Knights’ Kelly McCrimmon coveted by Oilers, others around NHL

Kelly McCrimmon from his August press conference when he announced he was going to Las Vegas. (Brandon Wheat Kings)Las Vegas assistant general manager Kelly McCrimmon is also the owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings. (Steve Carp/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Kelly McCrimmon will take his customary spot in the private box that’s located in the upper stratosphere of T-Mobile Arena.

The Golden Knights’ assistant general manager no doubt will watch intently as the team he helped construct tries to snap a five-game losing streak with the postseason quickly approaching.

But it’s also likely that at some point during the action Monday, McCrimmon’s eyes will veer toward the opposition, if only briefly.

McCrimmon is widely regarded as one of the top candidates for the vacant GM job with the Edmonton Oilers, and his availability this summer could start a domino effect involving at least two other front offices.

McCrimmon, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has been lauded for his work as GM George McPhee’s right-hand man since he was hired Aug. 2, 2016. McPhee also has said he wouldn’t stand in the way of his coveted assistant talking to other teams.

In addition to helping the Knights build an instant Stanley Cup contender through the 2017 expansion draft, McCrimmon played an integral role in the acquisition of right wing Mark Stone from Ottawa at this season’s trade deadline.

The 58-year-old also is the owner, governor and former coach of Brandon (Manitoba) in the major junior Western Hockey League and turned the Wheat Kings into one of the league’s most successful franchises.

“He’s just one of those guys who has a really good hockey sense,” said Knights right wing Ryan Reaves, who played for McCrimmon with Brandon.

“He’s built some really good teams down in Brandon, and I think that’s why he’s had a lot of teams in the NHL looking at him. I’m really positive he’s had a lot to do with building this team, too. You see a lot of Brandon guys coming through here. He’s just a guy who really knows the game and knows people’s character and what a team needs to win.”

Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli was fired on Jan. 23 after a series of managerial missteps, and the Oilers are set to miss the playoffs for the third time in star center Connor McDavid’s four seasons.

Keith Gretzky is serving as the club’s interim GM, but Oilers CEO and team president Bob Nicholson reportedly wants to hire a permanent replacement in advance of the NHL draft that takes place in June.

Nicholson declined comment Sunday through a team spokesperson.

McCrimmon will not be available to formally interview with Edmonton until after the Knights’ season is finished, at which time he could have another intriguing option to pursue.

NHL Seattle is yet to hire its GM, and from all accounts, McCrimmon is near the top of the incoming expansion team’s wish-list. The idea of starting from scratch in Seattle, rather than trying to repair the mess in Edmonton, could appeal more to McCrimmon.

With the Oilers’ interest widely known across the league, the NHL Seattle ownership group could approve hiring its GM two years ahead of the team’s debut in order to pursue McCrimmon.

But that decision also will be affected by what happens in Detroit, where GM Ken Holland has one more year left on his contract.

Should Holland step down or be fired, former Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman, who built the juggernaut in Tampa Bay before stepping down in September, is the logical successor.

But if the Red Wings allow Holland to finish his deal, Yzerman suddenly would be on the market and could overtake McCrimmon as the top candidate in Seattle.

Either way, McCrimmon figures to have plenty of options this summer.

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David Schoen at or. Follow on Twitter.

Game day

*Who: Golden Knights vs. Oilers

*When: 7 p.m. Monday

*Where: T-Mobile Arena

*TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, Dish 414/5414)

*Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM); ESPN Deportes (1460 AM)

*Line: Off

Three storylines

1. Get healthy. The Golden Knights played Saturday without two of their four starting centers and a top-four defenseman and lost their fifth straight (0-3-2). Now that they’re locked into third place and almost certain to open the playoffs at San Jose, coach Gerard Gallant is tasked with trying to balance rest vs. rust during the final week.

2. Finding Tuch. Winger Alex Tuch was supposed to see more favorable matchups when he was moved to the third line to make room for Mark Stone. But his production instead has dipped. Tuch has two points in his past seven games, and that was when he skated on the second line vs. Colorado.

3. Net gains. Everybody seems concerned about goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s lower-body injury, but there’s nothing to worry about, according to Gallant. Fleury is expected to return this week, though it might be too soon to see the Vezina Trophy candidate against Edmonton.

David Schoen Las Vegas Review-Journal