NHL to Las Vegas: Speculation intense for expansion or relocation

NHL to Las Vegas: Speculation intense for expansion or relocation

T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas is ready for an NHL team.

As Ken Boehlke of Sin Bin Vegas notes, the locker rooms in the arena are being labeled “NHL Locker Room” along with a dozen other harbingers: 

It’s clear MGM and AEG believe the NHL is coming to Vegas, and soon. They’ve held off the paint in the locker rooms, they’ve purposely not booked the arena from September 2017-June 2018, and they’ve got a Zamboni Room, a skates and sticks room and now NHL locker rooms.

So yeah, they’re ready for the NHL in Vegas.

But is the NHL ready for Vegas?

The League’s executive committee on expansion has yet to meet and vote on potential NHL expansion to Las Vegas and Quebec City. After that recommendation, then it’s the full Board of Governors vote on the matter. All of this needs to happen fairly soon for expansion in 2017-18, as general managers need to get their ducks in a row for the offseason knowing whether or not there will be an expansion draft at the end of next season – and how many players they could lose in it, depending on if the NHL expands by one or two teams.

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Or if they don’t expand at all, an option that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has firmly kept on the table.

Then there are these wrinkles from Gary Lawless of TSN:

One timeline we heard for a BOG vote on expansion was mid-May. That’s the end of next week. There’s the possibility the league will wait until the beginning of June. Bettman may want to squeeze the announcement into the days between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup to not take any attention away from the games on the ice.

One National Hockey League Players’ Association insider suggested this week that Carolina relocating to Las Vegas is a storyline to watch. Relocation rumours have been shot down before, but ownership in Carolina wants out and they may be trying to push the NHL to take care of them before growing the league.

One other rumour making the rounds on Friday has expansion being announced this spring but pushed back by a year until the 2018-19 season. Stay tuned.

We covered the Hurricanes-to-Vegas speculation a few months ago. There are more than a few reasons why Carolina fans should consider these rumors to be poppycock, like the fact that the Hurricanes have a peach of a lease through 2024 and owner Peter Karmanos has said he expects the team to remain in Raleigh, even as he’s trying to sell it.

That said, it would even out the conferences at 15 and 15. It would give Vegas a team that’s closer to contention than an expansion draft would provide. And it would potentially take a team that’s losing money with ownership looking to get out to a city where revenues could be more consistent.

The Sin Bin adds (please note “The Creator” is potential Vegas owner Bill Foley):

Expansion still seems like the best option for everyone involved, but my mind keeps wandering back to something The Creator told me directly, when he said, “I’d love to get my hands on the Coyotes.” He went on to explain how much quicker and easier it would be than assembling a completely new franchise. But, he reiterated multiple times that neither Carolina nor Arizona had spoken to him about relocation. It may be a “storyline to watch,” and we will, but it’s a mega-longshot.

And yet it lingers on, with hockey insiders hearing it from strong sources.

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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