Three moves Vegas Golden Knights should make entering inaugural season

Western Hockey League standout Reid Duke is aboard the Golden Knights’ inaugural roster after becoming the first-ever signing by the upstart Vegas franchise this week.

When the 2017-18 season rolls around, however, there’s no telling just which players the NHL’s newest team will be sending onto the ice. June’s expansion draft will help solve that -- even if the league may mask clubs’ list of protected players.

So, assuming Reid Duke isn’t Vegas’ grand plan for a one-man show in the Golden Knights’ debut campaign, what should the team do as it preps for Year One of NHL contention? To start, here are three moves:

1. Find a way to acquire Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins

Marc-Andre Fleury should be squarely in the Vegas Golden Knights’ sights once roster building truly gets underway for the 2017-18 season. USATSI

Maybe the biggest goalie name floated at this year’s trade deadline, Fleury has a no-movement clause in his contract that all but guarantees Pittsburgh will protect his rights from the expansion draft. But we all know the Pens are more concerned with retaining their goalie of the future, Matt Murray.

Work the phone lines and get Fleury in town while he still has big value as a playoff-caliber starter. Maybe you pull off a trade or maybe you finalize a handshake agreement regarding expansion protections. Either way, landing Fleury would give Vegas an immediate infusion of defensive talent, not to mention some premier name recognition.

2. Sign a veteran like the San Jose SharksJoe Thornton in free agency

Fleury and now an aging, grizzled old-timer like Thornton? No, the goal here isn’t to weigh down a brand new franchise with names of generations past. But you have to figure that a good chunk of the Golden Knights’ roster will be occupied by outcast prospects, some youngsters who have yet to live up to their potential and, of course, plenty of vets who have never been lumped together as part of an expansion process.

Inking a guy like Thornton, then, wouldn’t be an awful thing if the Sharks center hits the market. Not only would he be coming off a season in which his name entered the history books for 1,000 career assists (see: good public relations), but Thornton also boasts decade of NHL experience. If you can even get him to consider moving to Vegas, do it.

3. Target offense, offense and more offense

Right after spending what it takes to land Fleury above all, right? Seriously, though, Vegas general manager George McPhee is a known proponent of high-flying, fast-scoring offensive units, much like the ones that have driven the Pens and Chicago Blackhawks to recent success, and what better way to captivate the Golden Knights fan base early on than by stocking up on some boom-or-bust goal-scoring potential?

Maybe that comes through the draft, maybe it comes via trade or free agency. But any way McPhee and Co. can ensure that Vegas is putting some explosive skaters on the ice -- and pucks in the net -- during the first season would be ideal. This is about building for the long term, but it is also about striking with early, exciting momentum.

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