LAS VEGAS -- Standing in a boardroom about 15 miles northwest of his team's future home on the Las Vegas Strip, Bill Foley smiled for the first time as an official owner of an NHL franchise.
At about 11:15 a.m. local time on Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights officially joined the NHL as the league's 31st team and were formally cleared to make trades and roster transactions before the league's trade deadline.
While the team finished the day without making its first transaction, Foley and general manager George McPhee are beginning to get a good sense of the team they will be able to put together following June's expansion draft and entry draft.
"We've been downstairs the last 2½ days doing mock drafts with all of the pro scouts and going through every team, and George is getting calls periodically from various teams on potential ideas for things that could happen," Foley said. "We've done nothing yet. There are lots of different discussions, but we're just not in a position to make commitments. We just don't want to do something that would hamper us in the expansion draft.
"That's what we're all preparing for now: The focus on various players is becoming more clear and more pronounced. We're picking the same players assuming they're going to be available."
Foley was initially scheduled to make his final payment on April 5 to make the team an active member of the NHL, but he moved up that date up so the team could field calls during the trade deadline, and McPhee could participate in the general managers meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, next week, and Foley could prepare for the board of governors meetings next month.
"The whole notion of moving it up to March 1 from April 1 came up casually several months ago," McPhee said, "but I said, 'Gee, it would be kind of nice to do it on March 1 so we can be involved in the trading deadline and I can go to the GM meetings and we can start competing for young free agents out there.' Bill said, 'Well, if we need it, I'm going to do it.' That's a big help for all of us."
Foley has consistently said he will spare no expense to make the Golden Knights one of the signature teams in the league -- whether it is building a $24 million, 105,000-square-foot practice facility or sending out scouts across the world to find players the team can sign before and after the expansion draft.
"This helps George because now, as the college season is expiring, he can start talking to those undrafted free agents and we can get in front of those undrafted free agents and we can also go to Europe," Foley said. "We have four scouts in Europe; we have one in Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and in Russia. There are a lot of undrafted players in Europe that are young and have potential."
Prior to the expansion draft on June 21, Foley is hoping to square away the team's broadcast rights deals locally and unveil the team's uniform. He also has his sights set on more than capturing the Las Vegas market when those announcements are made.
"My goal is to make our team the team of the Rockies," Foley said. "We want to be the team that broadcasts into Boise, Reno, Salt Lake City, St. George, Utah, all through Montana and into Fresno, which is a shared territory, and San Bernardino. That's what I'm working on. It's the Vegas Golden Knights, but we're really going to be the Rocky Mountain Golden Knights. We're going to be everywhere."
McPhee, who was the Washington Capitals general manager for 17 years before coming on board with Las Vegas last year, smiled after his first day back on the phones as an active general manager and able to make moves in the league again.
"I felt a little rusty, but it would nice to get into the rhythm to talking to other GMs and guys I've worked with before," McPhee said. "I probably talked to five or six teams, but we believe it's in our own best interests to wait so we can make better decisions as we get closer to the expansion draft."