Potential NHL Seattle owner talks relocation vs. expansion

When the Seattle City Council and investor Chris Hansen closed their deal on a new $490 million arena this month, the chance that an NHL team could call the Pacific Northwest city home increased exponentially.

Council member Mike O'Brien told the Vancouver Sun

that he was surprised by "how much excitement there was for (an) NHL team in the stuff I heard from people." Couple that with an estimated $80 million difference in city funding between an arena with just an NBA team ($120 million) vs. one with NBA and NHL teams ($200 million), and the prospects further increase.

Now that the arena question has been answered, we arrive at the next vital query about the NHL in Seattle: Who would own a team?

The frontrunner has always been AHL Chicago Wolves owner Don Levin, who wants a franchise and whom Elliotte Friedman reported is in the NHL's good graces.

So now it's just a matter of moving a troubled franchise to Seattle, right?

Not exactly, Levin told Craig Custance of ESPN The Magazine.

From Custance (behind the dreaded ESPN Insider Paywall):

"I can tell you there are not teams for sale that are available to move," Levin told ESPN the Magazine on Wednesday.

Not the Coyotes? Or maybe one day the Islanders? "My understanding is that the Phoenix deal, [Greg Jamison] has come up with the money," Levin said. "The answer to the Islanders moving is never. They're not moving out of that market. No chance that's going to happen."

Instead, Levin's plan centers on expansion. And he's optimistic it won't be long after the CBA is settled that the NHL will turn to expansion as the next phase in growing the league. "I would think three years," he said.

The NHL's realignment plan, which was agreed upon during last December's board of governors meeting, certainly made it easy to plug in two more franchises. Levin thinks Seattle would be considered one of the front-runners to land a new team. "There's Quebec and Las Vegas that are also in there," he said.

Much more from Custance here. Hey, good news for Islanders fans at the very least.

As I've said before, my pet theory is that Seattle gets a relocated franchise and that Quebec and Greater Ontario (i.e. a second Toronto team) are the ones who shovel money into the NHL's account for an expansion fee. But Levin is thinking expansion rather than relocation for his potential Seattle team. (Which, of course, will be called the Sasquatch, per our request.)

Either way, there's no question that Seattle should be at the front of the list of U.S. cities prepared to welcome the NHL, with apologies to Las Vegas, Houston and those perpetual bridesmaids in Kansas City.