If the NHL is going to place an expansion team in Las Vegas, the franchise’s ownership is going to have to push mountains of poker chips towards the Board of Governors.
Rick Westhead of TSN reports that two League owners told him the estimated expansion fee for a Las Vegas team would fall between $450 and $500 million, with the expected fee landing at the midpoint of $475 million.
Please recall potential owner Bill Foley is running a season-ticket deposit drive to show NHL owners that are on the fence that Vegas is, in fact, a sustainable hockey market. It begins on Feb. 10 and the goal is 10,000 commitments from $150-$900.
He also has a lease agreement with MGM Resorts and AEG, which will open that new 20,000-seat arena on the strip.
What’s interesting about the expansion fee is that it sets the bar for whatever other expansion team enters the League along with the Las Vegas Craps*. If that’s, miraculously, a team in Seattle, can the NHL find ownership to pay that freight? If that’s in, potentially, Quebec City, could the NHL charge a steeper price? Say, for “cutting into” Montreal’s market, perhaps?
The elephant in the room is relocation. It’s the last resort of the NHL, as Bettman has reiterated time and again. Here’s a key exchange between Westhead and an NHL owner from his column:
One NHL owner told TSN he’s unsure whether Las Vegas is a market that can sustain a team. But he said the Las Vegas market may have more potential than Miami or Phoenix.
“I think both the Panthers and Coyotes are going to have to move, I just don’t see it working out long term in either market,” the owner said.
TSN pointed out that the Panthers would seem to be locked into a long-term lease in southern Florida. “So you negotiate a break fee,” he said. “It happens all the time. Just because you have a lease there for years doesn’t mean you have to stay there that long. But back to Las Vegas, I'm not bullish on it, per se, but I'm very interested.”
A theory I’ve heard from more than one connected individual: The Panthers are eventually bought out of their lease by the Quebec ownership and relocated, with the Quebec group getting a smaller relocation fee from the League in exchange for making the Panthers’ problem go away for Bettman.
I know … not what Cats fans want to hear during an incredible season, and with ownership in place having made no noise about leaving. But it’s out there.
Or maybe the door swings the other way on relocation. Check out David Shoalts’ story on the how the Ottawa Senators are getting boned by a mistake the NHL made with its line of credit.
* That’s our placeholder name until they vote on a real one. Unless, of course, that’s the real one. Please?
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