By now it has been pretty well documented that the NHL has been talking about expansion for a few years but it seemed as though it would never happen. This year, however, it could be different and that’s where things get exciting.
With the 2016 General Managers meetings wrapping up, the biggest take away is that by the draft in June, the league will decide if they will expand by zero, one, or two teams for the 2017-2018 season.
Now, with that zero in there, it leaves the door open for a disappointing result, however there is an overwhelming belief that the NHL will expand by at least one team. With this presumed expansion, there are a few very important questions that will need to be answered: where will this team be located and how will they get their players?
Where will the team(s) be located?
The major cities in this expansion are Las Vegas, Seattle, and Quebec City. Should there be only one expansion franchise, the likely destination would be Las Vegas. Vegas has been pushing very hard for a “big-4” team to relocate or expand there, and the NHL could be the pioneering league. This would be huge for not only the city of Vegas, but for the impact it would have on other major sports leagues. LV is a tricky city and one that many leagues have shied away from for one reason: gambling. Obviously the gambling aspect is not something you can predict the outcome of prior to actually playing there, but there is enough media and information out in the world today to make you believe Vegas is an alright place to play. In my opinion, I don’t think Las Vegas is any more susceptible to point shaving or tanking that any other city is, especially with the technology and communication networks we have today. Seattle would be great for a hockey team in the near future, the folks who live there are extremely passionate about their sports teams, however, until the NBA is ready to expand or relocate a team back to the Seattle area, I don’t see the NHL sending a team there. Don’t be surprised if in a few years there is an arrangement made between the two leagues to have two new expansion franchises play in the same building, much like the Rangers/Knicks, Maple Leafs/Raptors, Blackhawks/Bulls. Finally, Quebec City could be another good city for it, however, despite the NHL being headquartered in Canada and it being the Canadian national sport, hockey is hot in the United States right now. If the NHL wants to capitalize on an appreciating asset, the smart move is expansion within the States.
How will the new team get its players?
Excellent question. Before we get into the rumored details, let me first just say, there is no good way of doing this. On one hand, if the team has to start from scratch and sign free agents, bring players over from Europe, draft and trade, the team is going to SUCK and for a long time. If they get the opportunity to take players from existing rosters, those teams won’t be thrilled, and it won’t sit well with their fans, however the new team would be competitive at least. The lesser of the two evils is roster selection from existing rosters and here is how that will most likely happen:
So assuming there will be only one expansion team, it looks like there will be only one player eligible for loss by your favorite team. That’s the good news. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of the player details since the NHL hasn’t yet determined it, there are some details though that have come to light. Before you yell and say how can this new team just cherry-pick their way through the best players in the league? They can’t.