owners and completing all paperwork behind the scenes, the Golden Knights became eligible to participate in league meetings and free agency. Reid Duke of the Western Hockey League's (WHL) Brandon Wheat Kings became the first signee in franchise history on March 6 after agreeing to a three-year entry-level deal. He is set to finish the current season with Brandon before heading to development camp this summer.
Vegas is still in search of an American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate club at the time of this writing. The 21-year-old Calgary, AB native won a WHL championship with the Wheat Kings in 2015-16 and his 35 goals and 67 points led all Wheat Kings players at the time of his NHL signing. He was coached by Wheat Kings owner and Vegas' Assistant General Manager, Kelly McCrimmon.
"I think what's impressive with Reid is a real high skill level and yet a guy that's able to play a big, strong, heavy game," McCrimmon said to NHL.com. "When we project Reid, we think his game will evolve as he becomes a pro. We believe he's going to be an NHL player.
"It's real exciting for us to be bringing Reid into the Golden Knights organization."
Duke, a center, is the only player signed thus far but NCAA free agency is already underway.
What's Next?: The NHL Expansion and Entry Drafts
With the NHL now fielding a 31st franchise, it will put on an expansion draft for the first time since 2000—the inaugural season for both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild. This will be in addition to the annual NHL entry draft. The expansion draft will take place on June 21, 2017, while the entry draft will go from June 23 through June 24 at Chicago's United Center.
The Golden Knights will be added to the Western Conference (Pacific Division.) The rules for the expansion draft were made public on NHL.com on June 22.
Expansion Draft Rules for the Vegas Franchise
The Golden Knights must select one player from each of the current 30 teams but can receive more pending violation of the expansion draft rules (the mandatory selections by position are as follows: 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.)
A minimum of 20 players must be selected and those players may not have their contracts bought out until the summer after the Knight's first season of play.
Players selected must have an aggregate draft value between 60 to 100 percent of the prior season's upper limit for the salary cap.
Lists of players currently under contract with one of the present 30 teams that are protected from the expansion draft are to be submitted by 5:00 P.M. ET on Saturday, June 17. Vegas has until that same time on June 20 to submit their finalized expansion draft selections.
Rules for the Vegas Franchise (Draft Lottery)
Odds: Vegas will have the same odds as the team finishing with the third-fewest points during the 2016-17 regular season.
The Golden Knights first round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft will be based on the aforementioned draft lottery meaning they will have no less than six picks. After the first round, Vegas will select third in each remaining round (however, this is pending trades or transactions.) The selections will become public on the day of the expansion draft.
The league's deputy commissioner, Bill Daley, said at the time the rules were published that teams could lose draft picks and/or players.
See the complete official rules for the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft here.