George McPhee: Good Developer or Good GM?

After being picked by many a year ago to be in the hunt for Rasmus Dahlin. The Vegas Golden Knights expansion team, made the Stanley Cup Final. General Manager, George McPhee and Assistant General Manager, Kelly McCrimmon made so many deals before the expansion draft and turned this team into a contender.

The Vegas Golden Knights ended up getting 3 2017 first round picks, Alex Tuch, Shea Theodore and essentially 43 goal scorer William Karlsson from all their side deals they were able to make. George McPhee was named GM of the year at the NHL Awards in June.

George McPhee did a great job in Washington drafting and developing players. Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom were no-brainer selections but John Carlson at #27, Braden Holtby at #93, Dmitri Orlov #55, Marcus Johansson #24, Evgeny Kuznetsov #26. The ‘non-lottery’ picks are usually what makes a team. You obviously need to make your top picks count and not draft Nail Yakupov but it is the mid-round picks that usually put teams over the top. See Pittsburgh, Jake Guentzel, Connor Sheary and Bryan Rust. The Capitals mid-round picks of Orlov, Chandler Stephenson and Braden Holtby all played huge roles in the Capitals Stanley Cup run.

McPhee did a great job drafting but I question his value judgement in trades. He made one of the worst trades in NHL history when he dealt Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat and Michael Latta. Erat scored 2 goals in 62 games for the Capitals and was eventually dealt to the Coyotes. Forsberg meanwhile has become a force in Nashville and has 4 straight seasons of at least 26 goals.

Aside from the expansion draft, McPhee’s only big move in Vegas during the season was when he traded a 1st, 2nd, and a 3rd round pick for Tomas Tatar. I understand that Vegas accumulated enough picks from side deals in the expansion draft but that was quite the overpay. Tatar went on to score 4 goals in 20 games and only played in 8 of the Golden Knights 20 playoff games where he added 2 points.

The next trade George McPhee made was when he traded Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a 2nd round pick to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Max Pacioretty. I have my reservations about Pacioretty as a player, some of which stem from the 2017 playoffs where he scored 35 goals in the regular season and followed that up with 1 assist in a 6 game loss to the New York Rangers (who were a wild card team). Pacioretty had 17 goals in 64 games this season and was the constant criticism target in Montreal so it was time for a change. Meanwhile, Nick Suzuki is one of the best prospects in the league, his last 2 seasons in the OHL he’s had 196 points in 131 games and he is considered a Patrice Bergeron comparable and while Tatar didn’t do much in Vegas, you can expect 20 goals from him.

So George McPhee traded a 1st, 2 2nd round picks, a 3rd, Tomas Tatar and Nick Suzuki for Max Pacioretty. That’s quite a bit for a guy who scored 17 goals and went -16 last year. While I think McPhee has done a great job drafting wherever he has went….. his trade record is not as clean as you might think.

George McPhee , Bill Wippert/National Hockey League/Getty Images