By Carter Brooks
Photos by Bruce Fedyck
Kelly McCrimmon - the mastermind behind the construction of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights - very well may be taking his breadth of talent elsewhere, and soon.
Although it always remained a possibility that the 58-year-old Plenty, SK. native would pack up shop in Vegas and find a new managing gig after taking on the role of Assistant General Manager in early August of 2016, it just wasn't imagined to happen within McCrimmon's first three years in Nevada.
After officially being eliminated from the NHL postseason following a stunning game seven overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks late Tuesday evening, McCrimmon's Golden Knights will be able to grant interested parties interviews with the brains behind their makeup. Teams in that boat include both the Edmonton Oilers and the new Seattle franchise.
It is no secret that the Oilers have been in the hunt for a new General Manager, since the team relieved Peter Chiarelli of his duties on January 23rd. Former Toronto Maple Leafs Assistant General Manager Mark Hunter is the current frontrunner for the open position in Edmonton. Other notable interviews have included the likes of Mike Gillis, Keith Gretzky, Ross Mahoney and Pat Verbeek.
Reports throughout Alberta is that the Oilers hope to have a General Manager in place by early May. Having grown up in Saskatchewan, McCrimmon would certainly find himself closer to his original home, and his junior hockey home of Brandon, should he find himself taking the reins in Edmonton.
Seattle, on the other hand, is in the process of beginning its General Manager search following the granted approval by the NHL's Board of Governors to ice a team for the 2020-21 hockey season. Much like was the case prior to puck drop in the 2017-18 season, Seattle will need to plan and prepare for an expansion draft next summer, and what better option than someone who previously led the charge for Vegas?
Early last week the Detroit Red Wings announced that Steve Yzerman would return to Hockeytown and serve as General Manager of the team effective immediately. That decision pushed former Red Wings GM Ken Holland to the backseat - a place he may not be so comfortable serving. The potential thought of a McCrimmon-Holland duo in Seattle is no longer just a pipe-dream.
In a December interview with The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun, Vegas Golden Knights' General Manager George McPhee was quoted as to say that he would gladly let McCrimmon walk, if pursued by other potential employers, saying: "If someone was interested in Kelly, whether it be (the new Seattle team) or another team, I would never stand in his way."
Following the conclusion of his WHL and NCAA playing career in 1984, McCrimmon brought his talents to the Brandon Wheat Kings, where he amassed six conference titles, four appearances in the Memorial Cup and two WHL championship victories, serving in various roles including Head Coach, General Manager and Franchise Owner. McCrimmon still pays special attention to the Wheat Kings as he remains team owner, even while currently serving the Golden Knights' franchise.
With Vegas, McCrimmon helped build a team with Manitoban cornerstones. After drafting Calvin Pickard and Brendan Leipsic, the Golden Knights then added fellow Winnipeggers Cody Eakin and Ryan Reaves. Although Pickard and Leipsic have ended up elsewhere, youngsters Keegan Kolesar, Cody Glass and Zach Whitecloud will also find themselves a home on the Knights' big-league team in the near future.
McCrimmon and Co. also recently acquired and immediately signed offensive powerhouse Mark Stone to a monster eight-year, $76 million deal, featuring a $9.5 million cap hit annually. The former Westwood Collegiate alumnus put up six goals and 12 points in seven postseason games for Vegas this year.
Whether McCrimmon chooses to move to Alberta to help re-establish the ongoing issues within the Edmonton Oilers' organization, or should he head to Seattle to tee up his second expansion team in less than five years, the former Head Coach and General Manager of the Brandon Wheat Kings will have a very thought provoking few weeks ahead of him. The option to remain George McPhee's right hand man in Vegas also remains a strong possibility, but knowing McCrimmon, holding full control of an NHL franchise just may be the icing on the cake.